Our precious earth is overflowing with stuff. Some of it is essential and used everyday. Some is less frequently used, but essential all the same. And then there’s the stuff, like camping gear, that is totally essential when you’re camping, but pretty useless the rest of the time. So do we really need to buy brand new camping and outdoor gear if it only gets used a few times a year? And if not, then what are the alternatives, and are they worth it?
Buying or acquiring used camping gear and clothing for the outdoors is an excellent solution to our growing problem of excess stuff. And in this article I’ll be highlighting the reasons why you may want to consider used outdoor gear over the latest and greatest new products on the market. Plus, you’ll find a bunch of ways in which you can seek out high quality used outdoor gear that will last you for years.
Why buy used outdoor gear?
Buying used outdoor gear may not seem like an obvious choice as good performance, fit and function are essential elements to help you enjoy your time out in the wild, and to survive! In certain scenarios buying your own new gear is often a better option, there’s no getting around it. Buying new gives you more choice if you need something very specific, and there are certain items that wear out more quickly or become damaged more easily than other things.
That said, there are also many reasons why buying, or acquiring used outdoor gear is a bit of a no-brainer. Here are a few:
It will save you money
Used camping and outdoor gear is usually much cheaper than brand new gear. And often it has barely been used at all which makes grabbing a bargain all the more satisfying.
It’s better for the environment
Buying second-hand gear and clothing has massive environmental benefits. Much of the gear and clothing we use in the outdoors is constructed of plastic-based fabrics that take decades to break down. In fact, a polyester shirt takes between 20 and 200 years to decompose. Minimising the production of yet more new gear and clothing cuts down on oil production, prevents chemical treatments and dyes from entering our waterways, and saves a LOT of water.
You get to try or buy stuff that you wouldn’t be able to at full price
For many outdoor enthusiasts, ogling at fancy new gear, gadgets and clothing is a big part of the fun of it all. Owning the stuff is even better. But when a small mortgage is needed to call it yours, ogling is the next best thing. Unless, of course, you opt for used gear! If you search around you can get a hold of some superb high quality gear that you wouldn’t dream of paying full price for. Lots of people upgrade gear and clothing every year for the newer and more up to date versions. This means that there’s plenty of last season’s best gear (that has often barely been used). The same applies for renting gear. Many gear rental companies offer high quality gear that you would never consider buying. So the outcome is that you get to use, experience or even own top end gear that you’d never be able to buy new.
There are more reviews available of older gear
As mentioned, there’s a TON of new gear being pushed in front of us every season. And when you need to make a new purchase or upgrade a piece of gear it can feel like an impossible task to figure out which is the best and what’s worth the investment. Buying second-hand, used outdoor gear that has been on the market for a year or two means that there’s usually a lot of reviews of the gear available to read. Which means you can make a better informed decision about your purchase, ensuring you get the best gear possible for your needs.
You get to figure out what specific gear suits you before you invest
If you’re new to camping or a specific outdoor pursuit, it can take a little while to figure out exactly what you need and what your personal preferences are when choosing gear. The ideal thing about buying used outdoor gear, borrowing it or renting gear is that you can try things before making a big investment. Renting is ideal for this as you can try very different styles of the same item for your first few outings. Overall you’ll be saving money and minimising the risk of being stuck with pricey stuff that just doesn’t fit your needs.
9 ways to get hold of used outdoor gear
The outdoor industry is starting to recognising the need for change in this endless conveyor belt of outdoor gear production. The more people that buy into this sustainable cycle of reusing, recycling and repurposing old gear, the more high quality stuff we’ll be able to get our hands on, without completely emptying our pockets. This will also result in more and more people having access to what can be a rather pricey way to enjoy our natural world.
Here are a few ways you can get hold of used outdoor gear:
If you’re lucky enough to have friends or family who also love to go camping, biking, canoeing, climbing etc, then perhaps they might be open to lending you some gear to use? This is an especially good way to figure out what specific gear you need and want in the long run. Borrowing outdoor gear is also great if you are just doing a one-off trip that you need specialist gear for. Perhaps you’ve got a 5-day hike planned and your 35 litre backpack just won’t cut it. Borrow a pack for the trip. If you end up doing loads of multi-day trips then you can look into buying your own pack. But until then borrowing stuff will do just fine.
If you don’t know anyone to borrow from, you might find that there are plenty of strangers out there willing to lend you their gear for a small fee, or even free. Put a post out on your local community forums, or look at things like Street Bank, Borrow Club or search for other community sharing schemes in your local area.
02Charity shops and consignment stores
Outdoor gear consignment stores and charity shops are treasure troves full of useful stuff for camping and fun in the outdoors. The quality and condition of gear can vary drastically. However, if you are willing to spend a bit of time trawling through all the options, you’ll soon strike gold. Additionally, you’ll feel extra warm and fuzzy inside by buying from charity shops where the funds go to good causes.
Renting outdoor gear is a winner on so many levels. It doesn’t totally stop the production of new gear, which is essential for businesses and brands. But it limits it hugely. Renting gear eliminates the need for storage when you’re not using it which is ideal for city dwellers who don’t have garages, attics or sheds. Plus, you get to try out gear you’re not sure about before making an investment.
Renting gear is also a no-brainer if you need a very specific item for a one-off trips that you’re not likely to do very often. Things like snowshoes, crampons and ice axes. Or canoes, SUPs and bike touring gear. You can always buy the gear further down the line if you find you’re needing to use it loads, but initially, there’s just no need.
Here are a couple of great gear rental services:
US-based company Arrive Outdoors offer a unique gear rental service that allows you to arrange rental online. Select specific dates for your rental and place an order at least 7 days in advance. You’ll then get the gear delivered to your door on the evening before you need to use it. At the end of your trip, simply drop the gear off at a FedEx location by a specified time and you’re all done! You can rent single items or sets of gear for specific trips like backpacking or bike touring. You can even specify how many people you need your camping set to cater for.
Renting gear from REI is ideal for Americans who have access to one of the 114 stores in 30 states that offer rental products. You can reserve gear by contacting the relevant store directly and you can get hold of almost everything from camp kits to car racks.
Outdoor Hire is the UK equivalent of Arrive Outdoors. Order your gear online and you’ll get it couriered to your door, AND couriered back once you’ve used it. You can hire all sorts of individual items. Plus there are packages of gear available: full kit lists of everything you could possibly need for very specific expeditions, like the Mont Blanc Kit List.
04Buy used gear from online retailers
There are a load of outdoor retail sites selling a huge selection of used gear online. Many also allow you to sell gear in a similar way to Ebay, but specifically for outdoor gear, like Switchbackr:
Switchbackr is a great option to find high-quality used outdoor gear. Their mission is to make the outdoors more accessible and sustainable by making it super easy to buy and sell used outdoor gear. Many outdoor consignment shops across the country sell on their site, so you can trust the quality of their gear, and their protection policy backs up every transaction.
Here are a few other options:
05Buy used outdoor gear from specific brands online
As well as outdoor retailers, there are also big outdoor brands getting involved in the reuse revolution. The gear is often lightly used, refurbished and sold again at lower prices. Great deals can be had if you’re not bothered about being a few seasons out of date. Here are a couple:
Freecycle is a superb resource for getting hold of all sorts of gear without paying a single penny. It’s free to sign up to and you’ll get daily emails listing things people are getting rid of in your local area. You then arrange with them, via the website, to pick up the item. This is not a buying and selling site, but a place where unwanted things can be passed on to fill the needs of other people. Additionally, if you’re after a specific item you can submit a post to request it. You may not get it, but you never know!
Ebay is one of the best places to get really great deals on used camping gear and outdoor clothing. There is usually an excellent selection of stuff in varying conditions which means you can buy to suit your budget and needs. The search function makes it really easy if you’re after something specific in a certain size or colour. Plus, you can make a buck or two by selling your unwanted gear from your own shop or account.
There’s a lot of great used gear available on Amazon that is often overlooked, even by frequent Amazon buyers. If you already have an Amazon account then making the most of what’s on offer is a super easy way to get hold used outdoor gear. Refine your search to only include “used” items and you’ll be surprised what’s available.
Finally, though not to everyone’s tastes I’m sure, don’t forget to check out the campsite trash! I can’t tell you how many camp chairs I’ve salvaged over the years from next to the campsite trash area. Things that need small repairs but have just been dumped by people who can’t be bothered to even attempt to fix them. Obviously I’m not encouraging you to go sifting through the bins! But it’s always worth a quick peek at the refuse area as you never know what you might find!
Opting to rent or buy used outdoor gear has so many benefits to both you and our precious earth. But there are certainly times when it makes more sense to buy new gear and clothing. When that time arises, being a responsible consumer is the next best thing you can do. Consider buying from brands that use sustainable materials and practises. Read about some of our favourite brands, and eco-friendly outdoor items in the below articles. And for campers looking to makes some eco-changes, read our article on how to be more green at camp.