Updated: Sep 7, 2020
It's a perpetual question for all low-budget adventuresses, especially those of us with more than one outdoor passion: Where do I find cheap (or better yet, free) gear?!
The great thing is that affordable gear goes hand-in-hand with environmental responsibility. No, I definitely don't mean the latest $300 Patagonia jacket made from recycled bottles and synthetic down. We're talking second-hand goods.
Let's dig in to some of our favorite ways to acquire good-as-new gear, then we'll discuss how to shop smart when you just can't find what you need pre-loved.
If you live somewhere with an already-thriving outdoor recreation community, then you're probably blessed with an annual or seasonal gear swap, where adventurous folx bring all the wares they want to sell and shop around for others. If your town doesn't have one but you know you're not the lone adventuress around, then start your own!
I can't tell you how many timely finds I've come across by simply regularly peeking at Marketplace. There's often lightly used stuff for cheap Or Best Offer, and you can support other adventurers, just like a gear swap. Don't worry, Facebook doesn't charge to list items, and the transaction is offline.
Buy Nothing groups
Buy Nothing is a great resource for, you guessed it, free stuff. It's a group based on community gifting, and you can find your local group on Facebook. There's no guarantee that you'll find exactly what you're looking for, and gear is a less popular giveaway than furniture, but I've gotten lucky on here before, and it's worth a look before dropping dollars.
The Freecycle Network is similar to Buy Nothing, and you can find Freecycle Facebook groups or use Freecycle.org. You wouldn't think great gear would be given away that often, but of course, sometimes people just need to get rid of things. I've used Freecycle to both acquire and let go of stuff, and it's wonderful to know your no-longer-needed items are going to appreciative homes.
Yes, I'm listing this as a way to acquire gear, because at the end of the day, it's about getting out there, not expanding your quiver of shiny outdoor items. This is an important one for multi-passionates, because when we get into a new interest, we have no idea whether we'll be pursuing it long term.
It's always a good call to dive in with some friends' gear and test the waters before investing income. Be sure to show some love to the people who outfitted you, and gift them something as a thanks... homemade jam, a 6-pack, a new toy for their pup, a sojourn into your sport... whatever you're able.
Quit kayaking for the foreseeable future because of an injury? Maybe you've gotten into trail running and you can trade your old paddle for some lightly-loved shoes. It's up to you and the other person to decide what's of equal value, but trading is a wonderful way to keep exchanges within the community and money in wallets.
Now, what to do when you've gone down all the above avenues and still come up empty? The following are a great way to save cash on new goodies:
Last year's gear: Peruse your favorite brand's websites for great deals on 2018 (or soon enough, 2019) gear, and get brand-new for a lot less.
Off-season: Just browsing tri-climate coats in July can make you sweat, but you'll save a boatload of money. Even better, look for summer goods during the holidays and double down on savings.
Military surplus + hunting stores: If you or someone in your family is in the military or is a veteran, you can find great deals on general outdoor preparedness stuff + outerwear at a surplus store. Don't forget about hunting + sports stores, like Bass Pro Shops, which have items that are high-quality enough for the average recreator + often cheaper than things marketed to adventurers.
Email lists: Join your favorite brands' email lists for exclusive deals and multiplied savings. I like finding small, budding brands on Instagram and joining their lists, because trying to grow, they usually have sweet and frequent perks for early fans.
Wholesale prices + deals: If you're an outdoor industry professional, you might be eligible for wholesale prices through at least one brand. Ask your boss for more info.
I hope this guide takes some of guesswork and intimidation out of getting new gear for your next adventure. As always, let us know below if there's something we can add to the list!
Onward + inward.