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Used outdoor gear for hikers can run the gamut from cruising distressed piles of returned items in going-out-of-business sales, thumbing through jumbled heaps of clothing at yard or garage sales, or trolling online for a bargain.
Here's how I buy used hiking equipment.
(Note: This is just friendly advice, and of course you will filter these tips through your own "common sense" meter. Common-sensometer?)
If you are new to this hiking thing, be sure to look through my tips for what makes the best hiking gear.
If you've been hiking for awhile, you have a mental, if not physical, list of the outdoor gear that you want, need, or crave.
You can try shopping for discount hiking gear.
But why can't some of that gear on your list be used hiking equipment?
No reason, no reason at all.
But where are you gonna find it?
Here are three places I look when I'm in the mood to try a new brand or a new hiking technique and don't want to commit to brand new, sometimes expensive, hiking gear.
Proceed cautiously with your quest for cheap hiking gear in the virtual world.
You can't touch it, try it, or look the seller in the eye.
Therefore, you want clear color photos and detailed descriptions of the hiking gear you are considering.
No photos, no deal in my humble opinion.
Having scared you a bit, go ahead and consider these places for a gear deal:
If you don't have a clear photo to work from, ask for a new one.
How will you know if the price is right?
Gear stores have the best hiking gear (thank you, Captain Obvious).
So it makes sense that they would have a rental department so they can put that hiking gear into the hands of every hiker in the area.
But when that rental gear comes back, it needs to be "end-of-life'd" to make room for newer gear.
And that's where you come in.
Chat up an employee in the rental section and ask what happens to that used outdoor gear.
The answer may be periodic sales, where you will behold a vast array of cheap hiking gear that you can pick up, try on and examine for flaws.
Or you may hear that they dump the gear at particular second-hand gear stores. Which you will head to immediately, right?
Be sure to buy your "informer" a cup of coffee for the great insight!
Interested in a "best used gear stores" list for the U.S.?
Not surprising to know that some folks make a living by gathering up used hiking gear and selling it to other hikers looking for a bargain, right?
The best website I've found is connected to a Canadian outdoor gear co-op that I joined many years ago: Mountain Equipment Co-op.
This co-op is right upfront about "buyer beware", but is committed to recycling used outdoor gear on its website and taking a chance on the honesty of its sellers.
Be sure to read through their tips for buying and selling outdoor gear, as well as their rules for using the gear swap.
Another website that merits a look is GearTrade. This site carries the Better Business Bureau logo, and if you click on it, you can see their track record for customer complaints.
There are very few places that offer ridiculously low prices for outdoor gear, sometimes rivalling used outdoor gear prices.
Sierra Trading Post is my go-to place when I'm considering used gear but just can't find it using the methods outlined above.
The thing I love about this store?
Sometimes they can match, if not beat, used prices.
Trusting people is one thing.
Jumping in blindly to a used outdoor gear deal is another thing.
You might want to skip the unknowns in a bargain hunt by buying used outdoor gear directly from a trail buddy or hiking club member.
One more place to hunt: local schools that rent gear to their students, and need to turn it over regularly due to storage space constraints.
Happy Bargain Hunting
Use these tips to sell your used hiking and camping gear, too!
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