The Benefits of Buying Used Outdoor Gear

Still on the fence about buying second-hand outdoor gear and clothing? Actually, there’s nothing wrong with buying used things. You only need to know how to do it right. So, let’s explore the benefits of shopping for used camping gear and hiking clothing and learn how to avoid mistakes.

Why You Should Buy Used Outdoor Gear

Substantial Savings

One of the most significant advantages of buying used outdoor gear is the potential for significant financial savings. While the allure of shiny, new camping or hiking equipment can be tempting, in many cases, second-hand items provide the same functionality at a fraction of the cost. Often, you’ll find that these items have seen little to no use, making the bargain even more appealing.

Good for the Environment

Before you rush out to purchase the latest and greatest in outdoor equipment, consider this: do you really need to buy new gear from a sports store each year if you only use it occasionally? Not only can buying used outdoor clothing and gear help declutter your living spaces, but it also has substantial environmental benefits.

Plastic-based fabrics take decades to decompose and contribute to pollution and water consumption during manufacturing. Even recycled polyester, touted as a sustainable alternative, can be problematic. For instance, fleece made from recycled polyester may be more polluting than its virgin counterpart.

Moreover, waterproof clothing or items with a durable water-repellent finish (DWR) often contain toxic compounds. By opting for used gear, you’re reducing demand for new products and, consequently, the environmental harm they cause.

Get High-End or Discontinued Gear

If you’ve ever found yourself drooling over high-end outdoor gear but balking at the price tag, buying used could be the solution. Many outdoor enthusiasts regularly update their gear, leaving last season’s top-tier items up for grabs. These barely used pieces can often be purchased at a fraction of their original cost.

Many gear rental companies offer high-quality gear you might not consider buying new. This means you get to experience top-end gear that would otherwise be out of reach.

Moreover, the second-hand market can be a treasure trove for those who appreciate the craftsmanship and aesthetics of older equipment. You might find that rare backpack from the 90s or that tent design that’s no longer in production. These unique finds not only serve their purpose but also add a touch of individuality to your outdoor adventures.

Try Before You Buy

Finally, buying used gear allows you to experiment with different types of equipment before making a significant investment. This trial-and-error process can help you identify what suits your needs best without breaking the bank. Once you’ve found the perfect fit, you can then consider investing in a new version if necessary.

But There Are Negatives Too

While many adventurers are drawn to the cost-effectiveness of buying used gear, it’s crucial to understand that this option may come with its own set of drawbacks. As the adage goes, “not all that glitters is gold,” and this rings true when venturing into the second-hand market for outdoor gear.


Unfortunately, the second-hand market is riddled with unscrupulous sellers who are all too keen to make a quick buck at your expense. They might not fully disclose the item’s condition, leaving you with gear that’s far from fit for purpose. In worst-case scenarios, some sellers even peddle counterfeit versions of popular gear. In such cases, not only do you lose your hard-earned money, but you also face potential safety issues due to substandard equipment.

Uncertain Quality

For those new to outdoor pursuits, distinguishing between a steal and a dud can be a daunting task. A missing tent peg or a worn-out sleeping bag zipper might seem like minor inconveniences, but they could turn into expensive headaches if replacements are hard to find or the items are beyond repair. Thus, what initially seemed like a bargain could end up costing more time, money, and stress than anticipated.

Limited Choices

Lastly, the used gear market often offers fewer choices, particularly for those with specific requirements or non-standard sizes. Searching for that perfect-fit backpack or the ideal tent in the second-hand market can be akin to finding a needle in a haystack. The selection is essentially limited to what previous owners deem worth reselling. This restriction can make the search time-consuming and frustrating, with no guarantee of ultimate success.

Tips on Buying Used Gear

Here are some tips to help you score the best deals without compromising on quality or safety.

Trust Your Nose

When buying second-hand camping gear and hiking clothing, use your sense of smell. If an item reeks to the point where you can’t bear to put your face near it, it’s probably not worth buying. Plus, your nose can help detect the distinct scent of mildew, which could spell doom for waterproof gear.

Be Cautious with Down Products

Down products offer a great warmth-to-weight ratio when new, but used down can be a different story. When down sleeping bags or other items are stored in stuff sacks for extended periods, the down can become too compressed to provide adequate warmth. So look for down gear that still appears thick and lofty.

Small Tears and Dirt Aren’t Deal-Breakers

Many items that come through second-hand stores are repairable or merely need a good cleaning. A little bit of TLC can go a long way in extending the life of used equipment. Remember, a stained jacket can be re-waterproofed, and a tear in a tent can be easily patched up with some Tenacious Tape.

Always Test Equipment

If you’re buying used gear like headlamps or camp stoves, always test them before purchasing. Bring your own batteries to check if the headlamp works, and a fuel canister to test a camp stove.

Don’t Shy Away from Used Hiking Boots

While the idea of slipping your feet into used shoes might make you cringe, there’s potential for great savings in this department. Outdoor footwear tends to depreciate quickly in value, even if barely used. However, careful inspection is key. Check the shoe’s upper and tread for signs of wear, and don’t forget to look inside – missing insoles can be a deal-breaker.

Inspect Tent Poles for Discoloration

Discoloration on tent poles often indicates that the pole has been under heavy stress and might snap when used. If the discoloration is severe, it could mean that a kink was bent back into shape, which is even worse than leaving it bent.

Certain Gear Should Be Bought New

Some items are simply not worth buying used. Helmets, for instance, should always be purchased new, as they have a limited lifespan and their history of use is unknown. The same goes for climbing gear.


  • Bruce Gosling

    Bruce Gosling is an animal blogger. He has written for The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. He is the founder of the blog Animals in Translation, which focuses on animal behavior and conservation. Gosling is also a member of the Royal Society of Biology.

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