- Buyer's Guide
Our Beginners Guide to the Best Used Gear on the Planet
In the past, “new” had a tendency to eclipse “secondhand” when it came to obtaining gear. If you could afford something new, why wouldn’t you get it? But as customers become increasingly savvy with their spending, and public awareness of the environmental impact of creating new gear continues to grow, the past few years have seen a distinct shift towards folks searching for the best used gear.
And this secondhand market is growing quickly and fast, with individuals, small indie companies and large industry players alike all getting in on the resale and secondhand action.
More and more people are looking for the best used gear as an alternative to new. And there are plenty of reasons why it makes sense to make the switch…
Why buy, swap and sell secondhand gear?
There are a variety of benefits to buying, swapping and selling secondhand gear. But probably the most prominent one is cost. Simply put, unless items are particularly rare or popular, they tend to be cheaper to buy secondhand; oftentimes significantly cheaper than buying them new. And buying secondhand doesn’t mean you have to put up with drastically inferior goods. You can obtain secondhand gear in like-new condition and still score a sweet deal on it. And the more worn it is, the more savings you’re likely to make.
Embracing new activities with less financial risk
Related to the point above, since secondhand gear is generally significantly cheaper than new gear, it opens up a world of activities and experiences that may have previously been cost-prohibitive if you had to purchase necessary gear new. For example, you might be new to camping or keen to try long hikes. Instead of shelling out on new, pricey gear, you can buy secondhand gear to try out the activity. If you enjoy it, you can continue using the gear you have or purchase new items if you wish. And if you didn’t like it, you haven’t committed to buying expensive new gear that’s rarely or never going to get used again.
Alternatively you might find that you like a certain activity but particular gear setups didn’t quite work for you. Buying gear secondhand is a more budget-friendly approach that allows you to tweak setups and swap out items while keeping your spending down.
It can be just as easy as buying new gear
With many marketplaces available online you have access to a global marketplace of quality secondhand gear, easily purchasable from the comfort of your own home. And if you’re buying, selling or swapping in person you can meet up for a gear viewing before any money exchanges hands. Just like you would visiting a bricks-and-mortar store.
Variety and rare gems
There is a large variety of secondhand gear available through online and offline marketplaces. So if you take the time to peruse or you’re hunting for something specific, you might just find something special. On top of that, online marketplaces provide the opportunity to get gear from across the globe, potentially gear that’s hard to get new where you live. And you never know when you might stumble upon discontinued or rare pieces you can’t get new anymore.
Supporting more sustainable gear consumption
Creating new gear requires the use of resources including water, energy, raw materials and more, in the process creating an unavoidable carbon footprint. And even reducing waste, using recycled materials and reducing resource consumption in the manufacturing process still results in a negative environmental impact. But buying secondhand reduces the carbon footprint of the items you are purchasing across their product lifetime. The more an item is used, the less impact it has, keeping waste out of landfills and increasing its value for money. Cutting down on creating new gear and getting more out of the gear that already exists makes for a more sustainable, ethical approach to gear consumption. Supporting sustainably made gear often used to involve spending more on those items. But opting for secondhand over new, however that new gear is made, is even more sustainable – with a nice saving for your wallet too.
Less, but better
Selling gear is a great opportunity to declutter your living space and personal collection while also earning some cash along the way. So you get to free up space while being able to use that cash to fund your travels, embrace more experiences or activities, or save for a particular item you really want, honing your personal collection to pieces you’ll use and hold onto for years to come. Ultimately resulting in a pared-back collection that meets your practical needs and personal tastes, rather than an assortment of items that don’t really do either. And remember, just because you aren’t digging a particular item, doesn’t mean someone else won’t love the opportunity to own it.
More style and gear experiments
It’s natural to want to switch up your personal style or try different gear every now and then. But spending a lot of money doing so, or buying cheap poor-quality new items, can make you feel a little…well, guilty. Buying quality secondhand gear is a cost-effective, sustainable way to embrace new styles and different setups.
And there’s another benefit too. You can experiment with gear hacks, making customizations without worrying that you might be irreversibly damaging a new product. This can help you create a piece that’s ideal for your needs, without spending a lot of money to obtain it. And it also offers the chance to develop new skills, such as patching or stitching gear or replacing hardware.
Where to buy, swap and sell used gear
Just as there are many great reasons to choose secondhand gear over new, there’s also a range of ways to buy, swap and sell used gear, both online and in person.
Via brands online and in-store
Worn Wear is Patagonia’s initiative to encourages customers to repair, share and recycle used Patagonia clothing and gear. The program accepts functioning used Patagonia gear in good condition. The gear can either be dropped off in person at a Patagonia retail location or mailed to Patagonia. Either option will get you credit in return, which can be used to buy more Patagonia gear (either new or used, in-store and online at WornWear.com and Patagonia.com). Patagonia takes your used gear, cleans it and resells it for others to use.
It’s no secret that Arc’teryx gear is pretty pricey. But they build it to last, and their Rock Solid Used Gear Program helps Arc’teryx used gear find new homes for continued use. Customers can trade in used Arc’teryx gear in good condition. In exchange, you receive 20% of the item’s original retail value in an Arc’teryx gift card. Used gear can be brought to Arc’teryx retail stores or mailed in. Arc’teryx will clean and repair the gear and then resell it online through Rock Solid.
Hunting for tempting deals on used gear from The North Face? Well, checking out The North Face Renewed program is a good place to start. Used gear comes from returned, damaged, or defective clothing stemming from The North Face’s distribution center. The gear is cleaned and inspected, then undergoes any repairs required to get it functioning well for reuse. After a final quality check it’s offered for resale. For the program’s online pilot The North Face is selling used items in like-new condition. Items in great condition may be sold in stores and at events.
A Tinder-inspired bag exchange? Yep, that’s exactly what FREITAG S.W.A.P. is. The initiative (which stands for Shopping Without Any Payment) encourages people to swap FREITAG bags, allowing FREITAG customers to give their unwanted bag a new home in exchange for a different bag. To use the service, you need to register your bag and activate it for swapping. You’ll be able to see other bags in the service, and you simply swipe right if you’re keen to swap for a particular piece or swipe left if you’re not interested and want to see the next one. Once you get a match with another user, you then decide if and how you are going to exchange bags. Note that organizing the swap is up to you and the other interested party, not FREITAG’s responsibility.
REI Used Gear is an online-only initiative that resells gently used gear for up to 70% off the original retail price. The gear comes from in-store and online returns and is selected and inspected before being resold online. Gear ranges from clothing and footwear, to tents, sleeping bags and more. And you’ll find plenty of quality brands in their used offerings too, from Patagonia and Black Diamond to The North Face, Arc’teryx and more. Prices vary depending on the gear’s condition and items are available to co-op members and non-members alike.
REI Garage Sales are in-store events that are only open to co-op members. They take place throughout most REI stores at different times throughout the year. Occurring over one day, the events offer a limited quantity of used and returned goods for sale. Items are sold as is, and it’s best to get there early to bag top deals.
MEC Gear Swap is an online hub where individuals can buy, swap and trade used outdoor gear. Essentially an online meeting place for buyers and sellers to connect, MEC approves and posts listings but is not responsible for the transactions carried out between buyers and sellers. As with any such online hub, there is the potential for fraud and scams so it’s definitely worth reading MEC’s FAQ section for tips and advice for safe buying and selling.
Initially founded in 1999, GearTrade was taken over by the founders of Backcountry.com in 2005 to further the site as an excellent resource for outdoor enthusiasts to buy and sell gear. And the variety of used gear on offer is extensive, ranging from clothing and footwear to sporting equipment and more. It’s easy to search by budget, brand and category and there’s the potential to score epic deals off original retail prices.
If you’re looking for secondhand streetwear and men’s fashion, Grailed is the spot, offering both new and used clothing, footwear and accessories. Their Bags & Luggage, Wallets and selection of Goretex raincoats are worth scoping out if you’re looking for higher-end or hard-to-get items.
eBay is one of the most popular online marketplaces in the world, available in many countries and with some sellers willing to post internationally too. The variety of new and used gear on offer is vast, but fees are building up, so be wary you’ll need to take a hit and give a small slice of your earnings to eBay for every transaction.
Amazon is a retail industry behemoth with countless offerings of new gear available at the click of a mouse. But you can also find used versions of some gear items. Not the most efficient way to source used gear, but you might get lucky if you have a specific item in mind.
As the name suggests, the r/onebag subreddit focuses on all things related to one-bag carry. A useful source of inspiration, tips and advice for anyone interested in one-bag travel, the Buy/Sell/Trade Thread is also a welcome resource for people looking to purchase, sell or trade items related to one-bag travel including bags and travel clothing.
Bag enthusiasts will also find r/ManyBaggers a solid subreddit for carry-related discussions and advice. And for those seeking a place to buy, trade or sell carry gear, the Buy/Sell/Trade 2019 Q4 thread is the place to go.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our very own Carryology Classified. A Facebook group that not only allows enthusiasts to buy, swap and sell a variety of carry gear from around the world, but also serves as a community hub to discuss all things carry. A place to share and find advice, embrace your particular carry passions, get sneak peeks at upcoming releases, and even score exclusive discounts from top-notch brands.
Our friends over at The Perfect Pack have built up a solid pack-loving community over the past few years. A great place to share the stoke on packs (especially the more tactical vibes), contribute to meaningful bag-related pow wows, and of course buy, sell and trade packs between members. If you’re driven by the hunt for that elusive perfect pack, this community is well worth checking out.
If you’re a Triple Aught Design fan, this one’s for you. TADjunkies is a group where fans can discuss TAD gear, as well as buy, swap and sell TAD items amongst members.
In addition to the groups above, you can search for outdoor gear exchange groups on Facebook that are in your area or within a particular region. Such groups may offer online and/or in-person buying and selling options.
Try before you buy
While buying secondhand gear might be a good option in some circumstances, you might not be sure if a particular piece is really for you. However, an appealing alternative may be to try the gear out before you commit to buying it. A number of gear rental services are available that allow you to book gear for use on excursions such as camping trips or outdoor activities. REI offers a range of outdoor-related gear for rental purposes, as does Outdoors Geek (who also sell gently used gear). Switchback Gear Exchange is also a solid option for renting gear, while selling new and used gear too.
And remember, you can also reach out to brands and enquire whether they offer the chance to buy secondhand gear. Some may sell used gear in their retail stores, some may have dedicated online sites for secondhand gear, and some may offer a combination of both. And if the brands themselves don’t offer those services, the resources mentioned above are a worthy starting point for purchasing, selling and swapping secondhand gear.
Got any great suggestions of where to buy, swap and sell used gear? Share them below…