Backpacking gear is super expensive, but you can save a bundle of money if you buy it used. Most backpackers have bought or sold used gear at some point in their backpacking careers. I’ve done both myself. It’s good way to try new gear without taking a huge financial risk or to recoup some money from your old gear if you want to upgrade.
Buying used backpacking gear is also a good way to:
- buy gear for kids to save money, because they outgrow stuff so quickly
- buy extra gear that you can loan out to friends and family
- buy a spare backpack or tent so you have one when your current one wears out
- assemble winter backpacking, which is really expensive
Here is a list of suggestions for finding and buying used backpacking gear:
Buying from Friends
Buying used backpacking gear from a friend is often the best option because you know exactly what you’re getting. Chances are you’ve seen the item being used on a trip and have a good understanding of its pros and cons before you buy it. Plus, you can go back to your friend if there’s a problem with the gear after purchase.
What if you don’t have a friend selling gear you want to buy? Where can you go to find used gear?
There are surprisingly few national retailers who sell used gear, including REI, Patagonia, Geartrade.com. REI has by far the best selection of used gear. Their two main used gear venues are the REI Garage Sales held at local stores and REI’s USED GEAR Beta, a new online section of their website that sells used gear, not to be confused with the online REI Garage, which mainly sells NEW gear from the previous year and overstock.
REI Garage Sales
REI Garage Sales are a great place to buy used gear that’s been returned by customers but can’t be put back on shelves because it’s been used or has some sort of defect. Garage Sale discounts typically run between 50% to 90% and you can buy boots, shoes, tents, clothing, backpacks, even electronics. However, REI Garage sales are only open to Co-Op members, so join up if you haven’t already.
Some REI Garage Sales are held outdoors in the store parking lot while others are held indoors. Most have lines to get in. Some limit the number of people who can shop at once, while others limit the time you can spend looking before they let other people enter. It all depends on the store.
All of the items offered at an REI Garage sale have a tag which explains what’s wrong with it so you can decide if it’s worth buying. There’s usually a LOT of gear for sale at a Garage Sale event, so it helps to come to the store with a specific objective in mind like “I want a 20 degree down sleeping bag,” so you can focus and not get distracted. It also helps to bring a smartphone, so you can look up reviews for items on sale to see if they’re worth buying. Just remember: you can’t return anything after you’ve bought it. All REI Garage sales are final!
REI Used Gear
The REI Used Gear is a section of the REI website that’s an online virtual REI Garage Sale, but one that only has gear in excellent condition. All of the clothing and gear is stuff that customers purchased and then returned to REI. The gear is typically 50% off or more and there’s a wide selection with lots of different brands represented. The selection is constantly being refreshed and there is a lot of choice available. While the Used Gear Beta lacks the spontaneity of a real-world Garage Sale, you can find a lot of good deals there. You also don’t have to be an REI Co-op member to make a purchase.
Gear Trade is an internet storefront where people can buy and sell outdoor gear. It’s free to list your gear for sale there, but they take a 13% cut of the final purchase price as a commission. You also hang onto your gear until its sold and then ship it to the buyer. The selection is pretty good with a wide range of brands available including Tarptent, Zpacks, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, among others. The discounts range from 20-75% off and you can find some good deals if you’re patient and pounce on them. Some of the gear listed at GearTrade.com is also from online retailers who want to liquidate their returns and overstock. You can subscribe to RSS feeds of Gear Trade’s new gear listings so you can grab stuff when it becomes available.
Patagonia Worn Wear
Patagonia Worn Wear resells used Patagonia Clothing that customers have traded in for a credit towards the purchase of new items. All of the items have to be in excellent condition and you can earn $10-$100 for items your trade in, although you have to go to a physical Patagonia store (see finder) to do it. The nice thing about the Worn Wear store is that you can find a lot of vintage clothing in it. The selection of clothing and gear is pretty limited and you don’t know how much you’ve actually saved because they don’t tell you what the original price was.
Forums and Bulletin Boards
There are a couple good backpacking forums where you can find good deals on used backpacking gear. Some of the more trustworthy ones, include:
What makes them trustworthy? The people who post on these boards all backpackers and you can usually find out a little about them by looking up their posts on the forum. Most of these forums also require that you become a member and log in, which cuts down on the riff raff. Reddit and Facebook groups can also be good places to find gear for sale.
Thrift stores look Goodwill are great for buying used clothing like wool sweaters, shirts, synthetic pants, hats, running shorts, fleece jackets, rain jackets, and insulated jackets. The items sold there are clean and in excellent condition. Goodwill is also a good place to shop for children who outgrow their clothing quickly. I also donate a lot of the samples that manufacturers send me to review to Goodwill, Who knows. maybe you’ll pick up a piece of gear I donated at some point.
Craigslist and eBay
You can find a lot of good backpacking gear on Craigslist and eBay and save a bundle, but I’d caution you to stick to well-known brands of tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags if you’re a beginner and seek the advice of a more experienced friend before buying anything. On Craigslist, you’re more likely to be buying from someone who’s used the gear than on eBay, where the sellers are often companies liquidating overstock rather than individuals.
Where do you shop for used backpacking gear?
Published 2018.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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