Should I Buy Used Outdoor Gear? What Mistakes to Avoid

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Purchasing used pieces of outdoor gear is no doubt one of the most sustainable choices you can make! Not only does recycling gear help the planet, but it also takes some tension off your wallet. Many outdoor enthusiasts’ closets are filled with untouched gear that’s in great condition. Why not take advantage?

While it’s awesome to buy gear used, there are certainly reservations I have. With certain pieces of gear there are important considerations before making the purchase. I’m going to share which items are great to buy used, items I would stay away from, and considerations to be aware of before making your purchase!

Hiking Boots

Hiking boots are a great option to consider buying used. If you can find a pair that have been gently used and are in great condition then absolutely go for it! Leather hiking boots have a lot of life in them! If you find gently used boots in good condition, buy them! Did you know that most hiking boots have a lifespan of around 700 miles? There will be a ton of life left in your boots if used for a short season.

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Trail Shoes

I consider used trail shoes to be a no go. The reason being that unlike hiking boots, trail shoes have a much shorter lifespan of around 300-400 miles. If your shoes look like they’re in good condition I would still be wary. Additionally, new trail shoes aren’t usually as expensive as new hiking boots so purchasing them and maximizing their lifetime may be the better option here. 

Hiking Poles

Hiking poles are certainly on the go ahead list to buy used! If you can find a pair in great shape, you’ll be thanking yourself for saving $40-60. Before you make your purchase, research the company and check reviews of the poles. Find out the poles’ life expectancy and make your decision based on that! 

Backpack

Backpacks are absolutely essential to outdoor adventures however their hefty price tags can certainly turn people off. Depending on the adventures you’re into, you’ll most likely need a few different sizes which undoubtedly adds up quickly. Buying a used backpack is an amazing option! As long as the backpack is in good shape, I would say it’s a serious win if you can score one! 

Considerations when purchasing a used backpack: how old is the back? What is the warranty? Are there any holes or broken zippers? Does it properly fit you?

Sleeping Bag

Purchasing a used sleeping bag is a controversial topic and it really comes down to your comfort level. Some equate used sleeping bags as the same as sleeping in hotel rooms where sheets are professionally cleaned, etc. Personally, I would not feel comfortable with purchasing a used sleeping bag from a stranger. Although the bag may look like it’s in great condition, it’s hard to be 100% certain about the level of care that went into treating the bag. For down sleeping bags specifically, it’s important to dry them with dryer balls and then hang them when not in use (rather than stuffing it back into its sack). 

Although the bag could be professionally cleaned, if the original owner’s pet had an accident on the bag, it’s almost impossible to get the smell out. Additionally, you may not know that there’s a smell until you’re far out into the backcountry trying to have a good night’s rest. I would say that it would be worth buying a used bag from a trusted pet-free friend who takes care of their gear properly. Otherwise, there’s not really a need to get rid of sleeping bags so purchasing a quality bag that you will use for years to come may be the best option!

GORE-TEX Shell

I hate to say it but GORE-TEX jackets are on the nay list! I understand that GORE-TEX jackets are a big ticket item and are not fun to purchase because of their price tag. The downside of buying used GORE-TEX jackets is the special care that’s involved with treating this material. GORE-TEX requires extremely careful treatment and can only have specific cleaning solutions on them. If buying a used jacket, it’s very likely that the original owner may not have treated them correctly and put soaps on them that could strip the go

Look for signs of  sweat + contamination in the collar and dirt in high-wear areas such as cuffs

According to Arc’teryx, this is why you should clean your Arc’teryx GORE-TEX garment often:

“Routine care and maintenance is critical for the optimum performance of your Arc’teryx GORE-TEX garment.

Dirt buildup and body oils from sweat can compromise the membrane and overall effectiveness of the textile’s Durable Water Repellent (DWR) treatment. DWR encourages water to roll off the surface –this is called ‘beading’. Regularly washing and re-applying DWR will restore the performance and extend the lifespan of your GORE-TEX garment”.

Helmets

Don’t buy used helmets! Buying a brand new helmet is always worth the investment. Don’t take a chance on safety. If you’re biking or climbing, helmets are the most important safety rule! Helmets have a limited lifespan which decreases significantly with frequent use. Helmets can look like they are in good condition but should be retired instead.

What gear would you buy used? What are your success stories?

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