If you like playing outside (biking, climbing, even something as simple as hiking), it requires gear. And gear is often expensive. Luckily, it doesn’t always have to be.
Cost and access are the two biggest barriers to entry into the outdoors. Maybe you live in a small town that doesn’t have a gear shop or any resources on where to buy a climbing harness. Maybe you work a minimum wage job but still want to get outside. Or maybe you’re looking to get into a new sport, or need to upgrade your bike or skis, but are using your savings to pay off student loans.
Whatever the case, outdoor gear is even more awesome when it’s affordable. Because that means more of us (gear junkies and beginners alike) can access and enjoy it.
Here are six places to shop if you’re looking to buy used outdoor gear at an affordable price. Plus, check out our tips for buying used gear at the end of this article.
Patagonia Worn Wear Used Gear
I’ve admired Patagonia’s Worn Wear program for a long time. The brand does everything from minor patches and zipper lubrication to fully recrafted products (vests, jackets, pants) from leftover materials. Or as Patagonia simply puts it, “These are clothes made from other clothes.”
You can shop Worn Wear in a couple of ways: online on the Worn Wear site, or online or in-store at Patagonia with trade-in credit. (Yup, trade in your old Patagonia apparel and jackets and get credit to shop for new gear in the future.)
Worn Wear also has a mobile van unit, which, pre-COVID, would travel to different cities and events to offer its repair services. You’ll meet with a Patagonia repair expert, who can repair loose threads, broken zippers, ripped pockets, and more. The services are free. Grab a zipper pull, or a tenacious tape patch or two, and embrace your repaired gear.
In 2020, Patagonia also made a major shift on its site to include a “Shop Used” button, where you can buy used gear directly through the brand.
What we’ve found: Worn Wear is awesome, and its cleverly “Recrafted” collection covers a range of color and size options. Of course, the one drawback is it’s exclusive to Patagonia-brand gear.
Geartrade is a simple-to-use, nationwide platform that connects buyers to sellers looking for outdoor gear. The site looks and browses like a retail site: You can search by type of item or brand, or in a sale section. You set your price (although Geartrade has an algorithm that gives recommendations based on the newness and quality of gear). You can even calculate and incorporate shipping costs into your listing. (Geartrade takes a small commission cut — 12-13%.)
What we’ve found: Geartrade can be a mixed bag, but the platform works well, and they have quite an extensive library of listings. And the brand claims you can save up to 90% (based on the value of the gear listed and sold).
An interesting feature? If buying, you can make an offer to a seller below asking price and essentially barter. If you’re selling, you can open up all or some of your listings to accept “offers.” This is a great feature if you want to sell certain apparel or gear quickly and if you’re open to buying a piece of gear in a certain price range.
Isella Outdoor has gained fast traction in several circles. Firstly, it operates on a consignment structure. You get a fair price, so does the seller, and Isella takes a small cut, which it puts toward gear scholarships for others. It’s a win-win-win.
Second, Isella works to combating toxic gear culture while also promoting diversity. They focus on providing gear for women and nonbinary folks. The site also has a great mix of apparel and hardgoods, and selections for gender-neutral and plus sizes.
What we’ve found: We had one of our staff try out Isella, and she loved the platform. It’s easy to list and find gear, and founder Mallorie Estenson is constantly adding new perks and categories to the site. One caveat: You’ll need an email and PayPal account. Also, plan ahead and list and shop for gear seasonally.
Our favorite aspect of Isella Outdoor? The new “Singles” shop, where you can buy a single glove, a single pole, even a single shoe or ski! It’s an amazing resource for adaptive athletes, but the rest of us too. (Missing a left-hand liner glove? Isella has one for you!)
REI Used Gear
Seven months into a global pandemic, REI wisely forfeited holding its annual member garages (a physical, usually in-store event where REI members can buy, sell, and trade gear). But lucky for us, the retailer has launched something better — its own online used gear store.
Sound marvelous? In theory, it is. You (presumably) are already an REI member, already have an account, and like to shop at this retailer, making this one of the easiest ways to shop and save on used gear. (Oh, and returns, shipping, and credit are all super easy in the trade-in process as well.) So that’s all awesome.
The used gear shop (the buying side) includes apparel, accessories like gaiters, sleeping bags, packs, tents, and bike bags. It has a ton of awesome and extensive choices. It’s also the first pilot year of REI’s trade-in program (the selling side). It’s not quite the trade-in smorgasbord we hoped it to be, but as it’s the first year of the program, we know it will evolve.
What we’ve found: The buyer’s side: It’s great. The trade-in side: It’s OK. On the plus side, it’s not just used REI gear, but any brand or item REI has ever sold, which is huge. You can get everything from apparel and camp chairs to power banks and chargers.
The downside? REI is pretty limited on the items it will take back. (You’ll want to visit the trade-in page and look up the products you have to see if they’re eligible. We found that while lots of items populate, most of them aren’t eligible for trade-in.)
The North Face Renewed
The North Face started its Renewed program in June 2018. It’s a collection of refurbished clothing remade to explore. The North Face uses a combination of returned, damaged, or defective apparel to make new and functional items. Each garment is inspected, washed, and tuned up at the brand’s Renewal Workshop.
In 2019, The North Face put together a Design Residency to help expand the program and its offerings. The Remade Collection was the result — an extension of Renewed, with a majority of the garments repaired based on circular standards.
The North Face’s used gear offerings only include apparel (men’s, women’s, and kids’) and chalk bags. Similar to Patagonia Worn Wear items, The North Face Remade items are backed by a one-year warranty.
What we’ve found: A few members of our staff have tried Renewed and found its pricing is great for used items. (We’re talking 50% off market price for ThermoBall jackets.) Like Patagonia’s Worn Wear Program, it’s only The North Face-branded gear. That being said, The North Face Renewed does still have a great selection.
Ever wish you could just browse your local used outdoor gear store, but online? Switchbackr makes this possible with its unique partnership with outdoor consignment stores in hubs like Moab, Utah.
Switchbackr provides the technology to sync the store’s catalog to its website, and the consignment store gets most of the profits. Then, customers can easily browse, search, and buy gear and clothes — all on the Switchbackr site.
They also allow individuals to list and sell products on their site. Click the purple “sell” button, and you will be prompted through a section of questions to create your listing. Switchbackr takes 7% of the sale once your item sells, with no hidden or upfront fees to list your gear.
Also, all purchases are backed by its Iron Lotus Guarantee, which includes secure transactions, customer service, and an easy returns process.
What we’ve found: Switchbackr’s site is engaging, funny, and easy to navigate. The one downside we have noticed with Switchbackr’s item listings as a buyer is that some listings are from their partner brick-and-mortar stores and don’t include much information. However, Switchbackr provides an easy-to-use messaging service to contact a seller for more information about a product.
We also love Switchbackr’s focus on inclusion, both through making gear more accessible and affordable, as well as through their blog series highlighting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors.
Tips for Buying Used Gear
- Shop smart. Do your research, look for sales, and broaden your search (find/shop smaller brands). Write down your non-negotiables: sizing, price, etc.
- When buying hardgoods, pay attention. Do look for specifics. If you aren’t buying new direct from a brand, chances are there won’t be a warranty, so make sure all parts/aspects of the gear function as they should. Look closely at the tread of used shoes, look for any hull damage to a kayak, etc. All of the used gear sites we’ve recommended already inspect items for this reason (and prohibit “broken” gear).
- Don’t be afraid to invest in “used.” It should go without saying, but you’re buying something used! It may not be perfect. On many sites, items are even labeled “new,” “as new,” “gently used,” “well used,” etc., to give you an idea of the quality of the gear. Better yet, the price tags will reflect that. If there’s something minor like a loose thread, broken zipper, or fading, that’s fine! Fabric, buttons, and zippers are easily repaired. And if you don’t care about the latest colors, you’ll save here too.
- Join or create a gear swap. Know a few friends who have similar apparel or shoe sizing? Want to keep your search for used gear local? Organize a neighborhood, family and friends, or workspace gear swap.
- Take advantage of the used outdoor gear network. Have a jacket that you love but doesn’t fit just right? Ready to sell that spare helmet? Buying used gear is only half the equation — you can sell it too! Join one of these brands’ buy-back programs, or visit the sites above to sell your used gear to someone else — and give it a new life.