What to Look for When Buying Second Hand Hiking Gear

Luckily, I have a pretty steady track record of finding "good finds' at general thrift stores like Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity. So, when I went to look for hiking gear for my upcoming hiking trips, I had no problems finding some great gear at a local shop I found in my city. At the beginning of this month, I went out to a a gear shop that specialized in second hand hiking gear called Great Goat XCHG in Charlotte, NC.

When I went to the Great Goat XCHG, I was on a mission to find a thru hiking backpack that would hold all of my things for longer hikes. [Below is a picture of the backpack I ended up going with. It was a L.L.bean AT 55 Olive Green Backpack which is usually priced at $179, but I got it for $124 and it was practically like new — it was honestly a steal. I took it on my recent hike to SugarLoaf Mountain at the Marrow State Park in NC.]

So if you want to find gear on a budget, these tips I am about to share are specifically crafted for you. Let's start off with talking about why you should shop second hand.

Why You Should Shop Second Hand for Outdoor Gear

  • It's Generally Cheaper

If you buy thrifted gear, it's generally going to save you a buck or two. Gear can cost you $1000s, so why not save where you can? Then, you will have more savings to go towards a thru hike or future outdoor activity purchases!

  • You are Helping the Environment

When you buy second hand, you may or may not know it, but you are helping the environment! When you purchase thrifted items, you are using thrifted gear that was going to be otherwise thrown out into a landfill. By purchasing second hand, you get to be an active part of helping the environment around you.

  • You are Supporting a Local Store

Second hand shops are only around because of your support. They provide jobs to people in the local community, and you get to be part of making that happen by choosing to buy from them instead of somewhere else.

  • Bonus: They Sometimes Have Cool Events/Marketing Promos!

At the Great Goat XCHG, they had free beer Friday which was awesome! While I thrifted, I got to have a craft beer. It was unique to them, and it was a neat bonus that they had to add to the customer experience.

What to Look Out for in Thrifted Hiking Gear

1. Wear & Tear

The wear and tear of your hiking gear is important. When you are shopping second hand, you know that your gear isn't going to look absolutely brand new, but you want to ensure that the gear you buy is safe to use and you will be able to get a good life out of the things that you are purchasing. Some things that you may want to pay extra attention to is buying any type of gear that is load bearing. For instance, if you are purchasing climbing gear, you would want to triple check the gear that you are buying to make sure it doesn't have any fraying in a climbing harness or micro chips in a carabiner. You don't want your gear to cost you your life.

2. Functionality

You don't only want to pick out trendy gear because it's the "thing" all hikers envy. Really think about the functionality of the piece of gear you are thinking about purchasing. Ask yourself these questions. How often will you use it? Is it just added weight without much purpose? Is it a need or want? Sometimes it's okay to get things that are "nice to have" items. If you were to buy a solar charger, it may seem silly to some, but it may be necessary for you to have as a back up to call home or to give you peace of mind on the trail. Remember: It's not about what others think; it's about your individual journey. What's it to someone else if you buy a sleeping quilt that is a few ounces heavier than the norm? Get the things that will serve you on the hike not what you think is cool for just the time being.

3. Brand

Many care about the brand of hiking gear they purchase, and others don't. This is more of a personal preference to look out for. If you buy things with a well-known brand, you may be able to resell it later on for a better price than if you got something that is Ozark Trail (Walmart) branded. If you think that Osprey backpacks last longer than your average backpack you can get off of Amazon, by all means, purchasing this pack may be more beneficial for you in the long run so you should get it! (And if you get it slightly used, it will be more cost effective too!)

4. Retail Price ($$$)

As much as you believe that you are getting a better deal by getting it second hand, double check it just to make sure. Sometimes you can find the exact same model or piece of gear on a site like Backcountry that sells out of season gear for brand new. If you can buy a new out of season piece of gear for the same price as a piece of second hand gear, you may want to consider buying it new.

So if you are on a budget, but you are interested in hiking, start at your local thrift/consignment store first. Hiking isn't supposed to be a hobby just for the well off. Get innovative, and see where you you can save money on your hiking gear. Sometimes you will be surprised with what you find!


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My name is Melon, and I am oh so glad that you are here! Follow me along on my adventures and random bits of wisdom I learn along the way.

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