Unless you are unboxing your hiking shoes for your hike, you are essentially using used gear. All of us use used gear for every hike unless we just purchased a piece of gear and are using it for the first time.
By the way, I don’t suggest using any new gear for the first time on a hike. Try it out first in the comfort of your own home. Setting up a tent in the rain at night for the first time is not fun.
If you are getting into hiking and backpacking, you may be dismayed at how expensive everything is. Quality hiking shoes can easily run you $200, a quality backpacking tent is close to $500, and the items keep adding up. I asked Dallas Shewmaker, the owner of Lower Gear Outdoors, a store that sells used backpacking gear. Here is a synopsis of what the expert said about which hiking and backpacking gear is good to buy used.
The best gear to buy used are high-end tents and backpacks for backpacking since you can get quality items at about 50% of retail. Other backpacking and hiking items that are also good to buy used are sleeping pads or trekking poles. It is better to buy new hiking footwear.
I share what I learned from an expert about buying used hiking and backpacking gear in this post. His advice could save you hundreds of dollars over retail for your next backpacking trip. This is also a great way to try out different brands or types of gear to see what you like before you invest a thousand dollars or more in a complete gear list.
Dallas said that it is probably best to buy the backpacking gear used and not regular camping gear that you might use for car camping. The reason is that you will get high-quality items at a significant discount over retail. Since used gear at his store is typically 50% off from retail, you can expect to save hundreds of dollars for a quality used backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc.
Savings are probably the primary reason people buy used gear from him, but there is also a consideration for the environment. I think this is an important point. You can buy the most eco-friendly gear new from Patagonia, but in reality, if you were to buy used gear, you would be doing more for the planet.
Dallas Shewmaker says that when considering buying a used backpacking gear item, you need to think about the nature of the item itself. Some items will wear out much more quickly than others. For example, a water filter has a finite life span, while hiking poles may last for decades if they are not abused.
Another tip that Dallas gives is to consider imperfections that significantly lower the price of the used gear item. For example, if a high-end sleeping bag has a defective zipper that won’t zip from the bottom up, then perhaps this defect doesn’t even matter to you. In this case, you can score a great sleeping bag that works for your needs while saving two hundred dollars over retail.
Should I Buy a Used Sleeping Bag?
I asked Dallas about buying used sleeping bags since it feels a bit like buying a used toothbrush. Eeeeeouuwwwi! It is just hard to get your head around the fact that some other dusty hikers were sleeping in the bag.
Lower Gear Outdoors cleans all of their used sleeping bags in a front loader washing machine with detergent and then lets them dry in the powerful Arizona sun.
Dallas said that they frequently get this concern from customers about buying used sleeping bags at Lower Gear Outdoors. Here is his response:
“And without being flippant about it, we basically say, ‘Well here’s what we do, and I can guarantee the sleeping bag is cleaner than the comforter at a four seasons hotel.'”
Used sleeping bags can provide significant savings over new bags at retail prices. If you buy a used sleeping bag, you can expect that it will not perform at the temperature for which it is rated. You can clean a used sleeping bag in a washing machine.
Dallas explained that the sheets at a hotel are cleaned just like his used sleeping bags, but the comforter at the hotel is not. You are sleeping with the same comforter or blanket at a four-star hotel as the guy that stayed in the room the night before.
Dallas said that when you are buying used sleeping bags, you should realize that they may not provide the same rating if used and washed a few times. If the bag were originally rated for 35 degrees Fahrenheit, it probably would not perform as well as that temperature since it may have been washed and used. It will lose its loft.
What to Look For When Buying a Used Tent?
If you are considering buying a used tent then Dallas Shewmaker has a few recommendations.
Buy high-quality, used backpacking tents for maximum value and savings. Set up the tent in the store to inspect the seams and walls for wear and tear. Be sure that the tent has all of the equipment necessary to be set up correctly.
If you can, you should set up the tent in the store. If you are buying it online, then you will have to trust the seller. Setting up the tent in advance will reveal any major functional issues such as tears.
Dallas says that tears in a tent are not deal-breakers. You may be able to fix a tear with tape for a few dollars while saving hundreds off retail on a high-quality backpacking tent.
Dallas recommends not buying large family tents used. He feels that there is just a greater chance for significant wear or tears on the tent’s fabric with a larger surface area. You may not see defects until you are in the tent in wet weather.
How Much Money Can I Save Buying Used Backpacking Gear?
Dallas Shewmaker said in the interview that used gear at Lower Gear Outdoors is usually about 50% of retail. At REI.com, you can also buy used gear, but the discounts ranged from about 50% off to about 20% off retail prices. Lower Gear Outdoors may be retiring rental equipment, and at REI, they might be reselling rentals and returns.
Here are some deals I found at REI.com for used, quality, backpacking equipment and how much you could save.