32 forum posts
HOW TO FIND GREAT GEAR CHEAP... REALLY CHEAP.
Each time I go on a trip with trail friends, they show me their newest gear that they've picked up since the last trip. Per usual we end up going off the trail to explore some secret swim hole or unnamed lake. Getting there is often tough on our bodies but much tougher on our gear. At camp, the lament begins. Fancy rip stop pants ripped on prickly ash, tears for the new tear in their $400 pack, the ultralight tent that is a bit ultra-lighter from the campfire burn hole.
Gear gets abused, busted, gouged, burned, bent, and all the rest. If it doesn't, I'm probably not having as much fun as I could be.
Conversely, I am not the type of person that can drop $400 on a pack without treating it like a Fabergé egg.
Therein lies the dilemma. How can one acquire really nice performance gear and throw it to the wolves without regret?
BUY IT FOR A SONG.
My friends are often envious of my gear because it is top of the line but they are even more envious when I tell them how much I pay for it. For example: Last year I was using a Sierra Designs Sirius 2 tent, an Marmot Mavericks sleeping bag, with an Osprey Crescent 85L pack. I hiked in Salomon cross trainers, wore North Face zip offs, with a Mountain Hardwear mid layer and North Face Gore Tex windstopper. At night I used my Petzl headlamp and carried a Leatherman Sidekick. These were my staples.
Together this gear retails for over $1000.
This is how much I paid for it:
Tent = $30
Bag = $10
Pack = $70
Shoes = $10
Pants = $8
Mid layer = $6
Jacket = $9
Lamp = Free
Leatherman = Free
Total = $143 That's about an 85% savings.
How is it possible?
I'll let you in on the secret. Thrift stores. Garage sales. Craigslist. The river.
In my metropolitan area there are many thrift stores. Examples are: Goodwill, Salvation Army, Savers, etc. There are also many smaller, more obscure second hand stores. I find the bigger the thrift store, the more power they have to move volume. More volume = more potential finds.
Suburban thrift stores get higher quality items since they are pulling from areas with higher disposable income. However, urban locations should not be overlooked. Often times people who shop inner city thrift stores do not have the time nor the resources to pursue backpacking, trail running, etc. This means that a lot of high quality gear flies by right under their noses. I can't tell you the number of times that I've found Arc'Teryx or Patagonia because nobody in that neighborhood has ever heard of either. The thrift store that I frequent has just realized (2015) that they can fetch more for North Face items than Columbia. Now NF jackets cost $20 instead of $7 or $8. I have never seen a tent priced more than $10 at any of these stores; albeit, most of them are Colemans.
There is a second type of thrift store that not many people know about and probably doesn't exist outside of large metropolitan areas. It is called the Goodwill outlet. Have you ever wondered where all of the stuff that Goodwill doesn't sell ends up? Sub-Saharan Africa? Central America? Yes, but before it goes there, they send it all to a last stop shipping hub called G2. It's like a warehouse where they push out big bins either on conveyor belts or on rolling tables and it's a free for all rummage. Each 30 min or so, they toss what doesn't sell into huge crates and take them away. They then push out the next lot. The really nice items that were overpriced in the Goodwill retail store end up here as easily as the worthless brick-a-brack and it's yours to pay for BY THE POUND! This past week I picked up 2 North Face backpacks and a Bergan's of Norway Pack as well as Reichle Swiss hiking boots. I paid $10 for the packs and flipped 2 of them for $60. Guess what you can do with the extra cash you just made?
If you just look at Craigslist once a day (2 minutes), you are guaranteed to find extraordinary deals. Just go to "sporting goods" and start typing in key words like "tent" or "backpacking". Dozens of options come up. Most are overpriced, low quality goods but every week or so, someone offers something you've been dreaming of at 1/2 the price you'd be willing to part with for it. Just take the money you made from flipping other gear you bought at the thrift store (I purchase high quality clothing and shoes that don't fit me just so I can flip them and make money to trade on CL).
The obstacle in dealing with CL is that you are in competition with other people looking for a deal and these people are the cognoscente. They know what it is and they want it as much as you do. If it's a screaming deal, I'll offer the seller an extra $5 to get me to the top of their call back list. Half the time it works. When you get a deal on CL, you can then sell that item later for profit to put towards better gear you see in the future on CL. It's trading up. I started with a Kelty pack and an REI sleeping bag and have since traded up to a Big Agnes with an Osprey pack and it didn't cost me a dime. It takes time but half the fun is trying out newly purchased gear and reviewing it on Trailspace! BTW, when flipping your outdoor items, do it 2 weeks before major holidays and you'll increase profits by 30% or more. Sell winter gear in winter and summer gear in summer.
GARAGE and CHURCH SALES:
Garage sales are hit and miss and require lots of driving so I don't bother with them. If you like garage sales then that factor won't bother you. Church rummage sales on the other hand are a great way to find sweet deals on gear. They are high volume concentrated in a single location. You must go on the opening day and early at that. The best deal I've ever seen was snagged by my very own brother. He was at a church sale and saw a tent. He pulled it half way out of the bag and saw NF. Knowing it was going to be a good deal, he asked the lady at the exit table how much it was. She asked for $15. When he pulled it out it had the faint odor of vomit so he let her know that and asked for a deal. She sold it to him for $9. When he brought it home, he found that the vomit smell was the Gore-tex (If you've packed away Gore-tex, you know what I mean). Turns out it was military issue North Face Extreme Cold Weather Tent (ECWS).
Right now it's retailing for $1700 on ebay. It has a special coating on the fly that inhibits light penetration so you can illuminate the inside without enemies seeing the tent from the exterior.
I hesitate to even post this one because it is going to change your life. Just don't compete with me and all will be fine. Go to rivers where people lazily float down on big black inner tubes. For some reason, this past time rides a tight tandem with alcoholic beverages. It is the perfect combination for some really base shenanigans. Besides their dignity, drunk people lose EVERYTHING on these rivers. In the summer, I have more Oakleys than I can shake a schtick at. I flip them for $50 a pop and go buy gas to get out of town and into the woods. No, you won't find an Fly Creek UL in the drink but you will find iphones, cameras, go-pros, Leathermans and used condoms therein. Every community has its own water hole.
Unsolicited advice to you: Drunk people at these venues are sometimes dangerous. I've had full bottles of beer thrown at my head, beer poured down my snorkel, and horseless cowboys confront me on several occasions because I was wearing black tights (their interpretation for a wet suit). For this reason I only go at 6 am on Monday mornings now.
There it is. The secret to the best gear in the world for some belly button lint and a few pennies.