Get the Gear: How to Buy Smart and Build Your Collection

Get the Gear- How to Buy Smart and Build Your Collection

I don’t know about you, but I often say a nightly prayer to the Gear Gods. It goes something like this:

Dear Gear Gods,
May all my gear be cheap and useful, yet slightly sexy and colorful. Pinks, purples, and blues are preferable. Please, shield me from any gear failures for, when I’m walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death (aka rappelling 200ft into some canyons or summiting a wicked mountain) I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy dynamic ropes, carabiners, and headlamps comfort me. Surely gear goodness shall follow me all of the days of my life and I shall dwell in the outdoors forever and forever.

But, to continue our Biblical theme, gear doesn’t just fall from the sky like manna from Heaven. You gotta procure that shit, search it out, and go on gear treasure hunts. But that’s half the fun, right? Right. And, boy, do I have some tips for how to do it on a budget so you can be like these cool gear guys from Portlandia.

Get by With a Little Help From Your FriendsGet by With a Little Help From Your Friends
The best place to start is with your more gear-savvy friends. If you’re considering a new pack, upgrading your hiking boots, or purchasing a climbing rope, be sure to ask your friends where they shop. More Importantly: Ask to sample their gear and make sure they teach you how to use it properly first…else you’ll end up setting their climbing rope on fire or something…and that would be not cool with them…I’m assuming.

Speaking of borrowing gear. There are a number of outdoor retailers that rent gear for cheap: REI being one of them. So, before you make a big purchase, rent the gear first to see what works for you and what doesn’t.

The Keys to Consignment and Thrift
Consignment and thrift shops are popping up all over the place these days. Maybe it’s the languishing economy or maybe people are just tired of paying ridiculously jacked up prices for new items, but whatever the motivation, buying consigned or discarded gear is hella smart. I’ve found a sweet crash-pad, running pants, running shoes, climbing shoes, hiking boots, and backpacks for cheap and with plenty of wear left in ‘em.

Word to the Wise: Certain items should NEVER be purchased used, such as:

  • Climbing ropes
  • Trad gear
  • Climbing Harnesses
  • Parachutes for paragliding or base jumping
  • Helmets

Rule of Thumb: If your life depends on the gear, you probably shouldn’t buy it used ‘cause you have no idea how it was treated by the previous owner. I’ve seen climbers bash the hell outta trad pieces…no one wants to take a fall on that.

Online Gear Meccas and Garage SalesOnline Gear Meccas and Garage Sales
Tons of great gear can be found online at massively reduced prices. Try The Clymb or REI Garage Sales.

Less is More…Sometimes
Many of my friends have gear closets. Yes, seriously…closets entirely devoted to gear. It’s kind like if Paris Hilton was into the outdoors. That being said, when you buy an item ask yourself the following questions: Do I really need this item? How often will I use this piece of sweet gear? Would renting or borrowing this item be the cheaper or better option?

That being said, closets full of gear aren’t always a bad thing. If you’re super active and into many sports, it can often be more cost effective to invest. Gear Tip: Before you buy bigger items, talk with your friends to see if they might consider sharing some of the following. It’ll save you both money and room in your gear walkin:

  • Tents
  • Camp stoves
  • Sleeping bags
  • Climbing ropes and trad gear (as long as you trust that they take impeccable care of their gear)
  • Helmets ( biking, climbing, skiing, snowboarding, dirt biking, etc…those puppies are expensive! Just make sure your friends haven’t taken any falls on them.)
  • Bikes (both mountain and road)
  • Bike racks

Staying Power
Be sure to do your research to determine what gear has the most staying power. You may spend more initially but, in the long run, you could end up with a piece of gear that will last you 10plus years. For example, I dropped a pretty penny on my hiking boots but they have a ten year warranty and I plan on hiking in those puppies until I get my first gray hair.

By Hope Gately