Why Everyone Should Buy Used Gear
Updated: May 17
TLDR; fantastic for the planet and your wallet.
Over the last several years, a number of companies have sprung up to sell pre-owned outdoor gear. The advantage companies get from resale is obvious--they support their environmental missions by recycling unused gear while developing an additional source of revenue. However, the flip side is a bit underexplored: why should you buy a jacket that has been sweat in or a tent that is already thoroughly caked with dirt when there are brand new options?
Buying used gear benefits your wallet and the planet. Trying out a new outdoor activity can be incredibly expensive. Outdoor climbers have to pay up to $500 to get shoes, a harness, a chalk bag, ropes, quickdraws, and cams. New backpacking equipment (hiking boots, backpack, tent, stove, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, bear can) costs at least $1000. Beginner kitesurfing equipment quickly adds up to $1500.
For the budding outdoors person, it is intimidating and discouraging to have to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars just to try a new hobby. Renting gear is still expensive and only works for some sports (easy for skiing and surfing, not so simple for backpacking). Easily accessible used gear allows people the freedom to experiment with various outdoor activities.
This is an important step towards broadening access to the outdoors and making the spaces we love accessible to people of all financial backgrounds.
Buying used gear is also a way for folks interested in outdoor activities to protect the environment they cherish. A study by the World Bank found that the textile industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions--more than all international flights and maritime shipping put together. According to Scientific American, Americans discarded over 21 billion pounds of clothing and textiles in 2015, while the global fashion industry used 21 trillion gallons of water to create new materials. Approximately 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment. It takes about 70 million barrels of oil to produce the polyester used in fabrics each year (the equivalent of what 3 million cars use annually). Outdoor gear notoriously relies on polyester and other synthetic compounds to be water resistant, which are especially energy-intensive to create. On top of the staggering figures of creating new clothes is the environmental cost of shipping them all over the world.
If you’re looking to be a more ethical consumer there is a simple answer: buy used gear. Buying used keeps clothes out of landfills and reduces the demand for environmentally-harmful new gear. Up to 50% of clothes people buy remain unworn, so there are plenty of pre-owned options whose conditions are as good as new. Similar statistics hold for outdoor gear--just consider the California transplant who decided to become a climbing bro and shelled out $250 for top of the line quickdraws only to realize that climbing is actually really hard and gave up.
It’s also often possible to find used gear locally, or at least nationally, reducing the need for resource-intensive international shipping. Used gear is typically discounted 50-80%, making it much more affordable (take a look at Switchbackr for such deals). There are certainly important quality considerations when buying used gear, so look out for our next article to learn the most important questions to ask before buying used!