Where to Buy Affordable Gear

Being an outdoor recreationist doesn't have to break your wallet. In this feature from Mountaineer magazine, learn some helpful tips for buying used, buying local, or not buying at all.
Kristina Ciari Tursi Kristina Ciari Tursi
Membership & Communications Director
July 19, 2022

“Contrary to the examples that most blogs, magazines, and brand-name catalogs present, a backpacking hobby doesn’t have to be expensive, extremely arduous, or put on hold until you are at your goal weight.” Shared in the opening pages of How to Suffer Outside: A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking and Backpacking by Diana Helmuth, these wise words are written with backpacking in mind but apply to all things outdoor gear.

Finding the right gear can be an expensive ordeal. Thankfully, buying used is becoming increasingly popular, especially in the Pacific Northwest, and some brands are starting to offer extended sizing to address accessibly issues for plus size adventurers. Exchange groups, apps, and local shops all offer access to gently-used outdoor goods. Below we outline a few of these options, and remember that Mountaineers members receive access to discounts from outdoor brands through our member benefits.

Second hand

Whether you’re looking for base layers, tents, or technical gear, second hand options abound. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find a great fleece layer at Goodwill or a local thrift store, and you’ll be surprised by what you can find used online. A personal tip: footwear is the one thing I recommend buying new. If your feet are happy, you’re most of the way to a good adventure.

  • Ebay
  • Facebook Marketplace & Buy Nothing Groups
  • Garage & estate sales
  • Geartrade.com
  • Isella Outdoor (@isellaoutdoor on Instagram)
  • Mountaineers Gear Grab sales
  • Thrift stores

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Illustrations by Latasha Dunston, from How to Suffer Outside (Mountaineers Books, 2021).

Shop local

Keeping your dollars local is a great way to support small businesses and build relationships, which can sometimes lead to more deals down the road. Here’s a list of businesses recommended by our community that retail gently-used gear:

  • Ascent Outdoor, Wonderland Gear Exchange (Seattle)
  • Back 2 Adventure, Playback Sports Consignment (Tacoma)
  • Backcountry Essentials (Bellingham)
  • Colchuck Consignment (Cashmere)
  • Olympia Gear Exchange (Olympia)
  • Ramble Raven Gear Trader (Spokane)
  • Sierra (Silverdale)
  • Superior Seconds (Issaquah)

Online deals

At one point over a decade ago, I had a SteepandCheap.com alert set on my browser to tell me when the next “here until it’s gone” deal was launched. I saved a ton on great gear, and spent more money one month than I paid in rent. I disabled my alert. Which is my way of saying that these options are great, but approach with caution. And always be sure to read the refund policies closely!

  • Discounted: Backcountry, The Clymb, GearTrade, MooseJaw, Mountain Steals, Paria Outdoor, Steep and Cheap, Sierra Trading Post
  • Used: REI’s “Garage Sale” site, Patagonia’s “Worn Wear”

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Shop sales

Nearly every outdoor brand has sales. Sign up for their mailing list to find out when they happen and then mark your calendar. One savvy Mountaineer recommended creating an account, putting something in your cart, and not checking out. Sometimes you’ll get a discount emailed to you a few days later as an incentive. You can also find great affordable gear at places like Costco and Walmart.

Rent & borrow

Together with the Washington Trails Association, The Mountaineers launched a Gear Library in 2018, which is currently open for all Mountaineers members and any groups who’d like to borrow gear. Lending libraries are popping up all over the place, including through brands (like Eddie Bauer). Renting or borrowing is a great way to try before you buy or avoid a major purchase for something you'll use once or twice.

  • Campfire Explorers Club
  • Climbers of Color
  • Community Gearbox App
  • The Mountaineers Gear Library
  • REI Rentals
  • Washington Trails Association

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Funny, relatable, and helpful, How to Suffer Outside by Diana Helmuth shows walkers, hikers, and campers of all stripes how to get outdoors with confidence and without breaking the bank. Purchase at our Seattle bookstore, online, or anywhere books are sold. To learn more about plus size gear options, search “Plus Size Outdoor Apparel” to read recent blogs by Sam Ortiz, a plus size Latinx hiker, climber, water enthusiast, and 6-year Mountaineers member.


This article originally appeared in our Summer 2022 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our  magazine archive

Illustrations by Latasha Dunston, from How to Suffer Outside (Mountaineers Books, 2021).


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