Backpacking, hiking, trail running, mountain biking, canyoneering, rock climbing, the list goes on. Unfortunately the bank account does not. Balancing your outdoor adventure gear budget is not a easy task. Along the way I have come up with some creative ways to fund new gear purchases. The used gear market is deep. Just think about it for a second. Every year new or improved models of all your favorite pieces hit the shelves and we go out and buy it. "Did you see the new Jetboil? It weights .5 ounces less. Yeah, its kind of pricey but .5 ounces!" All this used gear sits in closets like yours and mine or ends up in the used gear market.
One of my favorite places to score used gear is eBay. eBay allows you to set automatic search alerts which makes it super easy to find what you are looking for. I often have specific items I know I want to purchase and set a alert for them. Typically within a few weeks something will pop up. There are plenty of gear consignment companies that list on eBay making their products available to more then their community. While waiting for your next piece of gear to be listed, why not list some of your stuff? I have bought and sold a lot of my gear through eBay (even some pieces I have made). In fact my previous road bike and current mountain bike were both eBay purchases. Ironically that same road bike was resold on eBay a few years after purchasing it. Unfortunately, not all pieces of gear pop up on eBay (especially hard to find gear from foreign countries).
It is the eBay for the outdoor world. Geartrade stocks a fair amount of used and some new/returned discontinued gear from large suppliers such as Backcountry.com. In fact, as I was writing this post I came across a pair of returned pRana boy shorts (for the girlfriend) for $9 and free shipping. Thank you Backcountry.com! Although I have never sold any gear through Geartrade I would assume that the process is just as painless as purchasing. The site allows purchases to be completed through Paypal, making checkout a breeze.
#3- The Outlets
Obviously the big retailers (REI, Backcountry, Moosejaw) host multiple sales throughout the year where you can score sweet gear for decent prices. I have found most of the sales to be more hype than actual sales so I rarely make purchases during these. One exception is Patagonia as their web specials tend to be excellent for last seasons stuff. This is only the case during the big sales they have. The real money is saved in the outlet sections of REI.com, Backcountry.com, and Moosejaw.com. When I know exactly what I am looking for I watch these outlets to wait for the item(s) to come up. Often times I have to sacrifice having the newest model or the color but it saves me cash. This cash is better spent in funding the drive to next outdoor adventure.
Craigslist is a great option for big ticket items. I am talking bikes, crash pads, gear sold in lots (rare but almost always a good deal). The bikes are the main reason to watch Craigslist. If there is s specific model you are looking for chances are you can find it on Craigslist in your city or nearby. The market for bikes is deep here and one has to be careful not to be screwed over. There are plenty of shady people trying to pawn off damaged frames and even stolen bikes. Do your research and bring a friend who knows bikes to check it out with you. When in doubt, avoid the sale as it could end up costing you more in the long run. I have had moderate luck selling gear on Craigslist. Some pieces I figured wouldn't sell, sold. Then there were others (like fancy bikes) that caught the attention of no one. My only explanation is that it has more to do with timing. Post the right gear and being lucky enough that someone is searching for that piece at the same time.
#5- The Community-
Being part of a backpacking community (shameless plug for Arizona and Beyond 35 and Under meetup.com group) helps to find used gear. There are plenty of us that have the gear you need and are willing to cut better deals to people we know will use it. You also have a lot less likely hood of being screwed over if there is a chance you will being seeing them on upcoming trips. If where you live lacks a solid outdoor community (I am looking at you Big Island, Hawaii) then the online forums often provide you a 'For Sale' section. Hammockforums.com, Backpackinglight.com, and Whiteblaze.net all have 'For Sale' sections. Hitting up these sections is a easy way to find gear that 'weight weenies' are getting rid of to fund their next upgrade.
#6- Buy For the Warranty-
Great companies back their gear. I will gladly pay more initially to ensure that if I don't like something or it wears out too soon they have my back. A prime of example of this is Patagonia. Their shit is expensive, sometimes ridiculous. But I know that if something does not preform to my standard or just does work for me I can return it. No hassle. This system only works on the honor system. A prime example of this is REI. They had a killer return policy. That is until too many fuckers took advantage of it and fucked it for the rest of us. Thanks assholes. Now I only have a year to return the shit I buy from there. REI and Patagonia aside I have dealt with many companies that have stood behind their products, and because they do I continue to support them with my purchases. The products that are backed by warranty end up costing less in the long run because you don't need to replace them as often. Easy as that.
Buying 'new' gear should not require taking out a loan. Sell your used gear to fund your newer gear, or find some deals from one of the above sources. Either way, buy used and save the money to purchase those Grand Canyon permits you have been thinking about. Now go use it!