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Are Gear Swaps A Thing? Can I Get Good Stuff Cheap, Seriously?

If you’re finally ready to upgrade from Dad’s Patagonia fleece from the ‘80s to some hiking gear that doesn’t (entirely) smell like warm salami sandwiches, gear swaps are a great next step to boost your hiking arsenal.

Do they have backpacking gear swaps online? Yes, there are many ways to obtain used backpacking gear: through locally sponsored swaps, single-subject flea markets, national outdoor gear chains, and the ever-popular online gear swaps.

But before you dive in there is a lot to learn about the gear swapping world.

Can You Buy, Rent, Or Sell Used Hiking Gear? Like Gear Swaps?

In the spirit of the rugged outdoors, hikers love to swap, sell, and repurpose pre-loved hiking equipment. Buying and selling are the main options for finding used gear, although you may be able to rent poles or tents from your nearest outdoor equipment retailer.

You didn’t hear this from us, but avid hikers have been “renting” gear from companies with lenient return policies like REI and Patagonia since Dad’s Synchilla was in its infancy. Oh, we don’t advise this, just pointing out that it happens. If you want to try before you buy, many companies rent backpacking gear for a modest price.

The best way to go about buying gear is to do your homework. Know what to look for in good hiking boots (ankle support, treads not worn, mud-brown colored) and backpacks (water bottle pouches, good zippers, endless pockets for snacks) before you go in.

backpacking gear at the top of a mountain

Get familiar with brand names that have withstood the test of time. Likewise, as a seller, know the approximate value for your gear. See what it’s going for on eBay or on other online swap sites.

Be willing to drive a hard bargain but ultimately give your fellow hiker a good deal. It’s the backpacker’s way.

What Are Gear Swaps And How Do They Work?

A gear swap is a trading marketplace. The typical gear swap is a Wild West for pricing, haggling, and snapping up good deals before they’re gone. You can just as easily end up with a screaming deal as a knockoff product from China, so keep your wits about you.

Bricks And Mortar Gear Swaps

Brick and mortar gear swaps can be hosted by individuals and are sometimes sponsored by local companies. Therefore, if you live in an outdoorsy community, chances are there’s some kind of gear swap happening in your area.

Local Gear Swaps

Local gear swaps act as single-subject flea markets and you can usually score great deals on equipment, particularly if haggling is allowed.

In-Person Gear Swaps

In-person swaps are also hosted by bigger companies, like REI’s famed Garage Sale. The gear in these sales has usually been returned to the store by customers or has some light cosmetic damage. Prices will be slightly higher than the community gear swap, but your spoils will be nearly brand new.

Offline Gear Swap Tips:

  • Mark your calendar. Lots of the swaps only happen once per year and you don’t want to miss it.
  • Get there early. The most lucrative swaps are like Black Friday for outdoors people. For this reason, granola-munching patrons will line up hours in advance.
  • Bring cash. Community-run gear swaps are refreshingly technology-free, so, it is best to have the money in hand. Having cash also helps you stay within budget if that is your thing.
  • Strike a bargain. If the seller is standing right there, swap a good hiking story, as a result, he may knock off a few bucks from your new zip-off pants.

Online Gear Swaps

If you prefer the convenience of a few clicks, online gear swaps are a great place to find exactly what you want.

Various websites have platforms for people to post photos of their gear and other people to bid on it. In most places, you can search by brand name, model, and year.

Websites like eBay have a formal bidding process, whereas other sites just allow you to message the seller and settle on a price. While you won’t be able to check out the gear in person, online gear swapping saves time and energy rummaging through other people’s rejected clothing.

Are There Rules To Follow When Swapping Gear? Gear Swaps 101.

retail gear shop is a great place for a gear swap

Basic Etiquette For Sellers:

Be Clear In Your Description

Gear swaps come with an inherent basic etiquette. If you’re a seller, be as clear as possible about what you are selling and what condition it’s in.

For online swaps, this means including the price, a list of features, and any defining details you can find about the name, model, or size of your item. Therefore, it is a good idea to provide clear photographs of the item from all angles.

A favorite trick on Reddit to show size is the banana for scale metric. Many people will also verify that the item belongs to them by including a paper note in the photograph with their username and the date.

Be Honest About The Condition

Be honest about the condition of your item. Did Timmy spill grape juice on the sleeve of that sweatshirt that will never come out? Write about it. Did you scrape up the butt of your pack by sliding down that rock face in Antelope Canyon? That is why you should write about it.

Items with cosmetic or even more serious damages could still be of great value to the buyer, but it’s important to let them know ahead of time.

Add The Reason You Are Selling

An unnecessary but nice addition to your post is why you chose to sell the item. If it didn’t fit you, explain why. You could save someone else the same trouble that you went through.

For Buyers:

Research Before You Buy

You wouldn’t hike the PCT without doing some research ahead of time, so don’t buy something before taking it for a whirl on the Google machine.

Look up reviews of the product online. Check out the company’s own website as well as sites like Amazon and gear review blogs. Make sure you know what you’re getting before you fork over your trail mix money to a stranger.

Ask Questions

When you find what you want, ask questions. Verify the size of the item and inquire about any damages. If it’s a piece of clothing or a backpack, try it on if possible or go to a store and try the closest item to it to make sure the fit is right. Trust me, you will be happy that you did.

Try Haggling

Haggle. Any garage-sale-savvy mom knows the ticket price on a used item is merely an inflated suggestion. The value of used gear is subjective. How rare is it? How badly does the seller want to get rid of it? Did Jimmy spill his grape juice on it three times or five? Use this information to strike a bargain both you and the seller are happy with.

In some cases, the price will be firm and it’s up to you to decide whether you want to buy the used item or splurge for a new one.

trail markers providing clear direction

List Of Online Gear Swaps:

Swapping gear online is the most convenient way to go. Do a little hunting and you’re bound to snag a good deal. Some websites specialize in hiking, others have a variety of categories for all of your outdoor needs.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Backpacking Light
    • This site has a great place to score a deal. It operates as a forum and has an active community, which can be a plus for getting your questions answered. Membership is needed to create your own post.
  • Gear Trade
    • Gear trade has lots of categories of outdoor gear and usually carries the bigger brands. For this reason, they present a good starting point.
  • REI Used Gear
    • REI has a section dedicated to gently used products that have been returned to them. “Gently used” can mean anything from well-loved to brand new without tags.
  • MEC
    • Another good outdoor gear swap outlet, this one acts as a forum for people to post their own gear.
  • Outdoors Geek
    • Outdoors Geek is a gear swap and also a place to rent gear. If you’re not sure you want to buy something, rent it to test it out!
  • Switchback
    • Switchback specializes in cycling gear but also has marketplaces for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
  • Reddit
    • r/geartrade is a perfect place to find good deals, but they go fast!

Where Else Can You Buy Used Gear?

The internet is ripe with places to find used gear. Don’t be afraid to step out of the box a little to find the good stuff. The cheapest deals can sometimes be found on websites that don’t typically sell outdoor gear because there’s no precedent for what things should cost.

Here’s some handy places to look:

In the true spirit of the outdoors, don’t hesitate to keep it local! Thrift shops or used outdoor gear shops are a great way to give back to your community while you do your shopping.

When you’re ready to recycle your old outdoor gear, you can give it right back to the place you got it.

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Alyssa Mavor

Alyssa was originally motivated to explore the backcountry as a young child after her father hid M&Ms along hiking trails for her to find. Since those golden years, she has developed into an avid outdoors lover, graduating from a rigorous NOLS semester and hiking every trail she can find. Alyssa currently lives out of her backpack and is traveling the world, freelance writing and always on the hunt for hidden M&Ms along the way.