One of the biggest factors that almost kept me away from climbing was the steep cost of everything. On top of the initial expense of a climbing course, I had to buy a harness, helmet, carabiners, slings, shoes, bags, tents, and a sleep system. Thank goodness I had a lot of that from previous backpacking ventures; if not, my bank account would be empty instead of just angry.
I’m sure I’m not alone when it comes to having reservations about climbing because of income. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources on where to get discounted gear.
Hipsters got one thing right when they brought back the thrifty trend. Goodwill has its ups and downs when it comes to outdoor products, but occasionally I’ve found some good stuff, including a pair of Eddie Bauer pants for $2.50. I also found a sweet early 2000s gridded interior shirt similar to this one, although probably not as high tech. Still, it was under $10 instead of $80.
Some things are better to buy new. Climbing harnesses, ropes, carabiners… basically, anything that is going to save your life if you fall or kill you if it fails should be bought new. Still, craigslist is a great place to find the other necessary gear that is required on climbs. I once found a new Osprey bag, with the price tag still on it, for $100 less than what it sold for at REI. I also found an ice axe and crampons for half off, and these are items that can be used for years without needing to be replaced.
Larger cities or areas with more of an outdoor presence will probably have a better selection of things, but you never know what you’ll find until you actually look. Three things to remember when dealing with craigslist, though:
Meet in public places, or take a friend when meeting at a residence
Don’t send any money before seeing the product
Don’t do any deals with Nigerian Princes (shout out to you, brother)
Steep and Cheap
Steep and Cheap is where to go to get discounted gear that you need to buy new. It is an offshoot of Backcountry.com, and basically makes finding all of their sweet deals that much easier. The items offered are somewhat cyclical, and they rotate through different categories such as clothing, climbing, camping, and brand-specific items such as Petzl, Black Diamond, Patagonia, etc. I usually go there when I want some quick draws or another six pack of biners (because I always seem to lose the lightweight ones and not the 1lb monstrosities I bought when I first started climbing—they must fly away or something).
Still, they also have awesome deals on sleeping pads, bags, puffies, tents, shoes… you name it. The only downside is that items can disappear quickly if you don’t hop on it right away. Don’t fret, though–if you check often enough, it’ll be back in a week or so.
But wait! There’s more! Apple also has a Steep and Cheap app!
REI Garage Sales
When I first went to REI and they gave me the membership sales pitch, I was a little hesitant. I was also an idiot. There is no reason not to have an REI membership if you are even the least bit of a nature person. Hell, even if you don’t like nature, they have bikes and clothes and shit there too.
REI’s membership cost is $20 FOR A LIFETIME. I have earned over six times that in dividends in a year—and I don’t really spend that much at REI. Here’s how it works:
You get 10% back on full priced items for your dividend (and additional dividend points if you also have an REI Mastercard)
You can go to REI garage sales
You can go on REI local or worldwide trips
DID I MENTION IT’S ONLY $20???!
Still, I’m not here to talk up REI. It’s can actually be a little over-priced, and if I don’t need gear yesterday, I try not to go there. However, REI garage sales are a great deal on non-life saving items. Coats, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, tents, boots, apparel, you name it, are all sitting there at discounted prices for the right person to pick them up and give them a loving home.
Each item is there because it has been rejected by its original owner, like a sad little puppy at a pound. REI will post a tag with the price and the reason the customer gave as to why they were returning it. They will also typically post the original price, so you know just how awesome of a deal you are getting. REI Garage sales are where to get discounted gear whether you need it or not. (Seriously, this is how I bought an $80 pair of bouldering shoes, because they fit and my friend convinced me I needed a backup during resoles).
Gear Trade is a website designed specifically for outdoor enthusiasts. It was designed as a platform to connect people needing to sell or buy used gear, kind of like an ebay for the frugal outdoorsman. I actually haven’t used it much, since I’ve managed to fill my gear closet with stuff from each of these other sources, but if I ever needed to sell some used gear, this would certainly be the place I would try.
Overall, there are plenty of avenues to head down as far as where to get discounted gear. Local used sports shops are great (I actually had a friend post about a super cheap set of nuts from Play it Again Sports), as are used gear sales that come around in the community. My local climbing gym hosted a sale, and the climbing club down the road also holds one about once a year. If you don’t mind buying stuff someone’s potentially banged in, going the thrifty route is definitely worth its weight in feathers.