The internet is rife with used gear that people need to off-load. One look online or a quick stop at your local secondhand shop can leave you dizzy sorting the overly wide array of options. Some gear is so dated that it’s best left for decorative wall-hanging only (think: snowshoes the size of wooden tennis rackets). Other items still have a decent lifespan, and you’re always apt to find that one like-new gem at a drastically cut price with no loss of performance. The best used gear shops will have re-selling standards, which reduces the risk of dumping money in junk. If you don’t have access to top-notch gear shops and are buying from Craigslist, the local thrift store or even the neighbor next door, be mindful of a few tips to ensure you walk away with a decent piece of used outdoor equipment—and not something that ends up back on the curb, or back online, in a week.
Look it over
At the very least, inspect the gear closely and carefully. If it’s a used tech T-shirt, you won’t run much risk if you skip the once-over, aside from the later discovery of an odd pull or snag. However, with a helmet, you need to be supremely cautiously (if buying one used at all). Any cracks or missing pads that suggest a compromising crash are a dealbreaker. If it’s footwear, check to see if the midsole has some bounce or give left in it, and that the tread does not separate from the upper nor is it bare. A quick visual appraisal will go a long way. Try not to impulsively buy something that just “looks cool.” You need your gear to function, not just act as a fancy, good-looking accessory that fails when you need it most.
Consider the price
One factor when shopping for previously owned gear is whether or not the same item can be purchased new (or not). If so, make sure the cost difference between the used and new item is worth it. The off-season often means that you can get a good deal on a new item (which often comes with a warranty) as opposed to a used item where the warranty is often void.
Be wary of impulse purchases
Shopping for gear can be a heady experience. There’s a certain thrill to hunting for the perfect kayak or board. Don’t lose your focus. If you went hunting the market for, say, a used roof rack, don’t add two kayaks just because you purchased a discounted rack. Know your budget and do your best to stick to it. It’s much easier to walk away from a purchase if you have a number in your head to start. Know that number, commit to it and be able to walk away.
Talk to the people in your local shop
If you have a used gear shop in your town, consider yourself lucky. Make a point to strike up a conversation with the salespeople. They’re the first ones to see both the new and used gear arrive. Leverage their expertise to point you in the right direction. And if you’re in the market for something in particular, they may give you a head’s up when a stellar find walks into the shop. Never forget the power of buying local.
Do your own research
There’s a thing called the internet. If you go shopping for used gear blind—not taking advantage of the gear blogs and websites out there—you’re doing yourself a disservice. Learn about the different models, how they changed from year to year, and what users have to say about them. Go into a used gear purchase with an informed idea of what you need. Doing so reduces your chances of spending money on the wrong thing. Research also ups your odds of finding the perfect piece for you. Plus, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to properly identify a deal or a diamond in the rough.
Test the gear out
Whenever possible, put the gear through a quick test. If it’s used shoes or hiking boots you’re considering purchasing, put them on and go for a quick spin around the block (preferably in the socks you’ll wear with those shoes). If you’re looking to purchase a used bike, do more than pinch the tires and spin the pedals with your hand. Get on the thing, ride it and see how it actually fits. There’s nothing worse than spending time in a saddle that doesn’t quite feel right.
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