How to know when it’s time to replace your beloved outdoor gear

We are living in a golden age for outdoor gear manufacturers. Not only are the products we use performing better, they’re also getting lighter and more refined — without sacrificing durability.

But even with vastly improved materials and construction methods, all gear will eventually wear out.

The North Face
Knowing when it’s time to replace your gear is an important skill. Photo: Courtesy of The North Face

Recognizing when it’s time to replace aging gear can save you a lot of misery during your outdoor adventures, which is when most of these products will begin to break down and ultimately fail.

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Here are some tips to help you decide when it’s time to upgrade the most important outdoor gear in your closet.

Boots

Twenty20 gear
If they’re looking pretty beater, it’s time to upgrade before blisters (or worse) set in. Photo: Courtesy of saralounsberry/Twenty20
Probably the most common outdoor product that people own are hiking boots. They come in all manner of styles, ranging from extremely lightweight trail shoes to heavy backpacking boots built for hiking in alpine settings.

How often they need to be replaced generally depends on how much they are used and how heavy of a pack you carry while wearing them.

Some manufacturers suggest that you replace your boots every 300 to 500 miles, but quite honestly it isn’t the mileage you should be concerned about. More than likely, your boots will give you indications of when they have started to wear out through tangible signs — for instance, when the soles no longer have tread or the stitching and seams begin to fail.

Additionally, if your boots no longer feel comfortable on your feet, or the waterproof lining isn’t keeping moisture out, it’s time to start looking for replacements.

Keep your eyes peeled for these signs, and don’t get caught out on the trail with boots that have gone past their expiration date.

Backpack

When Should I Replace My Gear?
Update your backpack to take advantage of lighter designs and improved fabrics. Photo: Courtesy of Osprey
Good backpacks range in style from small and simple day packs to large and elaborate bags used for expeditions to remote parts of the planet. Unlike boots, backpacks don’t typically deteriorate at the same steady pace, so they can actually last for years without needing to be replaced.

But subtle clues such as fraying fabrics, broken buckles and a deterioration in the padding in the shoulder straps and hip belt are good indications that a backpack is coming to the end of its useable life.

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Before you simply pitch your pack and go shopping for another one, however, be sure to check the manufacturer’s warranty. Some companies, such as Osprey, actually have a lifetime guarantee on their products. That means they’ll actually repair the pack — or replace it — as long as you own it.

If this is the case, chances are you’ll need to upgrade your pack only when a lighter model with improved features comes along.

Tent

When Should I Replace My Gear?
When properly cared for, a good tent should last you for many years. Photo: Courtesy of Big Agnes
Much like a backpack, a good tent can last you for years without ever failing. Modern tents are made from lightweight, durable fabrics that allow for plenty of airflow while still managing to keep moisture at bay. But while the tent itself will remain relatively resistant to wear and tear, not all of its components necessarily will.

You’re far more likely to have to replace tent poles or stakes throughout its lifetime than the actual shelter itself. The poles can sometimes get damaged by high winds or improper setup, and many tents ship from the manufacturer with stakes that are adequate at best.

Replacing either poles or stakes with higher-quality options is generally very easy and will extend the lifetime of the tent dramatically.

When properly maintained and cared for, there is usually no need to upgrade your tent until its waterproof treatment starts to fail or you need to replace it with a newer model that is larger or has new features.

Sleeping bag

A puffy sleeping bag is a lofty goal. (Ba-dum-schhh.) Photo: Shutterstock
A puffy sleeping bag is a lofty goal. (Ba-dum-schhh.) Photo: Courtesy of Jens Ottoson/Shutterstock
A sleeping bag is one of those items that is crucial to our comfort on backcountry excursions. Even though they don’t generally show much in the way of wear and tear, a bag can actually start to lose its ability to keep us warm if not properly stored and cared for.

Down sleeping bags in particular can lose loft — puffiness, if you will — which will reduce their level of effectiveness at their designated temperature rating.

You can prevent this from happening to a degree (no pun intended) by not storing the bag in its stuff sack while not in use. Doing so causes the down filling to compress, which eventually leads to poorer performance. Fortunately, you can also restore your sleeping bag’s loft simply by washing it and running it through the dryer. Check the tag on the bag for specific instructions on just how to do this.

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The same principles also hold true for sleeping bags with synthetic fill, although they don’t lose their loft to the same degree as down.

Beyond that, however, if you notice the fabrics on your bag starting to fray, or the zippers coming apart, then it’s probably time to replace it with a new model. Additionally, breakthroughs in water-resistant down, such as DownTek, are worth considering an upgrade for.

Clothing

When Should I Replace My Gear?
Today’s outdoor clothing is more technical and durable than ever before. Photo: Courtesy of Eddie Bauer
Outdoor apparel is a broad category that covers such things as jackets, shirts, pants and even socks and underwear — anything we wear while out hiking, trail running, mountain biking or whatever other activities we happen to enjoy.

Fortunately, it’s also the easiest category to know when you need to replace something, as usually it becomes highly evident when an article of clothing has begun to show signs of wear.

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That isn’t always the case, however, and sometimes more-technical clothing will begin to degrade in performance before the products actually start to physically wear out. These types of garments generally are made of fabrics that are designed to wick moisture while remaining highly breathable, or they may be waterproof, anti-microbial or even insect repellent.

If you start to notice that your clothing is no longer performing up to your expectations in these areas, it’s a good time to replace those items.

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