“Sourcing Your Outdoor Gear Arsenal”
By Marisa Edmonton
Growing up in a small town in Western Colorado, I always considered myself a very outdoorsy person. My childhood is filled with memories of camping, hiking, skiing and floating my way around the valley I called home. My parents, who are both mostly self-taught in all their respective outdoor activities, instilled in me a sense of belonging in the outdoors and growing up I always felt at home in the outdoors.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized that “getting outdoors” was not as easy as I was raised to believe. It is a very white, male-dominated space and for the first time, my brown body felt out of place in the outdoors.
I quickly learned one of the biggest barriers that exists for BIPOC and lower-income folks is money. It’s hard to feel like the outdoors is truly a place for everyone when the internet, social media and outdoor spheres are absolutely saturated with the “must-have”, newest, most advanced outdoor gear and technology. Unfortunately, for many folks, dropping $200-$500 dollars on the newest backpacking pack is out of the question.
While many of my friends were dropping hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on the newest ice climbing gear, skiing trips to Canada, or climbing trips in the Tetons, I saved my summer money to buy a pair of used cross country skis so that I could also get outside during the cold Vermont winters without completely breaking my bank.
Luckily my parents were both very crafty people when it came to gear, usually finding used equipment, shopping sales, or figuring out how to make do with what we had. In fact, my current sleeping bag is a hand-me-down from my mom & is older than me. I learned a lot from them about how to build my gear closet on a budget – and then a lot on my own through research & trial and error.
Here are my five tips and tricks on how to build your gear closet on a budget.
1) BUY USED!
Most of my outdoor and athletic clothing is either hand-me-downs from my mom or bought from thrift shops or consignment stores. Make sure you do some research ahead of time into specific brands and materials that are made for your activity and are of good quality so you know what to look for at second-hand stores.
A lot of my bigger gear I also bought used. Again, make sure you do some research beforehand, but Craigslist and Facebook Market Place are great places to buy things like used bikes, skis etc. Many areas also have stores dedicated to used gear like bikes, skis, backpacking packs and more. Some places will even have gear swaps which are like community yard sales for used gear. I bought my current bike for ¼ of the original price from Craigslist and my skis came from a second-hand gear store.
If you are new to an outdoor activity, just trying it out, or don’t do it often, try to borrow the gear. Many cities have “gear libraries” where you can rent gear for cheap or just outright borrow it for free like a library. Often these places are associated with organizations like university outdoor programs. I have rented everything from a winter coat, to dry bags to sleeping bags to rock climbing gear from places like these. It’s a great way to get gear for activities you don’t do often or are just trying out without buying brand new gear you won’t use often.
3) Invest in a few high-quality pieces of gear you KNOW you will use for many things:
If you are going to buy new, focus on pieces that are high-quality items that you know you will use often. That way the pieces you do buy new will last for years. You also want to make sure you will use them often, not just a few times a year.
4) Use the same gear for multiple activities!
My ski poles double as hiking poles, my waterproof-wind pants double as snow pants, my trail running shoes double as river shoes and I’ve used my backpacking pack for hiking the Vermont trail AND as luggage for long trips. Get creative! You can often find multiple uses for gear.
5) Remember that you don’t need the newest gear to get outside!
Gatekeeping of outdoor space and activities by white, wealthy folks (especially white men) is real. I can’t lie and say that I never experience imposter syndrome when I enter an outdoor space. But remember that you DO belong there, whether you are just beginning in your outdoor journey, or are an experienced veteran. Take up your space, stay true to who you are and surround yourself with like-minded folks (or at least people who don’t care that your sleeping bag is older than they are).