Visit Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other Thrift Stores. People donate gear for a variety of reasons. But like most great gear you want, it is probably still very durable. Your thrift store location will carry gear based on the type of activities available. My Top Finds: vintage external frame packs, enamel cookware, sleeping pads, lightweight cooking pans, spare utensils, camp chairs, crocs, camo clothing, REI pants, Columbia zip off pants-shorts, and Columbia fleece.
Join online “Free and For Sale” Groups on Social Media. Online “Free and For Sale” groups especially on Facebook are great for expensive items people buy new, but then use only twice and down the road discover they need cash instead. These groups are based on region so the selection varies, but this can be made up by joining a F&FS group that covers a larger geographic region. My Top Finds: exclusive brand items that hold their value well such as Yeti Coolers, tents, and even a Cabela’s Camp Kitchen.
Become a member of REI. Perk #1- You can earn a 10% dividend back on your purchases which can help you buy or replace smaller gear like mess kits, utensils, cookware, or even a nalgene. Perk #2- REI Member Garage Sales occur every 1-2 months at REI stores offering returned purchases sold at highly discounted prices. Shop online and watch their “deals” tab on the REI Garage website you can find savings year round too. As a bonus you can ship to an REI store close to you for FREE. My Top Finds: expensive or technical items such as hiking/winter boots, lightweight backpacking tents, water filtration systems, rock climbing gear, and brand name apparel such as Patagonia, Columbia, and The North Face.
Browse Craigslist. Craigslist mainly depends on seller and region, but has a unique and bizarre selection of gear with the benefit of being able to negotiate prices. My Top Finds: Pelican cases in mint condition from an ex-military guy and 65 L internal frame packs someone only used as spares for their friends which he sold to me for a third of the retail price.
Sign up for Amazon Prime or Student. Amazon offers cheaper options and free shipping with a massive selection on lesser known brands of gear that would cost 2 or 3 times as much at an outfitter retail location. If you sign up for Amazon Student or Amazon Prime you can usually find great deals with FREE 1-2 day shipping. My Top Finds:Hammock tree straps, backpacking stoves, and replacement parts are some of the best deals on Amazon.
Build, Diversify, and Utilize a personal network of Outdoor Enthusiasts. Become friends in real life and online with people who have the same interests as you. Applications such as Groupon, Living Social, Meetup, Couchsurfing, and Linkedin offer a variety of ways to virtually interact with fellow outdoor enthusiasts. For passive network growth follow outdoor Instagram influencers or brands. Join Facebook groups whose focus are specific activities you are interested in to keep informed about new gear opportunities. My Top Finds: Several kayaks, and great trips are have been found here.
Help Out around the House. Offer to clean out the garage, attic, basement, or shed and you just might find useable gear around you or your relatives’ home. My Top Finds: Vintage Kelty Day Pack, mess kits, grills, camping chairs, and sleeping bags.
Support Local & Small Businesses. If you have to bite the bullet and buy gear at retail prices I recommend supporting small local businesses. If you get to know them and show loyal repeat business then you may get a coupon or discount for being a great patron - you never know!
Aaron Hines, Texas Ambassador