Learning a new sport isn’t cheap. (The least expensive mountain bike reviewed in our Summer Buyer’s Guide costs $3,400. The cheapest SUPs: $1,200.) And you aren’t done after the big purchase—accessories often stealthily add to the bill. The solution? Borrow, buy used, and look for good deals. Also recognize that the cheapest piece of gear is the one you’ve already bought. These five pieces might already be sitting in your garage waiting for a new life in your new sport.
Trekking Poles as Ski Poles
After breaking my first set of old borrowed backcountry ski poles, a buddy loaned me his Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Poles, which I happily used for the second half of my first season of backcountry skiing. If you already have trekking poles, repurpose them. And go ahead and swap out the baskets for ones that will work in the snow for under ten dollars.
Ski Buff as Lake Buff
The same Buff you use to keep comfortable in extreme cold can also work remarkably well in extreme heat. While Buffs are available specifically for cold and warm weather, a simple synthetic one will serve you well on the lake or river by keeping bugs and sun off your face while wicking away moisture. It’ll also keep the frost off your nose when you ski.
Rain Jacket + PFD as Kayaking Dry Top
There’s no replacement for a well-built dry top. The gaskets and waterproofing are safer for expert touring kayakers. But if you’re more worried about protection from splashing water and the elements than you are about rolling, a lightweight rain jacket will swap in for a kayak-specific splash jacket. I have found that a tightly cinched PFD keeps ocean or lake water from splashing up underneath my rain jacket.
MTB Elbow Pads as Kayaking Pads
Hardcore whitewater kayakers have been using elbow pads for years as an extra layer of defense while running steep creeks; repurposing your mountain bike elbow pads makes sense if you’re a beginning kayaker. Plenty of novice boaters have experienced swellbows—baseball-sized elbows resulting from impact—that could easily have been avoided had they donned elbow pads on the river. Wearing elbow pads also allows a paddler to use more of their arms aggressively when encountering rocks, which will likely save an aspirational kayaker a number of swims.
Voile Ski Strap as Pretty Much Anything
A Voile Ski Strap is arguably the most multiuse piece of sport-specific gear you can buy. On top of strapping a pair of skis together on a pack or for storage, these simple stretchy plastic straps with a metal clip can be used to secure gear to any pack, vehicle, bike, touring kayak, or raft. They can be used to rig up nearly any backpack malfunction, and I have even used them to hold up a pair of pants that lost a button. Their dynamic nature lies in the fact that they are as durable as they are simple—two invaluable traits when you need to fix a problem in the backcountry.
Want more ideas for repurposing your gear? Check out these bonus ideas: