Staff Picks: Our Favorite Hand-Me-Downs

An ode to the pieces of gear that have lived on through generations

Some of our favorite gear has been handed down to us. (Leah Woodruff)

Here at Outside, we get to test a lot of fancy new gear. But many of our most cherished outdoor possessions are actually used pieces that came to us from our parents or friends. Here’s a sampling of our favorites.


Dome Tent

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(Leah Woodruff)

My parents don’t backpack regularly anymore, but they still have quite the arsenal of tents in their basement gear shed. When I visited them last summer, they “indefinitely loaned” me their REI Dome tent, which my dad found at an REI scratch-and-dent sale. The only stipulation: should he want it back at any point, it’s his to reclaim. For now, it’s a symbol of all the memories I have from family backpacking trips in Mount Rainier National Park. —Erica Clifford, junior designer


Turtle Fur Hat

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(Leah Woodruff)

A staple in my winter gear closet is my mom’s 30-year-old, salmon-pink ski hat made by Vermont-based Turtle Fur. I found it while home from college one summer in a bin of old ski gear in the garage, most of which was smelly and falling apart. But this hat, which my mom must have bought when she was in her 20s, is still soft on the inside and keeps out the cold. —Luke Whelan, assistant editor


Taylor Compass

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(Leah Woodruff)

I was 15 when I started venturing into the woods and mountains by myself. My dad told me there was no helping it: “The woods are in your blood.” He offered his support through a gift—his old compass. It’s a Taylor compass, which apparently was used regularly during World War II. It’s simple, but for rudimentary directions, it has saved the day many times. —Charlie Ebbers, editorial fellow


Bike Trainer

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(Leah Woodruff)

Last year, a friend “loaned” me his trainer to use for winter triathlon training so I wouldn’t have to buy a brand-new one. Upon receiving the trainer, I was immediately covered in dust and spiderwebs—and totally overwhelmed by its surprising weight. This thing seriously looks like the run-down insides of a mechanical Vegas bull: chipped paint, scratchy metal edges, a beastly frame, missing bolts. If it weren’t for an old yoga mat tucked underneath, my hardwood floors would be destroyed. But hey, it does the trick. I hop on my bike and have just as good of a workout as any cyclist who spends hundreds of dollars on an elite trainer. —Olivia Harlow, editorial producer


REI Shirt

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(Leah Woodruff)

I have a large, gray, long-sleeve REI shirt that I always used to steal from my dad’s closet. I wore it as a sweatshirt in high school and as PJs on colder nights. I also took it with me on my first family camping trip. I consider it my first midlayer, and although it was way too big for me and didn’t trap enough heat, I really liked it. (Sadly, I could never find a women’s version.) Eventually my dad revealed that he knew I was always taking his shirt—and that he had a second one exactly like it in his winter clothes bin. Dad told me I could have it, but I felt bad, so I kept putting it back in his closet post-use. When I moved out, though, I decided to take it with me—with the intention of one day returning it. —Jenny Earnest, social media editor


Mountain Bike

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(Leah Woodruff)

The summer after I graduated high school, my older brother and his friends helped me build my first mountain bike by basically stripping their old rigs of usable parts and slapping them onto a frame we found lying around our local shop. Bikes have come a long way in the decade since, and even though I now have bikes shoved into every nook and cranny of my tiny apartment, I just can’t bring myself to part with this one. —Nicholas Hunt, assistant editor


K2 Skis

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(Leah Woodruff)

I have my dad’s old skis from the 1980s. They’re straight-edge K2 skis with bindings that have a brake facing toward the tip. Though I’ve never skied on them, they are the one piece of gear that made me aware of snow sports as a child. For now, they serve as a good decorative reminder of where I come from. Maybe one day I’ll get them remounted and ski on them myself. —Chris Thompson, visual producer


35mm Film Camera

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(Leah Woodruff)

When I signed up for a photography course in high school, my mom unearthed an old, fully manual 35mm film camera from the depths of a closet in our house. I don’t remember if it was even hers or if it came from my aunt, who holds the title of world’s best antiquer/yard-saler. I showed up in class, and everyone was holding their parents’ modern, fully automatic SLRs. I admit to feeling a bit envious—that is, until we started printing our photos, and I realized the camera really doesn’t matter. Photography is about the eye of the person behind the lens, not the lens itself. Since then, I’ve purchased my fair share of cameras, but there’s something, dare I say, magical about that no-frills 35mm camera. —Madeline Kelty, assistant photography editor

Filed To: Gear / Photography / Skis / Bikes / Tents
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