There’s plenty to be said for new and shiny, but one of the favorite Christmas gifts I’ve ever received is a pair of ski boots that a good buddy was looking to get rid of. About seven years ago, he’d placed his Salomon X-Wave 6.0’s too close to a fire to dry, and one of the cuffs melted slightly from the heat. He was driving to a ski swap to sell them when he thought of me and called to ask what size I wear. (I had mentioned to him that I was looking to upgrade my ratty late-nineties boots.) The melted cuff was mostly a cosmetic issue anyway, and he swore they still worked great. When I asked if I could throw him a few bucks for them, he replied, “No way. Merry Christmas!”
It was love at first buckle. Six seasons later, the X-Waves fit to a T and were supremely comfortable. Even when the Velcro started to peel from one of the straps and I had to cut it off (I now cinch the top with a rubber Voile ski strap), I couldn’t bring myself to retire them.
Of course, there’s a fine line between a thoughtful hand-me-down and simply wrapping your leftovers with a bow on top. I spoke with Josh Sims, who owns the 8,000-square-foot consignment and gear-repair shop Gear Fix, to parse what exactly makes for a successful gift. His Bend, Oregon, store is one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. and has been refurbishing and reselling used gear for ten years now.
Here are eight of Sims’s tips to be a regifting hero this holiday season.
#1: Match Their Size
This is easy with clothing: you’re not going to give your college linebacker nephew your slim-fit size-medium Patagonia Nano Puff. But it matters for things like skis as well, which can be harder to dial in. “If you give someone alpine skis, you should have a similar foot size, so they won’t have to remount the bindings,” Sims says.
#2: And Their Skill Set
If your recipient is new to a sport that you’ve been passionate about for years, your high-performance gear may actually hinder their ability to learn. “We see a lot of people coming in and saying, ‘My buddy gave me this,’ and we say, ‘That’s great but it totally doesn’t work for you,’” Sims says. “If they’re just trying to get into skiing and you give them your super-advanced rockered skis, they are going to have a bad experience.”
#3: Make Sure It’s Safe
“I just wouldn’t regift something that’s broken unless your giftee happens to be more knowledgeable and knows how to fix it,” Sims says. This one, of course, seems obvious. But although you should be handing down something you used happily, that doesn’t mean wonky bindings and cracked helmets are thoughtful gifts. “If you’re getting rid of it because it’s broken, don’t offload it on someone else.”
#4: If It’s Dinged, Couple It with a Repair Gift
It’s OK to bequeath a gift that may be a little worse for wear (so long as it doesn’t compromise safety) so long as you include the means to get it back in working order. “If you are going to gift a shell with a busted zipper, you should know what a repair is going to cost,” Sims says. “Throw in a gift card to get it fixed.”
#5: Clean It Up
Gifting something that still reeks of thru-hike stank might be the quickest way to guarantee you’re never invited over for Christmas again. “People don’t want things with pit stains,” Sims says.
#6: Consider the Kit
“If someone needs one thing—especially if it’s the essential part of a sport, like skis or a bike—then think about how they’re going to need everything that goes with it,” Sims says. Part of the reason his shop is so busy during the holidays is that people are scrambling to put together a full kit around the one crucial item they received. An old pair of skis alone might not be the best if the recipient doesn’t have the right bindings. “If not, they are going to need to have them remounted, and it isn’t as much of a gift because they now have to pay $50 or $60 to get them fit,” Sims says.
#7: Put a Bow on It
When my friend dropped off those Salomon boots in the doorway of my apartment, he took the time to wrap up a regift and coupled it with a thoughtful letter. That said, don’t try and pass it off as new. “Have some fun with it,” Sims says. “Call a spade a spade. Don’t pretend it isn’t used and you’re not regifting it.”
#8: Combine It with Experience
It's not just about the gear, of course. “When I give someone a bike, I’m also saying, ‘I’m going to take you out riding,’” Sims says. “Giving the gift of experience as opposed to just stuff shows thoughtfulness.”