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The Best Gear Our Editors Ever Bought Used

Pre-owned gear is easier on the planet and your bank account

These are the best finds our bargain-hunting editors ever made. (Photo: Jimmyjazz/Creative Commons)
These are the best finds our bargain-hunting editors ever made.

Whether you’re just beginning to dabble in a new sport, on a budget because (like us) you spent all your money on next season’s ski pass, or simply trying to be more environmentally friendly, buying gear used has a lot of perks. There are pitfalls to watch out for on the secondhand market, of course. But once you’ve trained your eye to spot the real steals, you, too, can become a Craigslist champion, a gear-swap star, and a thrift-store high scorer. These are the best finds our bargain-hunting editors ever made.

The Board to End All Shortboards

When I lived in the surfing hub of San Clemente, California, I was always looking for magic surfboards—those that elevated the wave-riding experience to new levels. As a young journalist, though, I did not have a lot of money to spend on this quest, so I scoured the plethora of shops in town that specialized in used or consignment board sales. My best-ever score was a seven-foot-six-inch Chocolate Fish Martini that I bought for $400. It was my first-ever mid-length board (I almost exclusively rode six-foot-long models before that). Relatively flat, with a generous width, this single fin caught waves and battled currents easily. More importantly, the knife-edge rails and V bottom made it super responsive for a board of its size, allowing for aggressive cutbacks and point-and-shoot barrels. I rode it in conditions from knee-high to triple overhead before busting it in thumping Oregon beach break. It was a tragic day, but it made its mark on me: my mind had been permanently opened to alternative shapes beyond the shortboard. —Will Taylor, gear director

The Boots That Got Me into the Backcountry

Six years ago, I found a pair of Scarpa Freedom SLs at a local gear-consignment shop for $370. I had just moved west and was looking for a resort-appropriate ski boot that I could also use to begin exploring the backcountry. Even at 50 percent off MSRP, this was one of the most expensive purchases I’d ever made (and 15 minutes after swiping my card, I got a fraud-alert call from my bank). But it also became one of the most important. Throughout four seasons of heavy use, those boots were my platform for growing and gaining confidence as a skier. I wore them on many of my most pivotal moments on skis—including my first 12,000- and 14,000-foot summits. Two years ago, when I invested in better touring boots and dedicated resort boots, I dropped the SLs off at a consignment shop. I can only hope that whoever picked them up will have as much fun wearing them as I did. —Ariella Gintzler, senior gear editor

A Wetsuit with Style

Back when I was a fiery lad in my early twenties living in San Francisco, I desperately wanted to experience the thrill of riding waves without putting in the time to actually learn to surf. I had a decent boogie board and some blunt-cut fins from a buddy, but there was no way I was going to drop $200 on a new wetsuit. I began a hunt for a used one, trying on more than a half dozen options at thrift stores—a sweaty and miserable process—before finding a used Volcom 4/3 that fit me perfectly but had one glaring problem: the left arm was coming apart at the shoulder seam. I bought it anyway for $20 and sewed the arm up with dental floss. Over the next few years, I wore it out at Ocean Beach dozens of times, scoring one memorable tube ride but mostly getting pummeled. After one horrifying winter day when a current pulled me close to a mile offshore in the fog, I realized I’d hit my limit. Within days I sold the wetsuit for $25—a 25 percent profit. The buyer thought the dental-floss stitching looked cool. —Mike Roberts, senior executive editor

My First Ski Setup

I bought my first pair of downhill skis and boots at the Santa Fe Ski Swap in 1994 for about $150. The skis, a long and very narrow pair of Kästles, were probably outdated even then, but I wouldn’t have had any idea. I took my first lesson on them at Ski Santa Fe and learned the ropes up there. I got started late—my late thirties—and if I’d had to buy all-new stuff, I probably wouldn’t have even gotten into the sport. —Alex Heard, editorial director 

The Mr. Froggy Bowl

A few years ago, I was in my local Savers thrift store and spotted a green froggy bowl, presumably meant for kids. (I later did some detective work and realized it was part of this adorable set from Ikea.) I was about to go on a backpacking trip and needed a bowl after losing my camping cookware in a move, so I threw it in my cart. I figured I couldn’t go wrong for a dollar. It worked great on that trip—sturdy and lightweight, with just enough volume for my morning oatmeal—and quickly became my go-to eating vessel for dozens of backcountry adventures. I’ve since come into a much fancier and more expensive camping bowl but will still often opt for Mr. Froggy. —Luke Whelan, research editor

A Classic Set of Wheels

I lived on or near campus for most of college. When my commute to class grew beyond a ten-minute walk, I decided it was time to invest in some wheels. My roommate’s boyfriend, a Craigslist pro, scoped out a sweet little steel-frame Bianchi that looked really promising. At a park on the northwest outskirts of Philadelphia, I traded $100 cash for it to an older man who said he thought the bike was likely the same age as me. Over the next 18 months, it was my primary mode of transportation to crack-of-dawn radio shows, weekly grocery runs, and my favorite Saturday taco spot in Manayunk. I even carried its heavy frame over my head through the parade (read: riot) after the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018. After college it moved across the country with me, and I have it still—I rode it to work on my first day at Outside. —Maren Larsen, associate gear editor

Filed To: CampingBootsSkisBikesBikingSurfingSurfboards
Lead Photo: Jimmyjazz/Creative Commons

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