Gear Guy

What kind of gear should I look for in thrift stores?

You might not find a brand-name puffy, but keep an eye out for these six items.


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I’ve heard tale of epic thrift-store gear-scores—barely used Patagonia shells or cozy jackets from The North Face—but these big brand-name finds are extremely rare. Keep an eye out for them, for sure, but also consider the following:

The Gear Guy's favorite funky fleece. The Gear Guy’s favorite funky fleece.

Baseball Hats
You likely won’t find a second-hand hat that wicks moisture or breathes incredibly well, but you will find one that offers the main utility of a hat: keeping the sun off your face. Bonus: you might stumble across one that shows your flair like the Party Animal cap I scored in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Coleman Stoves
Most people discard a Coleman stove the first time it breaks. But these portable gas cookers are not terribly difficult to fix; once you become familiar with maintenance you can have one of these car camping staples forever.

Funky Fleeces
No matter how ugly and featureless a fleece is, it will still manage moister well. The synthetic material will also keep you insulated by trapping dead air under a shell.

Nylon Running Pants
Gore-Tex might be hard to come by, but regular ol’ nylon running pants are good in a pinch, especially for wearing over fancier mountaineering pants. Nylon pants, which are normally pretty water- and wind-resistant, can protect other layers while you glacade.  

Polyester Shirts
Synthetic fibers are good for moisture control; polyester-blend shirts have essentially become uniforms for raft guides because they dry quickly–and block the sun. Some of these shirts get better with age; the more threadbare they become, the better they breathe.

Although a wool sweater will likely scratch considerably more than a fancy new merino layer, any top that is 100 percent wool will provide superior water regulation, smell mitigation, and warmth.

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