Should You Buy Outdoor Gear at Garage Sales?

Garage saleYou can find some real junk at garage sales. Monopoly boards with missing thimbles, three-wheeled roller skates, and partially-completed coloring books. But it’s not always just a collection of disappointing knick-knacks. You can also find some pretty incredible things at a garage sale.

A man named Rick Norsigian purchased a box of photo negatives for $45 at a garage sale in Fresno, California in 2000. Those negatives were later authenticated as being the work of legendary photographer Ansel Adams, and valued at millions of dollars. Although the story has since become quite a bit more complicated, the fact remains that you can find some hidden gems at garage sales. This, of course, applies to outdoor gear as well as to household items and unrecognized works of art.

You can often find deals on outdoor gear at garage sales if you know what you’re looking for. People clean out their attics, and not knowing just what they’re holding, slap a $20 sticker on a brand new pair of Gor-Tex boots. Then there are those ex-adventurer parents who can’t get outside as much after having kids who just want a good home for their cherished and now neglected tent. And you can’t forget about those individuals who recognize their failed attempt at a new hobby who are now trying to quickly get rid of any evidence that they once thought they could become “paddlers”.

While you can definitely find cheap outdoor gear at garage sales, that doesn’t mean that you should snatch up any old tent or backpacking pack that you come across. Sometimes items at garage sales are certifiable junk.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when buying used outdoor gear.

Some items are are OK to buy used, while others aren’t. Things like tents, jackets, apparel, and packs are typically OK to buy used. Things such as water filters, climbing gear, or anything that can immediately impact your safety if defective should not be purchased used. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, but you’re typically better off erring on the side of caution.

Learn how to recognize outdoor gear brands. Knowing the big, trustworthy names in the outdoor industry is a good way to make sure you’re getting a reliable piece of gear. Brand like Kelty, Outdoor Research, or Marmot are going to hold up well with use and time. A sleeping bag made by “Happy and Trustworthy Outdoor Company” might not be worth taking the risk on.

You can’t trust the name alone, however. Know how to check the items for wear and tear. This means check the seam taping on rain jackets and tents, check the stitching on bags, apparel, packs, and everything, and make sure the insulation is lofty and where it should be on sleeping bags and jackets.

Know company warranties. Obviously, don’t try to cash in on lifetime warranty for a 20-year old tent you find at someone’s yard sale. But if someone is getting rid of a jacket from last season due to a split seam, there’s a chance that the item could still be covered under warranty. This could be considered a bit of a gray area in terms of warranties, but it doesn’t hurt to check with the company, especially if that means saving big bucks.

You don’t necessarily have to rely on a warranty. People tend to preemptively discard their stuff. If someone is getting rid of a garment or piece of gear due to cosmetic damage, you can repair it – or just deal with it – and get a great deal on some quality outdoor gear.

If we’re being realistic, though, finding a something like a high quality tent in good condition at a garage sale doesn’t happen everyday. It’s called finding a gem, because it’s rare. It’s good to keep your eyes open for a garage sale steal, but this isn’t really a reliable method. You can waste a month of Sundays hunting for a specific item at a garage sale.

That’s what stores are for. If you’re looking for some new gear, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re wanting to try your hand at climbing, upgrade your camping equipment, or discover your new favorite hobby, we have a great selection of outdoor gear for you to browse!

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