It’s time to pack for your next camping trip and you remember: the last time you stayed in your tent, it rained. You stayed mostly dry, but there was one pesky hole that dripped water all night… right onto your face.
Time for a new tent?
Let’s explore what it means to go beyond the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) on outdoor adventures and see if we can’t find some answers.
This week, we’re looking at best practices for the 3rd of 5 “R’s” of waste management: REUSE.
Does that mean finding “new” gear second hand? What about upgrading gear? What do you do with your old stuff?
For some expert REUSE tips, I interviewed owner of the Cleveland Outpost Josh Scott, an avid multi-sport adventurer and gear resale expert.
Josh notes, “Fortunately, many outdoor gear companies craft their apparel and gear with long lifetimes in mind. Unfortunately, much of that gear is abandoned or forgotten about before that lifetime is complete.”
So why not give your old gear the chance for a second life? And when it’s time to upgrade your raincoat, sleeping bag, or tent, why not look to reuse first?
Josh explains that there are some inherent challenges to reusing gear, especially modern gear built with lightweight or ultralight capabilities in mind.
“The thing that separates gear use and the durability of gear now from 50 years ago is that everything is made with some sort of artificial polymer,” he explains. “And so, the backing of a tent, for instance, has a urethane [coating] on it that you can’t see. Unless you know about it, you wouldn’t know it’s there, it’s just a shiny coating. So when that peels off, it ruins the whole tent. To reuse that [tent], you would have to scrub it with alcohol and reapply the urethane. Is it something that one can do fairly easily? Sure, it just takes an hour or two.”
Sounds like a manageable task, doesn’t it? The trouble is, the vast majority of folks don’t know enough about gear maintenance and repair to even think that such a tent is so easily revived. And the problem runs deeper for the resale market.
Josh continues, “Financially, it makes no sense for a reseller like the Outpost to do it. And that’s where I start getting sad: because all these people are having their tents getting sticky on the reverse side after 5-6 years of use. And they just go and buy a new tent.”
What you end up with are perfectly functional tents (or raincoats, or backpacks, etc etc) that need a little TLC but end up getting tossed.
How ironic, that an economy celebrating upgrading gear over preserving it gives us environmental degradation when our goals as outdoor enthusiasts are to enjoy and protect nature.
So how do we work around this tricky situation?
Here are some things to ask yourself before you buy, and then, when you’re ready to invest, how you can make resourceful purchases (and save yourself some money too).
Tips for Reusing:
First, be like Josh and ask yourself: “Will my experience be better with this new item?” Remember these “R’s”: Refuse, Reuse and Repurpose! Borrowing or renting gear is always a great first option when trying out new things. This also affords you time to find out what you really like before shelling out the big bucks.
- Items best for purchasing second-hand: Anything on that will make your experience better! You’ll get more for your money and again, you get to try it out at a lower cost before investing in top of the line gear. Please note that certain safety items such as climbing gear and helmets should always be purchased new.
- Places to look:
- Check your local gear resale shop first. (Not sure where that is? Google it or ask your outdoorsy friends!)
- Before you upgrade your gear, ask yourself: can you fix it? Patagonia’s Worn Wear program has amazing DIY tutorials for fixing all kinds of gear, especially apparel.
- REI outlet / garage sales. REI also has a gear buy-back program where you can resell your own used gear. Check it out at REI's Trade It In.
- Gear Up Give Back. Just launched this spring, this is a program that allows you to donate your old gear to non-profits, helping provide access and funding for programs that serve underrepresented groups in the outdoors. Proceeds for the sale go to the Outdoorist Oath, committed to helping people take action for the planet, inclusion and adventure.
- The good old internet. Google search whatever you’re looking for. It’s amazing what you’ll find! For example, have you heard of the Pro’s Closet, full of certified pre-owned bikes? What a resource!
Facebook groups can help with finding or repurposing gear too. There’s a group for everything, even used nüCamp RV’s!
- PLEASE NOTE: Items best not to purchase second-hand include anything safety related, such as helmets, climbing gear, etc.
Tips for purchasing new gear:
When it’s time to buy new, try small companies like Garage Grown Gear or again, your local gear shop. Their expertise is well worth it. Plus, you might even get some adventure advice on the side.
For more tips and ideas on why and how to recycle old clothes and outdoor gear, check out these helpful resource from Veggie Vagabond and Cool of the Wild.
Of course, there are times when we need to purchase online or at the big box stores. There’s no shame in that.
Just remember that how you spend your money is an opportunity to build connections with your locality and support the kind of world you hope for. When you have the privilege to choose, make your choices thoughtfully!
Now it’s a challenging time! Are you ready?
The Challenge (pick one):
- Declutter your old gear stash (or your parent’s/friends/uncle’s attic!) Find one item in your gear stash and put it up for sale or giveaway in a community forum or marketplace. What did you choose? How did it feel?
- What’s on your new gear list? When it’s time to make your next new gear purchase, challenge yourself to look for one item secondhand first. What item will it be? Where will you look to find it?
Let us know how it goes by tagging @redbudsuds on social media. We’d love to shout out your sustainable adventures.