How To Buy Used Outdoor Gear & Apparel With Confidence

by Stevie Smith January 06, 2024 8 min read

How To Buy Used Outdoor Gear & Apparel With Confidence

For beginners or hobbyists looking to reach the next level of outdoor recreation, the cost of gear can definitely induce serious sticker shock. Top-of-the-line tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and other gear often cost hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. While this high-performance equipment is built to last, these price points can turn outfitting your adventure a costly, and for some, impossible, endeavor.

Luckily, there's a budget-friendly way to get quality outdoor gear without breaking the bank - buy used. 

The secondhand gear market is absolutely thriving, even as the post-COVID surge of outdoor recreation began to fade in 2023. With some inspection, cleaning, and care, used gear can serve you just as well as buying new - and depending on your area, you can find some lightly-used equipment available at huge discounts.

This guide will cover where to find deals on used tents, sleeping bags, and more. We'll also explore how our professional CO2 dry cleaning services can help you buy your used gear with more confidence. Read on to learn how buying and cleaning used can help you gear up without emptying your wallet.

Why Buy Used Outdoor Gear & Apparel?

The meat and potatoes: buying used outdoor gear can save you 25-50% or more compared to buying new. That’s because many people invest in high-end tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, jackets, ski suits, and other gear, only to hardly use them before outgrowing the hobby or upgrading to the latest models. 

This ends up leaving a plentiful supply of quality, barely-used gear on the secondhand market.

As long as used gear has been well cared for and stored properly, it can still offer years of life and perform nearly like new - you just need to carefully inspect items for defects and clean them thoroughly before use. 

With basic maintenance and repairs, used gear can provide the same utility as more expensive new gear. The huge cost savings make it worth hunting for deals on used gear.

Where to Buy Used Outdoor Gear

You can find great deals on used outdoor gear in many places if you know where to look. Here are some of the best options for sourcing secondhand tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, and other equipment:

REI Used Gear

REI sells its own customer returns and lightly used gear online. Items are inspected and rated based on condition. REI guarantees that used gear will arrive ready to enjoy.

Facebook Marketplace: 

These online classifieds offer locals listing used gear for sale. Search for specific items or browse the sporting goods sections. Meet in public places and inspect gear carefully before buying.


Check for tents, stoves, packs, and more at neighborhood garage and yard sales. Ask if they have any outdoor items not on display. Examine closely for damage prior to purchasing.

Events like theSki and Snowboard Swap bring individuals together to buy and sell used adventure gear. Attendees can browse thousands of discounted items in one place.

Buying secondhand from individuals requires more diligence than retailer resale sites. But with patience and scrutiny, major savings can be found on high-quality outdoor apparel and equipment.

Inspecting Used Gear Before Purchase

When considering used outdoor gear like tents or sleeping bags, it's important to thoroughly inspect the items before purchasing. Here are some tips on what to look for:

Check for rips, tears, or broken parts

Examine the fabric and seams for any damage. Small tears can worsen over time and broken poles, zippers or buckles will need repair or replacement.

Test zippers, straps, and buckles

Zip and unzip zippers fully to ensure they operate smoothly. Buckle and unbuckle any clasps to make sure they latch securely. Tug on straps to confirm they are sturdy.

Look for signs of heavy wear

Check high friction areas like the tent floor and look for thinning material, holes, or stained areas. Discoloration, frayed edges, or excessive dirt also indicate heavy use.

Try setting up tents

For tents, set them up completely to check for any issues. Make sure poles are not bent or broken and can connect properly. Confirm the tent holds its structure and doesn't sag.

Thoroughly inspecting used gear takes time but helps avoid purchasing damaged or defective items. Test all functions and examine closely for wear. This helps ensure used gear will remain usable for your foreseeable future adventures.

Cleaning Used Outdoor Gear & Apparel

This one may be obvious, but just in case - it is very important to properly clean used outdoor gear before using it yourself. Outdoor gear & apparel is often used & worn while partaking in physically strenuous activities like hiking, winter sports like skiing, snowboarding & snowmobiling - and other things that can cause humans to sweat (and sometimes,smell)

I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to bet you don’t want a stranger’s sweat & stench coming with you on your hike or adventure. This facet of used gear is what turns many off to the idea - but we have a secret way around it.

First, since this is a “101”-style guide, here’s some of the ‘raw benefits’ of cleaning your gear:

  • Washes away dirt, grime, body oils, and odors from previous users
  • Sanitizes the gear to kill bacteria and pathogens left behind
  • Removes stains from food, blood, mud, etc.
  • Overall freshens up the gear and brings it back to like-new condition

Here’s some of the ways that gear can be cleaned at home (but wait…)

Handwashing Outdoor Gear & Apparel

Fill up a tub or sink with warm water and a mild detergent. Gently scrub the gear with a soft brush to lift dirt and stains. Rinse thoroughly. Hang dry.

Machine Washing Outdoor Gear & Apparel

Most tents, sleeping bags, pack covers, etc. can be machine washed on a gentle cycle with warm water. Use a small amount of detergent. Tumble dry low.

Spot Cleaning

For more delicate items like dry-clean only wool, or items with real down & leather, it’s possible to spot clean stained or dirty areas with a damp rag, mild detergent, and a bit of elbow grease.

  • Disinfecting: Sanitize gear by soaking in a dilute bleach solution (1 tbsp bleach per 1 gallon of water) for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. This kills bacteria.
  • Deodorizing: Remove odors by hanging gear outside in the fresh air. Or put gear in a pillowcase and tumble dry with tennis balls and dryer sheets.

Here’s the thing:It is entirely possible to clean these items at home - but it may come at a cost. Machine-washability has been an issue, both past and present, for outdoor gear & apparel - as materials like down feathers, wool, leather & waterproofed materials don’t traditionally play well with machine washing.

And, handwashing could require, as stated above, filling an entire bathtub with water (50-100 gallons of water), and potentially several HOURS of work, maybe even handworking with chemicals like bleach or detergent.

Long story short, it has traditionally been a pain - and one of the common core points of why people don’t buy used gear. Reaping the discount of used gear just doesn’t make sense if you have to spend a few hours scrubbing the FUNK out of a sleeping quilt, and sometimes not being able to get it out.

That’s where we come in.

CO2 Dry Cleaning Services For Outdoor Gear & Apparel

Our CO2 dry cleaning service is an ideal solution for cleaning used outdoor gear and technical apparel. Our process uses recycled, liquified CO2 to provide deep cleaning for delicate performance fabrics like tents, sleeping bags, jackets, ski suits, and more.

The process uses no water, no toxic detergents, and no heated drying process - not only does that provide a cleanmore powerful than a traditional dry cleaner, but saves resources like water and cuts down on the production & use of a variety of chemicals compared to machine washing.

The CO2 cleaning process also effectively kills bacteria, viruses, dust mites and other allergens without the use of additional chemicals. This sanitizing effect helps remove mold, mildew and other germs that can build up in used gear.

CO2 cleaning removes body oils and embedded dirt that can degrade moisture wicking, breathability, waterproofness and other performance features in technical fabrics. It restores the "like-new" feeling to used apparel and gear so you can get full value from premium purchases.

For expensive technical outerwear, specialty sleeping bags or high-end tents, CO2 cleaning is a cost-effective way to deep clean gear and extend its usable lifespan, rather than having to buy new once the gear has an ‘uncleanable funkiness’.

When to Use CO2 Dry Cleaning

Recap: CO2 cleaning can help extend the life of your used outdoor gear and can be especially helpful for certain types of equipment. 

Now, let’s talk about specific instances when CO2 cleaning is recommended:

Down Sleeping Bags and Jackets

Over time, dirt and oils from your skin can build up on the down filling in sleeping bags and jackets, compromising their loft and warmth. CO2 cleaning safely deep cleans the down while preserving its insulating qualities. It removes odors that may have built up from sweat or campfire smoke.

GoreTex and Waterproof-Breathable Outerwear

GoreTex and other waterproof-breathable membranes rely on a durable water repellant (DWR) chemical coating. As the DWR wears off from use and washing, outerwear loses its water-beading ability. In addition to the sterilization of CO2 cleaning, we offer a Bluesign-approved waterproofing treatment for these items.

Merino Wool Base Layers

The natural antibacterial properties of merino wool help minimize odor buildup. However, merino baselayers can absorb body oils and sweat over time. CO2 cleaning gently removes these odors and oils from the wool fibers without damaging their insulation or shape retention.


It's common for tent fabrics and flooring to retain odors from cooking, campfire smoke, and mud. The deep cleaning capabilities of CO2 can eliminate these odors. It leaves tents fresh without using harsh chemicals or running the risk of pushing a washing machine 'past its limits'. 

Cost Savings Of Buying Used Gear

Professional CO2 dry cleaning can save you a ton of money compared to buying new, as it can make old, used gear look and function like new again, for a fraction of the cost of buying a brand new tent or sleeping bag.

For example, with a quick scroll of Facebook Marketplace, it’s not hard to find sleeping bags and high end down jackets from brands like North Face, Columbia, Western Mountaineering, Enlightened Equipment, Kelty, RAB, and other brands that retail for $300+ to go for a 30-50% discount. And if you’re studied on your negotiation skills, youmight just evenbe able to break that 50%+ discount barrier (just don’t get greedy).

Just the other day, I purchased a Columbia Powder-Lite jacket for $50, in tags-still-on, fresh, like-new condition. This jacket retails at $160 (with most selling for around $90-100 in-store). The reason for the seller getting rid of it? They had lost weight and it had gotten too big for them before they had ever worn it.

Here’s a quick example I pulled from the Denver area, within minutes of searching:

Cleaning also increases the resale value if you want to sell the used gear later. A cleaned tent or sleeping bag in good condition can resell for much more than a dirty, worn one. So cleaning boosts your return on investment when reselling quality used gear.

Overall, CO2 cleaning lets you get premium gear at used prices, while making old equipment feel new. It's perfect for getting top-notch gear on a budget. The savings add up each time you reuse quality gear again and again after professional cleaning.


Reaping The Rewards Of Used Gear Is More Accessible Than Ever


Buying and cleaning used outdoor gear can help you save money on quality equipment. When shopping for used tents, sleeping bags, packs, and other gear, check popular sites like REI, Geartrade, or Facebook Marketplace. 

Make sure to carefully inspect each item for damage before purchasing. Stains, odors, and dirt on used gear can be effectively removed with no hassle with our CO2 dry cleaning services. CO2 cleaning blasts away debris, sanitizes fabric, restores condition and eliminates odors without using water or detergent. Compared to buying new, you can often save 30-50% on high-end gear by buying and cleaning used items.

With some inspection and basic cleaning, used outdoor equipment can perform like new at a fraction of the price. Take advantage of the deals on quality used gear to outfit yourself without breaking the bank. Just be sure to give used items a quick CO2 clean to refresh them before your next adventure. Enjoy the savings and happy trails!

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