a selection of camping gear laying on a wooden floor including a duffle bag, lantern, compas, water bottle, tent sakes, binoculars and a knife

Camping on a Budget: Where to Find Second-Hand Camping Gear

If you’re new to the world of outdoor travel, you are likely learning quickly that the cost of gear can add up fast! From tents and sleeping bags to camp stoves and lanterns – Even just picking up the essentials can run up quite the bill. Are you looking for a solution to your gear needs without breaking the bank? Save money and minimize your impact on the environment by shopping second-hand camping gear!

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In the world of outdoor travel, we all love and appreciate the beauty of the natural world around us. However, is it not a little contradictory to claim to love and appreciate nature without also taking steps towards environmental preservation?

Let’s be clear – I’m not suggesting that you have to sell all of your modern possessions and move to the middle of nowhere where you live off the land in order to call yourself an outdoor traveller. If that’s your style, awesome! But it’s not for everyone… What I am suggesting is that we should be willing to make small lifestyle changes to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. This includes shifts like prioritizing recycling and reducing waste.

Combine these lifestyle changes with the fact camping is often seen as a ‘budget-friendly’ form of travel, and you come to the topic of today’s post – Second-hand camping gear.

Here’s the thing to remember: High-quality camping gear is built with durability and longevity in mind. It’s designed to stand up to the test of time while enduring the elements and, let’s be honest, pretty hard abuse at times! If you buy the right gear, you’re buying gear for life!

Sure, you could run to your local box store pick up some items pretty cheap. In the moment, it seems like a great deal – until the gear fails you… The tent pole breaks, the sleeping bag rips, etc. You then have to purchase a replacement (all while the person who invested to start is still using their original gear). How many times do you have to replace budget gear before you’ve actually spent MORE than the person who bought something high-quality out of the gate?

If you’re looking to pick up some great ‘gear for life’ without breaking the bank, the first step is to do your research. Read reviews and join camping-focused communities. If you’re looking for dog-friendly camping in the province of Ontario, check out our Facebook group: ‘Camping & Hiking with Dogs Ontario’. This will allow you to learn more about which brands are worth the investment, and which are often complained about/warned against in the outdoor travel community.

Armed with this information, it’s time to head out shopping for a great deal!

view from laying inside a teal coloured tent during the day, filled with camp bedding, looking out at a field

Looking for Gear Without Breaking the Bank? Check out These 11 Places to Find High-Quality Second-Hand Camping Gear:

#1 – Kijiji/Craigslist/eBay/Facebook Marketplace

This obvious choice for many people who are interested in purchasing something online second-hand, websites like Kijiji, Craigslist and eBay allow anyone interested to sell gear that they are no longer using. While you will have to coordinate pickup for Kijiji, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, eBay makes it a step easier by providing shipping right to your door.

The catch? These items are listed and sold by users like yourself. This means that there is no quality control, the site operates on the basis of ‘buy at your own risk’. The general rule of thumb – if a deal appears to be too good to be true, it probably is. That being said, if you do your due diligence, you can find some great deals.

#2 – Gear Trade

Originally founded in 1999, Gear Trade is an online marketplace specifically for outdoor enthusiasts. This is an open marketplace where you can sign up to buy and sell gear for a number of different sports and outdoor activities with categories including clothing, hiking and camping, travel, ski, snowboard, climb, mountain bike, road bike, skate, surf and wake, paddle sports, snowshoe and fly fishing.

Much like the options we just discussed, Gear Trade is driven by the users which means that the gear being sold isn’t being controlled by the site. Make sure to do your due diligence in vetting ads and sellers. The perk? All items sold on this site are exclusively geared towards a single niche, meaning you don’t have to dig through unrelated results to your searches.

#3 – Outdoors Geek

A family-owned and operated business, Outdoors Geek offers a variety of options for those seeking outdoor travel gear for the next camping or hiking adventure including new gear purchases, rental gear (and rental packages) and its ‘Gently Used Gear’ section.

The items included in the ‘Gently Used Gear’ section includes high-quality gear that has been retired from their rental program including cots, GPS & locator devices, hammocks, sleeping bags, tents, and more. Their selection includes a wide variety of well-known brand names with savings ranging from 40-60% off the full price.

An additional perk the company offers is an easy rent to buy transition. Rent gear during your trip and if you fall in love, the rental cost can be put towards its purchase.

woman standing staring over a lake, wearing a black toque and carrying a grey backpack

#4 – Switchback Gear Exchange

A brick and mortar store that first opened its doors in 2010, Switchback Gear Exchange provides outdoor enthusiasts with high-quality gear. While their primary focus is cycling, there is also a ‘Camp and Hike’ section in their catalogue worth checking out. In addition to its retail stores, the company offers the purchase of both new and used gear on their website.

Where does the gear come from? When customers are upgrading their gear, they often aren’t interested in leaving with the gear they started with. It’s a win/win for everyone. While these are resale items, there is a perk to shopping here as opposed to some of the other options on the list – The items being sold are coming through the hands of a retailer, meaning that you can contact the company for customer support if you purchase something only to find the item that you receive isn’t up to your standards.

#5 – MEC Gear Swap

If you’re unfamiliar with Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), it is a retail co-op style business that rents and sells outdoor gear at a great savings. In addition to its retail operations, however, the company created a free online marketplace in 1997. The Gear Swap allows users to buy, sell or swap gear with other users as well as to find travel partners.

This marketplace is another ‘use at your own risk’ system. At no time does MEC inspect the gear being sold and they are not responsible in the event that someone misrepresents the items that they are selling. So, approach with caution just as you would in any other online marketplace. Don’t let this scare of you off – with a little work and due diligence, the Gear Swap is a great place to shop for second-hand camping gear!

Related: ’15 Tips for Camping in the Rain’

#6 – The North Face Renewed

Do you love the quality and reliability of products from The North Face? If so, I have some great news! With a focus on the environment and sustainability in mind, the company decided to do its part to cut back on the amount of clothing and gear that finds its way into landfills around the world. How? They launched The North Face Renewed – a program in which they collect, clean and repair gear, selling their refurbished products at a great savings.

There is a huge benefit from selecting this option compared to many of the others on the list – each and every item sold through The North Face Renewed has been inspected and repaired (as necessary) by the company. A great, low-risk way of purchasing the products you love while going easy on the bank account.

#7 – REI Co-Op Good & Used

This is another example of a company making a difference in their overall sustainability and environmental footprint. Just like The North Face, REI has made a commitment to cut back on the number of products that are making their way into landfills. Rather than simply writing off gear that has been returned, they inspect each item that comes back, listing those items worthy of reselling on their website.

Items listed on REI Co-Op ‘Good & Used’ are sold as-is. Each item will include a rating to indicate its condition, ranging from ‘Well Worn’ to ‘Excellent Condition’. Great items for a savings, delivered to your door.

#8 – Amazon Warehouse

We all know that Amazon can offer some great deals compared to purchasing the same items at local retailers, but did you know that you can save even further by shopping on Amazon Warehouse? Much like the programs at REI and The North Face, Amazon offers used and refurbished items at a great savings.

Each time an item is returned to Amazon, the inspect the item to see if they are in good enough shape to qualify for the Warehouse program. Not only do these include minor defects, but even ‘open box items’. Those items that are found suitable are then cleaned, tested and repaired (as needed) before being listed.

a person sitting on the edge of a river in a blue camp chair, next to an orange tent

#9 – Charity/Thrift Shops/Yard Sales

Just like thrifting for deals on clothing and furniture, if you know what you’re looking for, you can find some great second-hand camping gear at a cheap cost by browsing your local charity/thrift shops or visiting yard sales. In the past, my husband and I have purchased a Coleman propane lantern complete with carrying case, worth approximately $100, for $10 in excellent condition!

This is often where you’ll find the cheapest deals however it is also the option that will require the most time and patience on your part. Unlike visiting a site that specifically caters to camping gear, you may have to visit a dozen yard sales before finding any camping gear and even then, it may not be worth your money. However, if you enjoy the joy of the hunt, there’s a rush when you find that deal!

#10 – Borrow Gear from Friends/Family

This is a great option for those who are just trying outdoor travel for the first time! If you have friends or family members that already own high-quality gear, why not borrow theirs for a trip? This will give you a chance to enjoy the full camping experience, making the decision as to whether this is something you plan on doing more moving forward.

Enjoy yourself and love the gear you tried? You can now use the above resources to search for a great deal, fully aware of exactly what you’d like to purchase.

Discover that camping really isn’t for you or that you’d prefer a different approach such as RV camping vs tent camping? You avoided making an unnecessary investment.

#11 – Rent Gear

If you don’t have friends/family that already own the gear that you want to try, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to purchase it. Companies like MEC, Sports Rent, Rent-a-Tent Canada and Authentik Canada will allow you to rent all of the essentials for your next camping trip without having to invest in purchasing your own.

For those who only camp once or twice a year, this may provide a great alternative to purchasing your own gear. Not only do you not have to do any upkeep on your gear, as it will be taken care of by the rental company, you also don’t have to find a place to store your gear in between trips. If you find that you want to camp more frequently in the future and the cost is adding up, you can always invest in your own at that time.

a selection of camping gear laying on a wooden floor including a duffle bag, lantern, compas, water bottle, tent sakes, binoculars and a knife with the title where to find second-hand camping gear

Have you ever found a GREAT deal while shopping for second-hand camping gear? If so, I’d love to hear your success stories in the comments!

48 thoughts on “Camping on a Budget: Where to Find Second-Hand Camping Gear”

    1. I LOVE my camping gear, but I’m also a fan of a good deal – I’m that girl that when people point out that they love her sweater brags about how cheap she got it at a thrift store hahaha! So, if I can get the gear I want for a great deal, I’m all over that!

  1. Perfect timing to come across this article!! With travel plans being cancelled because of Corona virus, I’m thinking of going camping. But I’m also starting at square one with my lack of gear. Thanks for the list!!

    1. I have read many places that spending time outdoors is recommended – and what better way to isolate than to do it outdoors? Right?

  2. What a great idea for a post! I love the idea of renting gear but I’d be so scared of damaging it. Also never heard of Amazon Warehouse, I’m adding that one to my bookmarks!

    1. I haven’t ever rented gear for exactly that reason, especially considering we camp with dogs. I know that my pups are crazy well behaved, but they are still dogs and mistakes happen!

  3. Buying camping stuff at full price can get really expensive. It is great to know that there are alternatives out there. I was not aware of some of the places to find a great bargain.

    1. There are definitely some great options! I am a huge fan of exploring refurbished and used items. There’s no need for perfectly good camping gear to find it’s way into a landfill.

  4. This is really helpful. Camping gear can be fairly expensive, but as you have shared here it doesn’t have to be that way. My husband love camping and does a bit solo hike every year. Most of the gear he has had for years but a few pieces will need to be replaced soon, so we’ll do our best to look into these options when he starts looking for new pieces to purchase.

    1. High-quality gear can definitely last us a long time! We recently had to replace some of our bigger items due to wear and tear. We camp a lot, so it wasn’t a shock. Some of our stuff was purchased new, but we definitely leveraged some of these options as well.

    1. There’s quite a bit of gear involved, for sure. However, the good news is that once you invest in high-quality gear, it can last a lifetime!

  5. I’ve heard of the MEC gear swap before, but not many of the other ones. Buying second hand is a great idea – some of the gear can be prohibitively expensive if buying new.

    1. There are so many great options to open the door to those who may feel limited by the costs associated, we as an outdoor travel community just need to help spread the word.

    1. It can, however, so many of these items are in such great shape that you’d never know you didn’t pick it up brand new! Combine that with the savings, and it’s a total win!

  6. My husband loves camping, and I guess you can say he has made me enjoy it as well. Our family shops at REI for some of our camping gear. This was a great post, and very informative as well. Thanks for sharing this information.

    1. That’s how things happened in our relationship, but the other way around – I grew up camping and love it. Since getting together, I introduced my husband to it and now it’s grown on him too lol

  7. I didn’t even imagine so many sources for reasonably-priced camping gear. If I were to order some (I live in New York City), I would probably order from Amazon

    1. Amazon is a great opportunity to not only score some great gear but have it delivered right to your door!

  8. Camping gear like anything else ranges so much in price but the old saying you get what you pay for makes total sense. I have no shame in buying a good used item that I know will last me on a site like craigslist. I’ve done very well there and also with local Facebook buy and sell sites. I like the exchange site concept and haven’t heard of that one. Switchback gear exchange is like turning in your car at the end of its lease. Great idea.

    1. Exactly – if I know that I can get a high-quality item slightly used, I’m all for that! These are the items that are built to last, so they have a lot of use left in them.

    1. It’s such a fun and relaxing way to get back to the basics and enjoy nature – as long as you have the right gear.
      For someone looking at just trying it out, I’d definitely recommend looking into the rental options.

  9. Craigslist and Facebook market place are a goldmine for camping gear. Also, as a tip, if you can talk them down do it! I have found a backpack and tent from looking at these sites. They were well worth more than I got them for.

  10. I didn’t know you could rent camping gear. That’s perfect because I’m going to need it over the summer.

    1. It’s a great option for those who don’t go often enough to warrant investing in their own gear, those who lack on storage space or those who simply want to ‘test drive’ new gear before investing in it!

  11. Good post. We used to take Boy Scouts to Philmont and other long hikes do we have used a lot of different places for gear. REIOutlet.com was good for new discounted items. Goodwill and other thrift shops are great also. Like you said also Craigslist and FB Marketplace. Good list.

    1. We’ve found some GREAT deals on FB Marketplace, you just have to watch to make sure that you’re not getting scammed – see the product before paying, meet somewhere public, etc.

    1. Honestly, with the quality of a lot of the goods you can get on these second-hand options, there is no need to purchase new and spend that much!

  12. What a lovely article. I’ve always enjoyed charity shops, I find that all the volunteers put so much effort into dealing with customers! I will definitely visit a charity shop next time when I am planning and outdoor trip, thanks for all these tips.

  13. I don’t camp but I do like to hike, walk and sometimes run. When I was looking for new gear I always went to charity shops. Although some people may turn their nose up you can find some excellent stuff! I managed to get an amazing backpack worth £40 for £10. And it was new with labels!

  14. Yes camping gear is quite a costly proposition and many I know much younger than me who wish to go camping but abstain because of the costs involved. I don’t know whether there is a second hand industry here in reach in our country.

    1. I’m sure with the availability of shipping and the internet, at least some of the options listed would ship to your country!

  15. Great content! Most of my camping gear came from a moving sale found on FB Market place. We spent $400 and came home with nearly $3,000 of nearly new gear.

  16. I wish I had access to these resources, but camping has a very different meaning in my country, hahaha. There is some stuff at the thrift store from time to time, but that’s about it. You either overpay for stuff that gets used once, or you get stuff that breaks easily 😛

    x Envy

    1. I’m sure there are some of the online options that would ship your way! Especially if you connect with someone selling their gear that’s willing to work with you as long as you cover the cost of shipping.

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