Save the planet (and your bank account): Buy secondhand stuff

Marie Graven

What a deal: Paddler Marie Graven shows off her find. photo by Anna Ferguson

If you’re like me, you break out in a sweat whenever a new gear catalog arrives. But since I don’t have a bazillion dollars to spend on such stuff, leafing through those glossy pages sparks desires my pocketbook can’t satisfy.

So what’s a resourceful outdoorswoman to do? My answer is to find those items secondhand. A wealth of resources is available to the savvy shopper in Western North Carolina, so finding a good piece of used gear is not only possible — it’s easy. What’s more, I’d argue that it’s more responsible. Reusing old gear and recycling what we don’t want is a cool way to repay the planet for the natural playgrounds we enjoy.

Into the bargain bin

West Asheville is home to Second Gear (415-A Haywood Road). The store opened in 2003 with the goal of showcasing quality used equipment while promoting community.

“We try to offer good-quality gear at prices that people can seriously consider if they want to break into a sport or just buy one piece of gear, like a bike or a boat. We definitely try to maintain standards in the gear that we carry,” says co-owner Brandon Calloway. The consignment-based inventory includes a wide variety of camping gear, climbing accessories, boats, bikes, backpacks and boots. Outdoor clothing accounts for much of the store’s merchandise.

“Our formula for success is simplicity,” Calloway explains. Second Gear also offers dealer samples; sales reps often come into the shop to offload last season’s sample gear at prices up to 50 percent below retail.

Play It Again Sports (611 Tunnel Road, Asheville) features more urban-oriented gear. From fitness equipment to disc-golf supplies, they’ve got an array of new and used items. I found a well-seasoned softball mitt, bat and softballs at Play It Again that have been a big hit at potlucks and barbecues for a couple of years now. The store also has a large wall of used golf equipment. Whether you need a putter or a 9-iron, you’ll find something to help fast-track yourself onto the pro circuit at an affordable price.

A quirky, unusual array of all types of consignment items plus a new section of hand-dyed yarn make The Enchanted Forrest (235 Merrimon Ave., Asheville) a destination for tourists and town folk alike.

“We have moved away from actual outdoors gear, but we have plenty of clothing items that make us a good stop for the outdoors shopper,” says owner Forrest Hogestad. “We often have great fleeces, Capilene, wool sweaters and women’s hiking boots.” As I wandered through the colorful offerings, I found her description to be right on target.

Another way to get rad, almost-new gear is to shop the end-of-season sales for rental items or dealer samples. At the end of each season, places like Diamond Brand, Liberty Bicycles, Black Dome, Backcountry Outdoors and Bio-Wheels all offer gotta-have-it deals on rental, used or off-season equipment. Expect to save at least 20 to 40 percent off retail on gently used gear. Some deals are even better. Retailers such as Looking Glass Outfitters, near Brevard, sometimes offer select consignment gear alongside the new stuff.

Nantahala Outdoor Center’s Guest Appreciation Festival is a great place to go for maximum choice. For three straight days, you can find deals on just about anything — and, sometimes, large quantities of the same thing. This year, boats, backpacks and a bounty of other items will be up for grabs.

Local boater, wilderness instructor and Western Carolina University student Marie Graven got her boat at GAF in 2001. “I love this boat because it’s great to teach with,” she says. “I can get most of my students in it without too much trouble. It also feels really stable.”

If you have an independent streak, other ways to get around paying top dollar for gear include bartering with friends and taking part in local gear swaps. I’ve also gotten great stuff by working at wilderness programs and scoring something that was left unclaimed or given away by a departing camper. My favorite find to date is a cow-patterned Crazy Creek chair.

One final tip: A friend told me that one way to get gear is to hang out along the first 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Apparently people shed gear like a Gore-Tex jacket sheds water when they realize just how heavy that pack is with all the “essentials” they figured they’d need. You never know — you just might walk away with some sweet gear and a new trail name, like “Vacuum Cleaner.” See you out there.

[Freelance writer and outdoorswoman Anna Ferguson lives in Asheville.]

Gear at your fingertips

One of the best ways to track down secondhand gear is an Internet search. Whether you scan eBay or more local, homegrown sites, you’re sure to find something you could use. Here’s a quick list to get you started: Local boaters post multiple new listings every day. Second Gear posts its current inventory daily. Find out about fall sales. Last year’s rentals for sale at reduced prices. Look up info on the Guest Appreciation Festival here. Check out their bricks-and-mortar store for consignment gear. Want to find something you don’t have to pay for? Try the freecycle world. It’ll knock your wool socks off. A great regional way to find what you want, from bikes to tents to kitchen sinks. The mother of all used-stuff sites.

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