Let’s be honest here — climbing is a luxury sport. It takes lots of money.
At minimum, you need a pair of shoes, chalk, and a harness (or a bouldering pad). That’s already an investment, but it’s just the minimum.
For bigger objectives, you’ll need a rope, all kinds of expensive protection, anchor and emergency equipment, packs and tarps, specialized clothing…
Gear is wonderful (that’s why we love writing about it so much!), but it can add up pretty quickly. To help out, here are 7 places you can pick up the climbing gear you need without wrecking your bank account.
1. Local Thrift & Consignment Stores
Picking up items locally is frequently your best option. Of course, it helps to live in an area where there’s a market for climbing gear: you’ll find a lot more for sale in Utah than you will in Florida.
In particular, local shops are good sources. Most towns will have some form of thrift or consignment store, and outdoor hubs tend to have dedicated gear-consignment shops.
These shops are excellent places to find deals. Consignment stores work very well for clothing, are hit-or-miss for things like climbing shoes, and generally won’t be much help with things like protection or harnesses. I inexplicably came across a ~25 year old harness in a Goodwill store once, but I’m not convinced it would have held a fall.
Be judicious about purchasing from consignment stores: make sure whatever you’re buying fits (most of these stores don’t have a return policy), and make sure it’s not exorbitantly marked up.
That said, you can find some truly exceptional deals at a good consignment shop. I bought my first pair of climbing shoes at one in Colorado.
Craigslist is a fickle place, but it can be an excellent resource for climbing gear. The hardest part is usually finding what you need — items are posted sporadically and sell quickly.
Still, with a little research and patience, good deals can be found.
Sellers on Craigslist are mostly fine in my experience, but they’re worth treating with care. Occasionally you’ll meet sellers who are fudging the quality or condition of their gear to make a quick buck. As usual, don’t send or give money to any questionable sources, and keep an eye out for safety and reputability.
I’ve used Craigslist myself with success. My list of Craigslist steals includes:
- A brand-new Trango hangboard for $20
- A pair of close-to-new Miuras for $30
- A pair of Patagonia pants for $15
3. Local Climbing Groups
Many local climbing areas have forums or online groups where gear is exchanged. A “[Location] Climbers” Facebook group can be a good place to pick up gear (along with local beta).
If you haven’t already, check around online to see how climbers are connecting near you.
4. Mountain Project
Ah, the MP For Sale forum. Home to wonderful deals, a bizarre array of characters, and plenty of scams and drama.
The MP forums are a wild place in general — at best entertaining and informative, and at worst downright revolting. The For Sale forum is an especially easy place to spend time (and money), partly because the amount of gear for sale is staggering.
On any given day, a plethora of people will put their gear up for sale here. If priced well, most gear will sell within a day or two. If it’s a particularly prized item (apparently black Totem cams are worth their weight in gold) it might sell in hours or even minutes.
If the item is more obscure, it might take much longer to sell, and sellers will “bump” their thread back to the top of the forum to get more views.
There are some conventions for buying gear on MP:
- Most sellers are willing to ship, although occasionally items will be posted for pickup only (especially with larger items like crash pads).
- Shipping costs and total price are generally specified in each individual post and will vary from seller to seller.
- PayPal tends to be the norm for payment.
- The site (and many sellers) encourages buyers to use the “Goods and Services” payment option on PayPal, which includes buyer and seller protection but adds a 3% fee.
- Many climbers still operate on trust and reputation, however, so PayPal’s “Friends and Family” payment option remains widely used. This method carries no fees, but if your seller scams you there’s no way to get your money back.
I’ve never had a bad experience with an MP seller, but it reportedly happens from time to time. Most sellers are just climbers trying to pass on their gear, and most are honest and fair.
Some prices are high, but good deals abound. I picked up my first pair of crampons on MP for $50, and in the past I’ve snagged multiple cams for under $30.
You have to be quick if you want to get the really good deals, but a little vigilance will pay off.
The forum also has a “Free Gear” thread, but unless you’re either lucky or hitting refresh all day, it’s pretty difficult to get anything. Most gear is gone within minutes once offered.
Still, the Free Gear thread is a nice reminder of part of what makes the climbing community so wonderful — we all want to help each other climb. If you’re ever getting rid of your gear, consider passing it on to someone who needs it.
eBay tends to be a little less popular in the outdoor industry, but deals do pop up from time to time.
OutdoorGearLab has their own eBay store where they sell pieces of outdoor gear after their testing and reviews are finished, but unless they just tested a lot of climbing gear you won’t have much luck there.
GearTrade is essentially eBay for the outdoors, and it has a lot of good deals. The site has fairly thorough organization and search functions, which makes it easy to check whether they have what you’re looking for.
GearTrade sales are protected for both buyers and sellers, which lends some peace of mind (although transactions can take a little longer).
7. Online & Retail Sales
Your final option for finding deals is to trawl the world of retail.
The best deals are generally found online. Sites will have big sales at certain times of year, and you can often find past models and colors at steep discounts. Pieces of gear with cosmetic defects (“seconds”) are bargains as well.
Steep & Cheap (Backcountry’s discount site) has long been a mainstay for gear deals, along with sites like Sierra Trading Post and REI Outlet (fka REI Garage). If you hunt carefully and score free shipping, you can find some reasonable deals.
I picked up a brand new pair of Evolv Nexxos for $60 after Evolv replaced the model. For many sites, you can get an extra kickback with an ActiveJunky account, which can make the deals even sweeter.
REI also has in-person Garage Sales (be prepared to get there early if you want the good stuff), and many gear stores will have similar sales from time to time.
I find it a little harder to get really good deals at these, but they’re worth a look if they happen in your area. If you have an unusual size or fit, you’ll have an easier time with all these options, as the less common sizes tend to sell less and get discounted more.