Well-worn hiking boots, unlaced and muddy on the forest floor.

How To Deal With Your Old Gear

There are 5 great ways to help the environment: Sell, donate, recycle, or upcycle your used gear.

As we ease into a new season, many of your favorite brands are already shipping drool-worthy catalogs plastered with the latest and greatest. Faced with all that shiny newness, it’s easy to overload your wish list. But before you go on a shopping spree, take a hard look at the gear you already have.

If you’ve spent any time being active outdoors, you surely have a few items gathering dust in your basement or garage. In the past, you might have thrown those things away. The issue? Plastics can take hundreds of years to decompose. Instead, they sit in the landfill, taking up space and leaching chemicals into the soil. The other problem with throwing things away is that every time you toss a piece of gear, you have to buy something new. New gear is environmentally costly to make. The plastics, metals, and coatings all take tons of water, chemicals, and fossil fuels to produce.

Fortunately, more and more brands and outdoor explorers alike are waking up to the idea of a “circular economy,” a system where goods get indefinitely reused and recycled instead of thrown away. Next time you stumble upon a piece of worn-out or broken gear, use one of these strategies and join the movement.


Donate your gear to support worthy nonprofits and the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.


New gear can be prohibitively expensive for students, young families, and underserved communities. Giving your gear to a nonprofit organization is an amazing way to help introduce new folks to the outdoors and make nature more accessible to all.

How To Do It

Some local Scout troops, youth programs, and outdoor experience nonprofits accept gently used gear. Try contacting local organizations to see if they’re interested in your stuff. Not sure where to start? Gear Forward connects gear and donors to nonprofits in need. You can also donate to Outside’s new gear give-back program—the media brand will cover your shipping, then match your old gear to the appropriate charity.

As for bikes: Most towns have community bike organizations that accept used bicycles and parts. Some refurbish the old bikes and provide them to people in need. Others provide bike education and discounted bikes to community members at a low cost. 


Keep your beloved gear in rotation by patching holes, tears, and busted zippers.


We’ll start with the obvious: Repairing gear is usually way cheaper than buying new. Rock climbing shoes, for example, perform like new when they’re resoled—and resoling is often a quarter of the price of a new pair. The environmental bonus is that repaired gear stays out of landfills. Then there’s the style points: Adding patches, a brightly colored zipper, or fun stitching patterns only adds more character to the stuff you love.

How To Do It

Some fixes, like patchable tears, clogged stoves, and wet-out rain shells are easy to DIY (YouTube videos abound). For more complicated fixes, try an online search for gear-specific repair shops near you, including your nearest Public Lands location. You can also ship your gear to a reputable mender. Rock and Resole can repair and resole boots and climbing shoes, and Boulder Mountain Repair will fix everything from tents and packs to down sleeping bags and jackets. Both are based in Colorado.

Outdoor adventure equipment stored in a garage


Give your gear back to the manufacturer for free repairs, exchanges, or even cash incentives.


Sustainability is a higher priority for more brands, and many now offer buyback programs. They’re a good way for gear makers to help customers extend the life of their goods, keep synthetic fabrics out of landfills, and educate buyers about the circular economy. Providing your old gear to these programs also has a cool economic impact: If outdoor brands are able to make a little money off selling repaired or refurbished gear, they’ll be able to divert their research and development dollars to improving recycling programs rather than just making new stuff.

How To Do It

Before you pay for a complicated repair or chuck your old hiking pants in a dumpster, first contact the manufacturer to see what they can do for you. Some brands, like Patagonia with its longstanding Worn Wear program, will repair your gear for free or let you swap it for something new. Other initiatives, like the new "Clothes the Loop" program from The North Face, will take your used stuff and give you a coupon to put toward a replacement.


Make someone’s day with a great deal—and earn cash—when you sell your used gear.    


Consignment is one of the best ways to ensure your gear goes to a good home and make a little money at the same time. It’s also a great way to support local businesses and the growing American thrifting economy. The long-term vision: When more people get excited about selling their gently used stuff, consignment stores start to boom. Eventually, it could become just as easy for folks to find high-quality used gear as new—a huge win for the environment.

How To Do It

Do an online or Google Maps search for outdoor gear consignment stores near you. Some examples: the Boulder Sports Recycler in Boulder, Colo., or Second Wind Sports in Bozeman, Mont. These shops will price and market your used gear for you—and cut you a check when it sells.

Don’t live close to a shop? There are plenty of online consignment options these days. Try the Outdoor Gear Exchange or Gear Trade if you’re looking for an easy-to-use platform. Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and online forums can also be effective places to connect with buyers. For climbing gear, try Mountain Project’s “For Sale/For Free/Want to Buy” thread; good stuff sells fast.

Want to avoid online listing hassles and get instant cash offers? Sell your gear to Public Lands. Powered by Out & Back, a one-stop online platform to buy and sell new and second-hand outdoor and adventure gear, Public Lands is launching an in-store buyback program, starting in the Pittsburgh (Cranberry Township, Pa.) location. It’s simple: Open the sell-back tool; answer a few questions about your used gear (including both hard and soft outdoor goods); drop off the items at the Pittsburgh store (or mail them using a free shipping label); get direct cash payments, plus a coupon for $10 off a $50 purchase. Meanwhile, buyers benefit from a no-questions-asked quality guarantee on all purchases with a 30-day return policy.


Give even truly decrepit items a new life by recycling them.


As much as you patch, re-sole, or repair your gear, it will eventually reach the end of its life. Fortunately, a number of recycling programs are popping up that can melt down materials like polyester and use them in brand-new gear, or turn scraps into entirely different products. All these programs keep plastics and other materials out of landfills. They also save tons of resources. Making recycled polyester, for example, is way less energy- and water-intensive than making new.

How To Do It

Many brand buyback programs (see above) feature a recycling component, so it’s worth checking with the manufacturer first to see what your options are. The Renewal Workshop recycles clothing from a number of outdoor brands; if yours is on the list, you may be able to ship to them directly. Green Guru is another great option. It takes everything from bike tires to tents and uses the material to make wallets, bags, and household items.

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.