Hiking is an inexpensive, all-inclusive way to exercise and get in touch with the natural world… until you need new gear. But with used and renewed programs from brands like Patagonia, North Face and REI, top-notch hiking gear can be affordable and eco-friendly!

This guide will show you how to get champagne hiking gear on a tap-water budget, and explain how buying used hiking gear benefits the planet.

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Second-hand Hiking Gear From Patagonia

How does Patagonia Worn Wear work?

Following the success of its Worn Wear pop-up events, Patagonia set up a permanent online marketplace to buy and trade in used hiking gear. It’s essentially an online thrift store.

The shopping portal is easy to use with sortable categories including a “Just Added” section. Since most products are only in one size, it’s a little like playing the lottery. Check back frequently to find a particular item.

Patagonia vets washes and grades the items from excellent, great to good. They also identify all noticeable wear and tear.

For example, these Men’s Guidewater Pants for $38 (normally $99) have “heavy discoloration throughout garment, moderate fraying on seam cuffs, and moderate stains on front right thigh seam.” The product photos don’t necessarily show these attributes.

There are considerable price reductions for items with heavy stains. Otherwise, expect to pay between $20-$40 for t-shirts and shorts, $40-$100 for pants, and at least $50 for a light jacket or fleece — not bad for Patagonia gear.

What is Patagonia Trade Ins?

To mitigate the cost of ‘Worn Wear’ or new Patagonia items, consider trading in an used item.

hiking gear
An example of a ReCrafted T-shirt. Each garment is unique and made from upcycled materials. Image source.

Patagonia will give $10-$100 in credit (depending on the item) for functional, “well-loved” gear. Read these FAQ’s for information regarding specific garments and scenarios. They accept trade ins in-store or through the mail. The garments contribute to the Worn Wear marketplace.

Patagonia ReCrafted

Patagonia’s ReCrafted program is entirely unique as it upcycles clothes that are beyond repair into one-of-a-kind products. Items include

  • Down Vests ($257)
  • T-Shirts ($57)
  • Down Jackets ($327)
  • Tin Shed Toolkits ($47-$57)
  • Overnight Bags ($167-$197)

Yes, they are pretty darn expensive, I assume from the labor of finding and patching together scraps of material. However, Patagonia’s ReCrafted program gives old clothes and entirely new life and contributes to a circular clothing economy.

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REI Used Hiking Gear

Compared to Patagonia, REI’s ‘good & used’ marketplace has less moving parts but a larger selection.

While Patagonia’s Worn Wear features mostly clothing and a few packs, REI’s ‘good & used’ has all sorts of hiking gear. You’ll find clothing, electronics, pet gear, camping equipment, tools and gadgets. That’s because REI lists items that were returned to its co-ops in good condition; not just items that others have traded in.

According to its “How It Works” page, REI is “trying this out as a way to help more people get outdoors while keeping useful stuff out of the landfills.”

hiking gear
An REI ‘good & used’ product page showing the item’s former price and condition. Screenshot source.

How does REI’s good & used work?

REI’s good & used shopping portal is easy to sort through, featuring the same “Just Added” category as Patagonia. They rate the products from excellent, lightly worn, moderately worn, to well worn. Some have notes, although most just say used.

Unlike Patagonia, REI’s product pages show prices for the items if they were new, and the savings of buying them used.

Keep in mind, REI sells hiking gear from a wide variety of brands, whereas Patagonia sticks to its own products. This may affect sizing, pricing, quality, eco-friendliness and a number of other things.

However, if REI’s sticker prices give you the willies, the ‘good & used’ marketplace is worth a look.

Check out our line of eco-friendly hiking and home products in the Emeraldology Shop!

Renewed Hiking Gear at The North Face

Hiking gear in The North Face’s Renewed program goes through a an eight step repair program. After a little R&R (refurbish and repair) the gear is just like new and half the price. I bought a wool base-layer long sleeve through this program and I am very happy with the quality and price.

Renewed gear is sortable by gender, size, color and date (old to new, or new to old). Like the other programs, it’s not all one-off items. There may be several colors and sizes available for some garments.

Overall, there is a pretty robust selection of clothing for men, women and children, but not much for gadgets and gear like REI offers. Most items are in the renewed collection are half the normal price and in “like-new” condition. Considering the rigorous renewable process, that’s a pretty darn good deal.

The North Face Remade

Like Patagonia’s ReCrafted program, Remade is a collection of “creatively repaired” products. It’s mostly jackets with patches of funky-pattern fabric. If you’re looking for a unique, slightly less-expensive jacket or vest, Remade is worth a look.

The North Face “The One and Only”

A smaller selection of items in “one color and one size.” This platform is worth looking through periodically to find deals on shorts, shirts, hoodies, and jackets. The North Face notes the condition and former price of each item on the product page.

Related: Can Tru Earth’s Platinum Laundry Strips Handle Muddy Dog Towels?

What makes used clothes Earth-friendly?

The clothing industry and most of its players – including manufacturers, retailers AND consumers – have enormous carbon footprints likely to grow exponentially as the global population increases.

According to a 2017 report by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, “If the industry continues on its current path, by 2050, it could use more than 26% of the carbon budget associated with a 2°C pathway.”

Industry deserves a lion’s share of the blame for pumping out products made of fossil fuels and constantly moving the fashion goalposts. However, consumers are nowhere near blame-free. The report found that “globally, customers miss out on $460 billion of value each year by throwing away clothes that they could continue to wear.”

Closing the loop

The report also provides a road map for transitioning the clothing industry from a linear to a circular economy. To summarize, the steps are: 1) phase out harmful substances, 2) increase clothing utilization, 3) improve recycling, and 4) use renewable resources.

hiking gear life cycle

Proposed model for a circular textile economy. Screenshot source.

Steps 1 and 4 rely on political and industrial action (which consumers can encourage with mindful shopping). But steps 2 and 3 rely on consumers to wear clothes longer and choose sustainable end-of-life solutions.

Patagonia, The North Face and REI are providing the infrastructure for a circular outdoor apparel economy. Now it’s up to use to use it!

What’s your favorite way to repurpose or extend the life of your clothes? Let us know in the comment section!

Feature photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash.