The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Selling Used Climbing Gear

By: Derek Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023

Every recommendation we make has been used, tested, and expertly selected by us. If you buy from a link, we may earn a commission.

Navigating the world of used climbing gear can be as complex as a multi-pitch trad route. Just like you wouldn’t want to find yourself halfway up a climb questioning your cam placement, you don’t want to be unsure about the integrity of the gear you’re using.

The key is knowing what to look for, what to avoid, and how to get the best value for your money. And let’s be honest, climbing gear isn’t cheap. So why not explore the option of buying used gear, especially when you’re just getting into the sport or looking to diversify your rack without emptying your bank account?

This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of buying and selling pre-loved gear, ensuring you can make informed decisions without compromising on safety or quality. So, let’s dive in.

Pros of Buying Used Climbing Gear

Buying used climbing gear comes with several benefits that can make the venture well worth your while. One of the most compelling advantages is cost-effectiveness. High-quality gear is an investment, and the costs can add up quickly, especially if you’re keen on exploring various disciplines of climbing like bouldering, sport, and trad. Used gear can offer a more budget-friendly entry point into the sport, or it can allow you to round out your rack with specialized pieces that you might not use often enough to justify buying new.

Another significant upside to going the used route is its environmental impact. Rock climbing equipment, particularly metal hardware, is resource-intensive to manufacture. By purchasing used items, you’re contributing to the cycle of reuse, reducing the demand for new products, and in turn, lessening your carbon footprint. Plus, you’re extending the life of this gear by many years. This approach aligns well with the outdoor community’s values of environmental stewardship, a principle that we should all aim to uphold.

Lastly, buying gear that’s pre-owned can be a fantastic way to diversify your kit without going broke. Maybe you’ve always sport climbed but want to delve into trad, or perhaps you’re eyeing some big wall adventures that require specialized equipment. Acquiring this gear allows you to expand your toolkit at a fraction of the cost, making it easier to try out new styles and techniques without making a hefty financial commitment.

What Types of Climbing Gear Can You Safely Buy Used?

When considering pre-owned gear, it’s crucial to know which items are generally safe to buy second-hand and which are not.

Carabiners and quickdraws, for instance, can be a good bet if they pass a thorough visual inspection. You’re looking for any signs of metal fatigue, burrs, or cracks, and the action on the gate should be smooth. Always remember to check the wear on the ‘rope side’ of the carabiner, as excessive wear here can compromise safety. Quickdraw slings should be free from fraying or signs of UV degradation.

Belay devices are another item that can usually be bought used without much concern, provided they’re in good condition. Inspect for obvious signs of wear, particularly around the areas that come into contact with the rope. Any deep grooves or sharp edges are a no-go.

Climbing shoes can also be a good used buy, but only if you’re comfortable with the slight “ick” factor of wearing someone else’s footgear. Always check the integrity of the rubber and the overall structure of the shoe. Read more about buying used climbing shoes.

Crash pads can be purchased used as well, but the biggest issue can be the level of wear on the foam. Make sure it’s still in great condition so you don’t have a bad experience.

Cams and other trad gear are a bit more complicated. While these can be bought used, they require a very detailed inspection. Check the wires for kinks, the lobes for signs of excessive wear, and ensure the action on the stem is smooth. Many climbers have safely extended the lifespan of a set of cams by buying used, but this is one area where you need to know exactly what you’re looking at. If you’re not seasoned in placing and assessing trad gear, get a more experienced climber to guide you through the inspection process.

Climbing Gear You Shouldn’t Buy Used

Certain pieces of gear should never be bought used, and that’s not just a conservative stance—it’s a rule grounded in a commitment to safety.

Helmets, for instance, are designed to absorb impact, and it’s impossible to gauge from a visual inspection whether a used helmet has already served that purpose. Even a minor impact can compromise its integrity, making it less effective in protecting your noggin during a fall or from falling debris.

Ropes are another item on the no-go list for second-hand purchases. Climbing ropes endure a lot of stress and wear over their lifetime, including exposure to harmful UV rays, sharp rocks, and the dreaded “top rope through the anchors” faux pas that we’ve all seen at the crag. Tiny microfractures and other forms of internal damage can occur over time, making it extremely risky to trust a used rope.

Harnesses fall into this same category; the load-bearing parts of a harness can have internal wear and tear that’s invisible to the naked eye, making them unreliable in critical moments.

Slings and other soft goods like runners, cordage, and webbing are also not advisable to buy used. Soft goods can suffer from UV degradation, abrasion, and micro-tears that significantly weaken the material, even if they look perfectly fine. When it comes to these items, the risks associated with pre-loved gear far outweigh the potential cost savings. Safety should always be your top priority, so invest in new, reliable gear for these critical components of your climbing setup.

Verifying the Integrity of Used Climbing Gear

Ensuring the integrity of any gear is paramount; you’re placing your safety in the hands of these items, after all. Start with a thorough visual inspection, paying close attention to any signs of wear, corrosion, or deformation. For metal hardware like carabiners and cams, you’ll want to make sure the moving parts operate smoothly and that there are no visible cracks or signs of metal fatigue. It’s equally important to inspect the slings, webbing, or ropes for fraying, discoloration, or other indications of UV degradation or chemical damage.

But don’t just stop at the visual; perform some functional tests as well. For instance, carabiners should snap shut firmly and cams should expand and retract smoothly. The action on these items will tell you a lot about their wear and operational integrity. Belay devices should be free of deep grooves or sharp edges that might compromise their effectiveness or damage your rope.

If possible, try to gather some background information on the gear you’re considering. Ask the seller about the item’s history: how it was used, how old it is, and whether it has been involved in any falls or other situations that might compromise its safety. Some sellers keep logs or have maintenance records, particularly for more high-end and specialized equipment. It’s always better to have too much information than too little when it comes to ensuring your safety on the rocks.

Best Places to Buy & Sell Used Climbing Gear

Navigating the landscape of buying and selling used climbing gear has never been easier, thanks to a range of platforms tailored to various needs and comfort levels.

  1. Facebook Marketplace and specialized climbing groups on social media can be a goldmine for gear, offering the advantage of community vetting. Members often post reviews and experiences, and you can directly interact with the seller to ask questions or request additional photos.
  2. Thrift and consignment stores, particularly those in climbing or outdoor hubs, can sometimes surprise you with great finds. The advantage here is the opportunity to physically inspect the gear before making a purchase.
  3. Similarly, Craigslist offers a range of options, from individual pieces to entire climbing kits, often at negotiable prices. Just exercise due caution and always meet in a safe, public space for the exchange.
  4. Mountain Project has a dedicated platform for climbing equipment called the for sale, for free, want to buy forum.
  5. GearTrade.com offers new and used climbing equipment.
  6. REI Re/Supply offers inspected and certified used equipment, giving you a bit more peace of mind. Your local REI will also have Garage Sales, but you have to get there early to get the good stuff.
  7. Local climbing gyms and community bulletin boards can also be surprising treasure troves for cheap gear. Many gyms have a bulletin board where members can post gear they’re looking to sell, and because these are usually frequented by fellow new climbers, you can sometimes find quality gear at reasonable prices.
  8. Local climbing events or gear swap meets are also excellent opportunities to get hands-on experience with gear before you buy, all while connecting with your local climbing community.

Best Places to Buy Cheap Climbing Gear

If you find that buying used isn’t for you but still want to save some bucks, there are some places both online and in-person where you can find some cheap climbing gear. While getting a deal on climbing gear is always a win, it’s important to balance cost-saving with quality and safety.

Some of the best places to find cheap yet reliable new climbing gear are specialized outdoor retailers that offer discounts or sales. Outlets like REI Outlet, Steep & Cheap, and Sierra Trading Post regularly feature deals on new climbing gear from reputable brands. These are excellent platforms to score new, unused gear at a fraction of the original price.

Online sporting goods marketplaces like GearTrade.com offer a platform to buy both new and used gear, with the advantage of a targeted audience who understands the nuances of climbing equipment. These platforms often feature items that are almost new or lightly used, providing an economical way to upgrade or round out your kit. Happy hunting!

Conclusion

As we’ve navigated the intricate route of buying and selling used climbing gear, one principle remains constant: safety should always be your top priority. From the types of gear that are generally safe to buy used to the crucial red flags to watch for, making informed decisions can make all the difference between a successful day on the crag and an unfortunate incident. And while the allure of cost savings and sustainability is compelling, these should never compromise your safety or that of others.

Just like a well-planned climbing expedition, acquiring or selling used gear should involve meticulous research, detailed inspection, and thoughtful decision-making. Whether you’re looking to round out your rack, explore a new climbing discipline, or simply make room for upgrades, understanding the nuances of the pre-owned gear market can be incredibly beneficial.

And hey, if you ever find yourself in a bind or unsure about a particular piece of gear, don’t hesitate to seek expert advice; after all, we’re all part of a community that thrives on sharing knowledge and looking out for one another. So gear up, climb safely, and let the adventure continue.

FAQ’s

Is it OK to buy a used climbing harness?

No, it’s not advisable to buy a used climbing harness. The integrity of the harness can be compromised with heavy use and age, and any wear or damage may not be visible, making it a risky purchase.

What can I do with old climbing gear?

Old climbing gear that’s no longer safe for climbing can be repurposed for art projects, decorations, or non-load-bearing tasks. Some organizations also accept donations of old gear for educational and research purposes.

How can I find the best deals on used climbing gear?

The best deals on used climbing gear can often be found on specialized forums like Mountain Project, online marketplaces like GearTrade.com, and community boards at local climbing gyms. Keep an eye on sales, gear swap events, and don’t underestimate the power of community recommendations.

What should I consider when purchasing used climbing shoes?

When buying used climbing shoes, look for the overall condition of the rubber, particularly on the soles and edges. Check for any delamination, and make sure the Velcro or laces are in good condition. Comfort and fit are also critical, as your shoes need to be snug but not painfully tight.

Is it safe to buy used trad gear?

Buying used trad gear like cams can be safe if you’re knowledgeable about what to look for. Inspect the gear thoroughly for any signs of wear, damage, or malfunction. If you’re new to trad climbing or not confident in your ability to assess gear condition, consult with an experienced climber or guide before making a purchase.

Why Trust Know Nothing Nomads?

Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

We USE the gear we talk about. We’ve hiked 1000’s of miles. We have camped 1000’s of nights in the wilderness. We have sent hundreds of boulders and projects.

We don’t just know a few things about the outdoors — WE EAT, SLEEP, AND BREATHE IT.

We are not journalists from a magazine telling someone else’s stories from behind a computer. We are the ACTUAL outdoorsmen that those people write about. 

We are not a “gear lab” that runs tests on gear in life-like conditions. We are the seasoned, “trial-by-fire” experts who have taken the gear into the wilderness and USED IT. Read about our gear testing process here

We started Know Nothing Nomads to share our passion and expertise with our readers to inspire, educate, and enable you to explore the outdoors in the way that we have. And you will be more equipped and capable than ever before with the knowledge you gain here guiding you along the way.

And the best part? We are real people that LOVE our readers and this community. If you need anything or have a question about any of the things we have to write about, just reach out. Normally, one of us can respond within 24 hours, sometimes within minutes. THAT is the approachable expert.

You should also know that advertising does not influence our gear reviews in any way, shape, or form, and it never will.

While we always focus our attention on gear that stands out to us—sometimes we discover that things aren’t up to our standards. This is exactly why we will always talk about the downfalls and compromises that we find while we are testing anything (If we find any).

About The Author

Derek, Co-Founder at Know Nothing Nomads

My goal with my writing and Know Nothing Nomads as a whole is to share my passions of hiking, camping, and a love of the outdoors with our readers.

Making the difficult and uncertain feel more approachable to people that might not know enough to feel comfortable taking their first steps into the wilderness is a driving factor for me.

When I'm not writing you can find me on a trail, in a forest, or next to a river with hiking shoes on my feet and a fly rod somewhere close by.

Related Posts

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Know Nothing Nomads