Don’t Rent Outdoor Gear On Your Next Vacation — Do This Instead

Image: ski gear
Trysil under Creative Commons

Renting out things you already own is a great way to make extra money. However, being on the other side of the rental equation can be a budget buster.

The All-American family vacation often involves outdoor activities, and these activities require gear. From kayaks to bicycles to skis, renting these items for a week-long vacation can be pricey. What’s a Penny Hoarder to do?

How Much Does It Cost to Rent Outdoor Gear?

Renting a bike for a day typically costs from $39 to $89. At those rates, a family of four looking to rent bikes for a seven-day holiday can easily spend $1,700+ on a week’s worth of bike rentals. Prices on kayak, raft, ski or snowboard rentals are often even higher. With airline fees of up to $400 roundtrip to transport a bicycle, bringing a bike from home is not a budget-friendly option either.

But there is an alternative to forking out hundreds or thousands of dollars on rental gear: buying and reselling items at your destination. This often-overlooked option allows you to sell equipment in virtually the same condition as when it was purchased, keeping the resale value high.

You don’t want to spend your whole vacation hawking gear and negotiating over prices. Here’s how to make this process quick and easy:

Tips for Buying Equipment

First, do your homework before you leave home. If you can arrange a purchase and have it waiting for you when you get to your destination, you’ll be able to spend more of your vacation time enjoying the gear, instead of hunting it down.

Where to Look for Gear

    • Used sporting goods stores: Talk with them ahead of time to see if you can sell the items back to them when you leave, in exchange for a discount. This way, they’ll get two sales out of same item and you’ll save money.
    • Thrift stores: While not every thrift store will have a good selection of sporting gear, some will have treasures at bargain prices. Call ahead from your hometown to check on selection.


  • Craigslist: An obvious go-to, this site is a great option to check before you leave for your vacation. You might even be able to get sellers to hold onto equipment until you arrive.
  • FreeCycle: If you can get a bike for free, you can sell it for profit when you leave, or return the goodwill by FreeCycling it again.
  • Garage sales: Keep an eye out for large, multi-family or neighborhood sales in your destination. If possible, call ahead and inquire about selection and see if they will hold the items for you.
  • Big-box stores and discount retailers: Scope out the best sales and have the item delivered to a store at your destination.
  • Warehouse clubs: Check the seasonal sales at Sam’s Club, Costco, or other warehouse clubs. Sometimes, they have great deals on equipment.
  • Local newspapers: Look online in the classifieds at your destination’s newspaper. Consider placing an ad to buy or sell gear.
  • Local message boards: Many smaller towns have online message boards where community members buy and sell all sorts of items.
  • Local radio programs: Some smaller communities have “garage sales” on the radio.

Team Up With Others

If you know a family heading to the same destination, team up and arrange to buy equipment from them when you arrive, or sell it to them when you leave, with each family handling one half of the buying and selling.

You could also look for others heading to the same destination on travel forums such as Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree, and coordinate with them.

Talk to Local Rental Shops

Dealing directly with local rental shops can be another good option. See if they have any used bikes for sale, and inquire about other options.

One bike shop manager I spoke with said that occasionally they will allow someone to purchase a bike at the wholesale price, use it for the week, then give it back to them to use in their rental fleet. This tactic saves the family and the bike shop money. They don’t advertise this option and only employ it once in a while, but it’s always worth asking. This strategy offers a significant discount over renting. Other options can offer more savings, but this one has the advantage of guaranteed buy-back.

Check Gear Carefully Before Buying

Of course, with any used sporting goods, make sure everything is in working condition. Since you’re just using it for a week or so, there’s no need to purchase goods in perfect condition, but do make sure it’s road/river/slope-worthy and safe.

The better condition the gear is in when you buy it, the better your options for resale. Be wary of any damage the gear may accumulate during the time you’re using it, since that would lower its resale value.

Tips for Reselling Equipment

Ideally, you will have a buyer in place when you make your purchase (such as a shop willing to purchase the item back). If not, as soon as you purchase the item, post it for sale on Craigslist and other venues. Put an ad in the local newspaper, on online message boards, and any garage sale radio programs. You can even post fliers around town at popular spots. Target areas where college students hang out — they’re often in the market for cheap used gear.

If you don’t have time to haggle, go a little lower on the price for a quick sale. The less you pay for your original purchase, the more profit you’ll make on the resale. Remember that even if you sell the equipment at a similar price to what you paid, you still saved significantly on rental costs.

Consignment shops and used sporting goods shops should be lower on your list, since they can take a pretty high (often 40%) cut of the profits. However, if you’re low on time and not having luck selling the equipment, they’re good options. Also consider donating the gear to a local nonprofit, such as a homeless shelter, outdoor education program, or nonprofit thrift store. This is a good way to help local families — with the bonus of a tax deduction.

There’s always the risk that you won’t be able to resell the item, but with steep rental fees (and a guarantee of no payback on rental fees), many find it’s a risk they are willing to take.

Your Turn: Would you buy and resell instead of renting gear on your next vacation?

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.