Cheap Gear

You can afford to just do it.

Any working stiff who’s tried to pick up a new sport knows how intimidating the outfitting process can be. Love skiing the backcountry but can’t stomach the thought of shelling out $1500 for a new randonnee setup? Think hockey looks cool but don’t feel it’s worth selling your car for? You’re not alone. With all the usual demands on your hard-earned paycheck, you can’t afford to be buying new stuff each time you pick up a new sport—which, in this alpine wonderland, could be every season.

Not to mention that used gear also helps you escape the scorn endured by all those overly-outfitted wannabes who never leave the ski lodge. As these posers putz along, you’ll proudly race past in your $15 Montana Woolen army pants that still have deer blood on them from hunting season. And with your duct-taped 10-year-old ski coat, it won’t matter how you ski or where you’re from—you’ll always fit in amid the ranks of the real hardcores: those quiet, unassuming rippers who wash dishes at night and hike the Ridge all day.

Fact is, most of us simply can’t afford a ton of new gear. We work for a living and always will. The good news is that there are plenty of options; you just have to be resourceful, creative, and diligent. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to shred the chutes at Bridger, cruise Lone Mountain’s cross-country trails, climb vertical ice, or chase a puck at the hockey rink; with a little bit of effort everyone should be able to find affordable gear. So follow these tips and save yourself some precious dough.

Tips for Buying Gear—New or Used
If you’re starting a new sport, just do it… but do it right. Don’t wait for the perfect gear assortment to get started; waiting only keeps you out of it. You can usually get by with some creative substitutions—maybe your hockey helmet will work for ice climbing (and imagine the looks you’ll get from the seasoned veterans!). But do get the gear that fits you and your budget. If you don’t like your new athletic endeavor or are quitting an old one, there are many places that will buy your gear back. Also, you can trade in and trade up when you know more about the product features you like and don’t like. The main point is to just get going.

With used gear you’ll often have the opportunity to dicker, so get as much information as you can before the negotiations start. You shouldn’t pay more than half of what the product sells for new, today. For example, if a ski sold new for $800 in 2003, and today it’s offered unused online for $400, then offer the guy $200. The best hagglers are those who at least feign indifference to the item in question; be prepared to walk out if you can’t get the price you want. Chances are there’s something similar just down the street.

Got kids? You want them to be addicts, right? So get the right gear that fits their size and ability. Otherwise they won’t have fun. If you don’t know much about sizing, I recommend getting some help from a friend who does know or shop at a new or used sports store where you can get helpful, well-informed advice.

Store Shopping Pros & Cons
The upside to shopping at a retail store is well-known: personal, face-to-face customer service; you can try the gear on and fit it right then and there; there’s usually a solid warranty and service is nearby; and you’ll be feeding the local economy. The downside? The store may have higher prices than online (although many stores will match it if you show them the online price), certain items may be out of stock, and store-shopping necessitates a drive down there and back. Decide which considerations are most important to you. The key is not to become a creature of habit; that’s when you begin to overlook money-saving options simply for the sake of routine.

Area Sporting Goods Stores
Play It Again Sports
(Oak St., between 7th & 19th) offers a mix of new and used gear for a variety of individual sports and activities. The Barn on Huffine Lane has new closeouts of gear and clothing. For used consignments, try Second Wind Sports (corner of Olive and Willson) and Nu2U (N. 7th). For lesser-quality gear but better prices, don’t overlook the Salvation Army off Baxter Ln. and Sacks of Bozeman on the corner of 3rd and Mendenhall. The various pawn shops around town are another great resource for used gear, and much of it is in almost-new condition. Just remember, these guys are top-notch hagglers, so you’ll have to be on your game to get a really good deal.

Other Sources
Every October, the Bozeman Gear Swap offers a venue for buyers and sellers to get together and swap new and used gear on the cheap. The Bridger Ski Foundation’s annual Ski Swap is held on the first weekend in November; BSF members get early entry. Don’t forget to call your friends; they may be getting ready to take a load to the Salvy and you could spare them a trip while scoring yourself some serviceable gear. The MSU Student Union has a trader board in the basement and is always worth a look—students are notorious for needing cash on the quick. The Chronicle classifieds and the Mini Nickel are great places to find good deals as well. One of the best ways is to just put the word out—work your gear needs into conversations and you’ll be amazed at how quickly someone will appear with the item you need, or at least something close.

Matt Kraska has lived in Bozeman since 1987 and is the owner of Play It Again Sports, a new and used sporting goods store in Bozeman. Call him at 587-7427, or stop by the store on Oak St., just west of Kenyon Noble.