Ask Me: How Do I Outfit a Growing Kid Affordably?

Hey buddy,

Been a longtime reader of your blog. I am a father of a six-year-old daughter. When I was younger, my parents encouraged us to be active outdoors, and it is something that has stuck with me for my entire life. I am a huge fan of the way you have been able to encourage your kids to join you, and have been making a lot of progress getting my daughter excited about outdoor activities. We do a lot of geocaching, rock climbing, backpacking, and camping. The problem I am running into is the cost needed to properly outfit and gear my daughter.

Over the years I have spent quite a bit of money on making sure she has the right clothes and gear for our trips, but she grows so fast that I am typically unable to get more than a season out of anything. I was thinking about buying her used gear moving forward, but I am not able to find any good secondary markets for children’s clothes and gear. Right now, I rely heavily on L.L. Bean for her (seems to be the least-expensive, quality gear), but even then, spending $150 on a parka she will use once is a little overkill for me.

Do you have any advice or know of any good secondhand sources for kids’ gear?

Love everything you do, keep up the awesome blog!

Dallas, TX


My son, Nate, backpacking in Idaho's White Cloud Mountains.
My son, Nate, backpacking in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains.

Hi T.J.,

Thanks for writing. I can appreciate your problem, watching my kids zooming through their teenage years and growing like weeds.

For starters, see my story “5 Tips For Spending Less on Backpacking and Hiking Gear.”

Those tips are primarily meant for adults who aren’t growing out of their gear and clothing fast, but there may be some useful info in there for you, including shopping the discount online retailers, like The ClymbSierra Trading Post, and Steep & Cheap, and website’s with regular sales and bargains, like,,,, and REI Garage. Sometimes you’ll find stuff that was expensive several months ago available at deeply reduced prices. (By the way, besides getting you gear and clothing at bargain-basement prices, any purchases you make through links in this story will help support my work on this blog.)

Online and brick-and-mortar retailers also have regular sales, of course, timed for changes of season and before the holidays. If you’re not in a rush to get something, waiting for those sales can save you money. Buy gear in the off-season—hiking gear is cheapest in late-summer and fall clearance sales. Ask local gear stores whether they have any demo gear they’re selling cheap.

Honestly, if you go hiking, camping, and climbing in generally good weather, inexpensive fleece or wool from discount stores will work fine. When I was a young and poor hiker, I’d hit thrift stores and find wool sweaters and cheap rain jackets that got me through hiking and camping trips.


Check out my “10 Tips For Getting Your Teenager Outdoors With You
and “My Top 10 Family Outdoor Adventures.”


My daughter, Alex, backpacking in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains.
My daughter, Alex, backpacking in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.

Have you looked into whether there’s a used-gear exchange in your city? I’ve found at couple of them where I live. They’re great places to pick up used gear and apparel that’s in good shape and inexpensive. I have an app on my phone from that lists exchanges (of all kinds, not just outdoor gear) in many states, including Texas.

You should also find out whether any local outdoor-gear stores ever hold used-gear sales or garage sales, where people can bring stuff they want to sell cheap. Some REI stores host garage sales occasionally for members; go to Local and regional hiking and outdoor clubs may do the same thing.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today and others. I invite you to sign up for my FREE email newsletter by entering your email address in the box in the left sidebar, at the bottom of this post, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


CraigsList can be a good resource for inexpensive but good-quality gear—although you may have to check the site frequently for some time before you get lucky and find what you need. My son picked up a used kayak on CraigsList that was like new and about half the price of buying the same boat new.

It requires some time and effort, but there are ways to get outdoor gear and clothing more cheaply.



Make your kids want to go again. See my “10 Really Cool Outdoor Adventures With Kids.”



I appreciate the response, all very helpful info. I am lucky enough to have an REI right down the street, but was unfamiliar with Sierra Trading Post.

Thanks again.


P.S. If you haven’t been to either of the two national parks in Texas you are missing out!


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I can help you plan the best backpacking, hiking, or family adventure of your life.

Got a question about hiking, backpacking, planning a family adventure, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Email it to me at [email protected]. For $60, I’ll answer your questions via email to help ensure your trip is a success. I will also provide a telephone consult for $75. Write to me and I will tell you whether I can answer your question (I usually can). You may find helpful information in stories on my Ask Me page and All Trips page, and in my skills stories and gear reviews.

—Michael Lanza

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my Gear Reviews at The Big Outside.

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8 thoughts on “Ask Me: How Do I Outfit a Growing Kid Affordably?”

  1. For kids, try or, both online consignment sites. I just got my daughter an awesome, brand new looking Columbia shell and fleece for less than $20.

  2. And there’s always eBay. With their focus on customer satisfaction you can always return it if something was wrong with it and most sellers offer returns for ANY reason. You could find last year’s model, unused, at used prices.

  3. I get most of my kids’ outdoor gear from Sierra Trading Post. If you sign up for their deal flyer, you get bigger discounts, with the tradeoff that you have their daily email to deal with. It’s been the only way I’ve been able to afford to outfit them with every sport we’re into.

  4. Also try Land’s End. You can get a kid’s parka for a heckuva lot less than $150 there! That’s where we get our annual kids’ ski gear (living in SoCal with little other use for it).