Camping Gear

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

Posted On February 16, 2016 at 11:07 am by / Comments Off on 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, I have two kids that are 15 and 12 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 Sierra Trading Post and’s and REI’s outlets, where discontinued products are often sold really cheap. Sometimes you’ll find stuff that was expensive several months ago available at shockingly low prices.

Online and brick-and-mortar retailers also have regular sales, of course, timed for a change of season and before the holidays. If you’re not in a rush to get something, waiting for those sales can save you money.

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.


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.

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; in fact, my son picked up a new kayak this fall on CraigsList that was like new and about half the price of a new boat.

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



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!

NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

See my stories:

Buying Gear? Read This First
My 10 Most-Read Gear Reviews
5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear
Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?

See also my stories:

10 Tips For Raising Outdoors-Loving Kids
10 Tips For Getting Your Teenager Outdoors With You
10 Tips For Keeping Kids Happy and Safe Outdoors

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In Ask Me, I share and respond to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at, message me at, or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission. I now receive more questions than I can answer, so I ask that readers sending me a question be willing to make a $25 donation to this website through my Support button (top left of sidebar), for the time and expertise I put into a response. I will also provide a telephone consult for a $45 donation. Write to me first and I will tell you whether I can answer your question (I usually can); I will respond as quickly as I can. First scroll through my Ask Me page and All Trips pagesskills stories, and gear reviews for answers to your questions before writing to me.

—Michael Lanza

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