for those who love the outdoors

31 January, 2024


Adventure Kit on a Budget

Adventures aren’t always cheap, but there are corners to cut as long as you don’t leave it too last minute!

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Of late, I’ve accidentally made it a habit to have a big adventure each Spring, beginning with a solo cycle along the Danube and most recently a short trip to the north of Ethiopia to see the incredible churches of Lalibela. This year, the adventure found me, when I spied an Instagram post from an acquaintance who was planning a week-long running trip through the Atacama Desert.

After procrastinating over cost of flights and my complete lack of ultra running experience, unsurprisingly I threw caution (read; budget) to the wind and signed up. Pretty pleased with myself, I then made it a priority to let everyone I knew that I was off to the mountains of South America, sleeping wild and slogging across glaciers and around pristine icy lakes.

So far, so smug, until I received my confirmation email, complete with booking terms, tips for training and four whole pages of kit list. Once I’d totted it all up, I figured out this decision was going to cost another couple of thousand pounds, on top of the basic trip cost and long-haul flights. We departed in less than eight weeks. What had I done?

To beg, borrow or steal?

Reader, I tried everything. As a tester for a well-known outdoors equipment retailer, I was hoping to blag at least something in return for some shameless Insta plugs. I also write for several other outdoors and sporting publications. I wrote some emails. I was complementary, I was kind. But nope. Not a sausage. No responses at all. Not even a no. Boo.

My second thought was, ‘what could my friends lend me?’ There are some keen campers in my crew. Could they lend me a suitable ground layer or bivvy? My enquiries yielded very little since the suggestion of lugging their expensive and much-loved kit through an unforgiving wilderness and several international airports wasn’t something they were keen to do. Which in retrospect seems entirely reasonable, of course.

In desperation, I made a wish list. Christmas was coming and perhaps I could do without my usual running and chocolate-related bits and pieces. This, at least, kitted me out with some lightweight wash kit and base layers. But the list went far further than a packaway mug and tiny towel. There were still waterproof layers, warm layers for the freezing nights, four seasons sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, rucksack, day pack, water systems... There was still a whole two pages to tick off and just four weeks to go.

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The only option left…

… was to buy. Disappointed, I began to consider ways to find what I needed for at least less than the list prices I was seeing online. But, as one who isn’t afraid to ask for help, it wasn’t long before I thought to reach out to my wider online community. I’d already asked friends and family, but online were dozens of people I’d camped wild with, met once at a running event, or, oddly, spent a day with in my underwear at a Wim Hof seminar at the Oval. They were like-minded adventures and surely a good source of support in my hour of need.

And didn’t they just come through! They were all well versed in cutting corners themselves so recommendations came in thick and fast. As long as I could stick to the list and not be tempted by the world of thrifty possibility they’d brought me into, I was finally looking in the right place.

I was in pre-loved heaven

Through my chums at Adventure Queens and Yes!Tribe, I found several good quality, second-hand bits of kit on the very first day after my desperate pleas went out. In fact, I hadn’t realised that Adventure Queens has its own group reselling everything from tents to cycle helmets, with several new posts each day. Straight away I found a perfectly spec’ed 60l backpack for £35 and a decent pair of hiking boots for the same price.

Facebook’s Outdoor Gear Exchange also came highly recommended by several respondents, and the site sellers obviously know their stuff. Most of the items on offer are high end (think Fjallraven, Rab, Patagonia) or specialist, and the prices can still be quite high, but you’re assured to get a well taken-care of piece of kit for your dollar.

Bargain hunting

Brand new kit wasn’t entirely out of the question though. Disappointingly, none of the larger brands that I would normally consider offered much in the way of knock-down prices, but patience can pay off, and there were a few retailers that came up trumps.

I’ve no doubt there are hundreds of bargain outdoors sites, but the only one I’ve continually returned to during my search is Magic Mountain, where I can snap up kit for a fraction of the original price – and there’s a good selection of sizes too! Restricted to just a few brands, it nevertheless has a wide selection of clothing and kit. I can see myself using this time and time again in the future.

A Vango initiative, Camping Recycled has an absolutely huge selection of ex-display tents at knock-down prices. It took just two minutes to find a suitable overnight pod at less than a quarter of the original price. Alpkit, one of my favourite brands has a fantastic member-only clearance site, which is free to join and worth giving up your email address for.

Kudos to Paramo, one outdoor brand that has actually launched its own second-hand store, albeit it via eBay. Over 2,000 pieces have been given extra life and, most importantly, boasts a 4.9/5 average rating from its customers. I don’t buy from eBay these days, but I’d recommend it anyway just for its dedication to the reuse movement.

Tick tick tick…

It’s now just ten days to departure and to date I’ve ticked off at least three quarters of my extensive list, saving well into four figures along the way. My training hasn’t quite gone so well (a slipped disc doesn’t do much for your endurance) but I’m in a positive mood. I must admit, I hadn’t anticipated tucking myself into a bright orange bivvy at night, nor sport a pair of overtrousers with go-faster stripes a’ la 1988, but who cares, I’m going adventuring!

The road ahead

It’s worth keeping in mind that these incredible adventure opportunities will only be around as long as there are adventurers giving old kit a new life, so a lot of my newly-acquired kit will be back on those sites once my tired legs return to Heathrow. For me, adventures like this are once-in-a-lifetime, so they won’t fulfil their potential in my possession. The kindest thing to do is to give them another adventure, with another thrifty traveller.

And with that in mind, Kit Squad is a great resource for anyone on a low income or receiving benefits. They take in good quality kit and grant it out to make adventures accessible to those who don’t think they can afford it. Some of my more useful bits and pieces will be going straight to Kit Squad post-adventure and I can bet they’ll be having another adventure before I do!

Jenny-Anne Dexter

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Jenny-Anne Dexter is a full-time life enthusiast, who likes to say yes to the abstract, the sublime and the ridiculous. A bog snorkeller, trail runner, year-round dipper and sometime cage fighter, she's open to suggestions as to her next challenge...

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