Getting what you need to get outside, sustainably!
By Cassie Bodgan-Slemmer, SW board member
One of the greatest opportunities we have to recharge and reconnect is to get into the great outdoors. There is something about exchanging ceilings for sky that sparks something in the soul; the experience simply can’t be replicated on screens. In turn, getting outside and having fun tends to foster a unique sense of connection to our planet; issues around air quality, water purity, biodiversity and conservation suddenly become personal experiences
rather than hypotheticals, and this can spur us to live in a way that honors and respects those values.
Yet, the outdoor industry is not immune to consumer culture or fast fashion practices. There are unhelpful (and untrue!) expectations that can pervade this space: specifically, the idea that we need expensive, new gear to really “belong”. This idea can proliferate a sense of exclusion, especially for new activities where one’s gear knowledge may be limited or you’re simply not wanting or able to spend that much dough.
The good news is that there are ways to equip yourselves to get outside simply, sustainably, and often, and for a great price (or even free)!
1) Don’t be afraid to use what you already have. Sure, there are pants specifically made for mountain biking. There are also pants for hiking, pants for climbing... pants for this and that and the other thing - but you certainly don’t need a full outfit for every spot. If you already have an item of clothing that will do the job, embrace it! Be creative with layering and finding multiple purposes for what you already own.
2) If you have it, and it’s broken, fix it! A lot of outdoor gear is designed to withstand the wear and tear of outside play, but is still not indestructible. If you have a rip in your favorite pants, a tear in your jacket or a missing screw on that crucial part, repairing the item is often much more sustainable than replacing it, and usually cheaper.
A few tips to help extend the life of your gear: - Products like Tenacious Tape can quickly and simply repair holes in jackets and other clothing items - You can restore the weatherproofing of gear like outer layers or tents by using gear treatments. A helpful breakdown of options for DIY restoration can be found here.
- If the issue is too complicated to fix easily at home, many brands, such as Patagonia, will repair most of their products for free. Check out what the company may have to offer in terms of repairs before you decide to replace a broken item.
- There are shops that specialize in repairing everything from zippers to restoring weatherproofing: some are local (American Shoe Shop will resole shoes, Pins and Needles may be able to tailor or help patch clothing), and some may require a trip (Woolly Goat Gear Repair in Twisp; Rainy Pass Repair in Seattle). WenatcheeOutdoors.org also has a nice list of local places that repair or rent gear, check it out here. - Don’t forget, regular servicing/upkeep goes a long way to help keep gear in good shape.
3) Rent Your friend is really excited about snowshoeing, and you want to go with them this weekend, but you’re not quite sure you want to invest in a pair of your own just yet. When you’re hesitant about committing financially to a new activity, consider renting! There are free and paid rental options in our area for a variety of gear items. For example, our local NCW library checks out snowshoes to patrons for free, and Arlberg has snowshoes and Nordic/alpine skis or snowboards available for rent. Elsewhere, REI and other stores have rental options for a whole slew of items.
Especially if you have an adventure coming up and you need a piece of gear that may not be used again (at least not for a while), renting gear can be a major cost saver and reduce the number of things in your closet that don’t see the light of day. For something more specific or not available locally, there are more and more sites offering rental opportunities, like ArriveOutdoors or KitLender.
4) Buy used The opportunities for used gear are varied, many and becoming easier to access by the day. This is a great option if you find you really do need a certain item, while mitigating the cost and environmental impact.
- Check out Colchuck Consignment, an exciting newer shop in Cashmere. They have a great selection of gently used gear for both adults and kids that you can try on and ask questions about. If you have gear that still has life in it but you’ve run out of use for, check out their consignment opportunities to sell your gear.
- Some brands have a used section on their webpage (Patagonia has Worn Wear, ArcTeryx has a used section, etc). - There are resell sites for almost anything: PinkBike for bikes, GearTrade for a little of everything, etc etc. Even apps like Poshmark have outdoor gear, and you can filter by brand and size if you have a specific one in mind. - Don’t forget our local thrift stores; you never know what gems you might be able to find! I’ve witnessed scores ranging from alpine or XC ski gear to down jackets, from merino wool and other base layers to hiking boots. - Sometimes, you may have a piece of gear that’s no longer working for you (or for your kid who just hit a growth spurt, again) - that gear can help facilitate a new purchase by selling used or consigning it. Check out Colchuck Consignment for selling opportunities.
5) When all else fails Sure, there are times when a piece of gear is just too hard to find through the means above. Whether it’s tricky sizing or just a unique enough item to make the search tough, buying new is still an option. Here are some tips to still keep in mind the sustainability factor: - Know what a brand is up to and what they’re about. This is not always easy to determine; “greenwashing” is a real practice, which is when brands try to seem more environmentally friendly than they really are. Apps like GoodOnYou can give you a glimpse at a clothing company’s ethics and sustainability practices with a simple search. Try to choose brands that reflect your values. - If you have the luxury of biding your time to make a purchase, consider buying in the off- season; you can find some deals on last season’s items that could otherwise go to waste. - Many brands have outlet stores that can get you access to heavily discounted items; they’re usually not in convenient locations to the Wenatchee area, so make a list of two or three of your favorites and keep them in mind if you end up on a road trip or traveling nearby.
I hope these tips empower you to try something new, get outside, and have a load of fun. Most importantly, I hope this reminds us all that gear can be fun, but it is a means to an end, not the other way around. The point of outdoor gear is to enable us to have fun, be safe and reasonably comfortable while we enjoy our beautiful planet, whether our gear is 2 years old or 20. Nature isn’t judging your fashion choices, taking notes on what ski bindings you have or counting how many patches your jacket has; don’t let external pressures keep you from having the time of your life. Adventure awaits!