Could a UL Gear Exchange Work?

Evernew DX Alcohol Stove Set

The concept of a backpacking gear exchange has been tried before, I recall something on the East Coast not so long ago, but it eventually failed – I don’t know the details why.

When I look at the amount of unused or lightly used gear that I have in my closet as a result of my gear addiction it scares me. Multiply that by the number of us that active in the online backpacking blog community and you start to get an idea for how much gear is sitting around and going to waste. It’s stagering!

There seems to be a gear backlash movement gathering momentum this year (see JERMM’s outside), you’ve read that I am cleaning out my gear closet and also being very deliberate to buy as little new gear as possible this year, there are many of my peers that feel the same way and have made it one of their resolutions to buy no new gear in 2012. It will be interesting to see if this effects the manufacturers at all – probably not very much.

I’ve also read a lot more posts about retasking, reusing, and recycling gear rather than simply replacing it just to have the latest and greatest version. Does the gear we have already do the job we need it to? Do we really need to spend $50+ to shave 1gram off a headlamp?

We Have the Know-How
I want to pick your brains about what it would take to possibly design, build, establish and maintain a successful UL gear exchange service. I’m not asking because I want to build one or even own one myself, I’m asking because I would love to make use of one – heck I’m the perfect candidate!

Think of this as harnessing the collective thought power of the online UL community – crowd-sourcing put more simply. As a community we have tremendous amount of experience that spans just about every form of expertise necessary to pull off something like this, we just need to tap into that. Think about what experience and skills you have that could help?

We all see new and amazing online services starting up every week, there are already some great general purpose sites that do exactly what I am suggesting but in a more generic way – Ecomodo, Loanables are two examples that come to mind, I know there are others.

Sheath Knives

Is There Demand?
I guess the first thing I would be interested to have an answer for is whether or not there is a need or demand for a service such as this? Would you be willing to exchange your gear in order to receive some other piece of gear that you need or want more? If this is a crazy idea not worth pursuing then tell me so, I’m cool with being told it’s stupid – but a part of me still believes it viable if done right with all the necessary checks and balances.

What are your thoughts on the idea of a UL gear exchange? Is it worth pursuing and if so what are some of the important considerations or gotchas to avoid? What lessons can we learn from the previous attempts?

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  • Dambara

    All for it!  Craigslist can only go so far…

  • Taylor Eley

    I think it could definitely work.  Think about how successful and efficient the “for sale” sections of BackpackingLight and HammockForums are. 

    Here is what I can see it looking like.  There is one location that would funstion as the “stock room” and when you want to exchange a piece of gear you send in your piece, it gets valued and that becomes the balance of your account, like a paypal account.  Valuing each piece just ensures that you get out of the exchange what you put into it.  Then you are free to pick out any piece that you want for the same value of what you have put in the pot.  Maybe a small membership fee or a small per transaction fee to compensate the middle man for their time and efforts.

    OR we could just make a UL dedicated “craigslist” and leave the bargaining and shipping arrangements up to the exchangers themselves.

    very simple or considerably more involved… just thoughts

  • Taylor Eley

    I think it could definitely work.  Think about how successful and efficient the “for sale” sections of BackpackingLight and HammockForums are. 
     
    Here is what I can see it looking like.  There is one location that would funstion as the “stock room” and when you want to exchange a piece of gear you send in your piece, it gets valued and that becomes the balance of your account, like a paypal account.  Valuing each piece just ensures that you get out of the exchange what you put into it.  Then you are free to pick out any piece that you want for the same value of what you have put in the pot.  Maybe a small membership fee or a small per transaction fee to compensate the middle man for their time and efforts.
     
    OR we could just make a UL dedicated “craigslist” and leave the bargaining and shipping arrangements up to the exchangers themselves.
     
    very simple or considerably more involved… just thoughts

  • http://twitter.com/TrailSavvy Jake Willits

    Brian, I know what you mean. I also have a gear accumulation weakness to my character. It starts out as simple exploration into more efficient items. It ends when I own 4 different L.E.D. headlamps. There hasn’t been a good way to test an item for yourself before buying. So I buy 4 alternatives, then end up with 2-3 that I never use. Sure, they make good loaners. I recently noticed that I could outfit 2 companion hikers for a weekend trip(excepting rain gear). That’s when I decided that I have a bit of a problem. If there was a place to offload unused gear before it becomes obsolete, then I would have what I want, without paying such a price for it. E-Bay is great, but try looking for a Nunatak quilt on there. 

  • Emmie Loulou

    Piggy backing on the “Shit … Says” trend, here’s a fresh entrant that Christy Smith dreamed up and I helped create with  Emma Fulton and Richie Pepene carrying all scenes! Would love help to get this sucker get out there and get views – if you’ve got a YouTube account and like what we’ve done, please LIKE and SHARE it on Facebook – thanks! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYOTwddGvm8&feature=colike

  • Charles

    I’ve looked for such a thing with no success. Although I’m trying to go UL, most of what I have to offer would not be UL. Still, for beginners or people who aren’t gram freaks, I think it would be a good thing as well. Anyway, bottom line, I think it’s a cool idea for backpackers.

  • TheGipper

    Define “UL” cause no one else can. It means entirely different things to the guys at REI than those at BPL. It would quickly turn into just a general place for gear swap even though it would be nice to have it as a resource.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Gipper, I don’t need to get hung up on defining what UL means, but that does sounds like the perfect discussion for fanatics to have over at BPL.

    The key to this is have a functioning mechanism for swapping/trading gear that is targeted to backpackers who are interested in lightweight/UL/SUL backpacking gear. If your point is that the scope of that solution it not specific enough then point taken.

    I would think that an active community of interested users on such a system could self-regulate (moderate) the content being posted, it’s not hard to do in a social forum setting.

    Assuming those things can be handled, don’t you tink this would be really useful?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Charles, my guess is that there would be people at all levels of the “going lighter” spectrum, so you might be surprised by what people need. I was thinking the same thing that gear I may not find UL anymore, may still be UL compared to where others are.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04917568054208716852 Kevin McNamara

    If your thinking of selling that fallkiven knife I might be interested. Contact me via email with a price. Why don’t you just post up on your blog a list of items you want to get rid of? Or some sort of link or something I’m not very geek but you know what I mean. Enjoying the read thanks.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Some good suggestions here. The perfect example that it can be as complicated or simple as necessary. My only concern is that it starts simple in the wrong place and then becomes difficult or impossible to scale up or move.

    Maybe a designated section of Craig’s List would be easiest for all? I’d much prefer to have some extra features like weight conversions, photos, links to reviews etc…

  • Gizmo
  • Mandocat

    Go to hammockforums.net; see the PIF (pay it forward) thread to see how it’s done.

  • http://www.adventureinprogress.com/ Damien @ ADVENTUREinPROGRESS

    What would make something like this better than the BPL gear swap forum? There are already a lot of UL pople there, a good audience already exists. If you are talking about gear exchange instead of involving money, perhaps BPL could setup a trade forum in companion to the for-sale one.

  • JJ_Mathes

    Brian-  what I’m doing with mu unused gear isn’t the same thing as you’re talking about, but it’s putting excess gear to a good use.
    I’m sorting through my gear now and over the next couple of months. Everything  deemed as not used, in good and working condition will be added to a special box and shipped to my friend Jeff who takes underprivileged kids backpacking every summer on the AT for 100 miles, some have completed 500 miles so far. So, I’m donating my unused gear to Jeff and the kids. I recently sold some of my gear with the funds from the sale I can purchase new MSR Pocket Rockets to donate. The purchase of the stoves is separate from the No New Gear 2012 commitment. The way I see it is these kids are getting opportunity to escape even if for a short time what many of us would consider to be a less than desirable environment  and enjoy so much that we as backpackers sometimes take for granite. I’ve see photos of these kids when they’re on the trail, the smiles on their faces are priceless.BTW- thanks for the blog link. 

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Thanks for the link and suggestion. Unfortunately I can view the thread because I do not have 50 points or something. Can you shed any more light on how it works at a high level, or is it just a simple forum?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Damien, great question. I don’t know to be honest and have no experience with the BPL gear swap forum. Right off the top of my head I’d have to say that the format of a discussion forum is a total buzz kill for me personally, but that’s just me.

    Maybe the best way to go about this is to leverage what’s already there and add onto it? Maybe the problem is that not enough people know about the BPL gear swap forum.

    I’m just throwing this out there. If it’s just a matter of awareness for existing sites, that’s great and fine by me. A social app (“hey I just traded this great gear on..”) or a mobile app would be really nice though right? Forums, really?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Oh I know, I was just referencing you as someone that is saying “no” to new gear in 2012 – which I think is great. Also great to hear about your plans for your unused gear, I’ve earmarked certain things to donate to my local BSA troops because I know they could use the equipment and it will make a lot of young kids very happy. It is good to see those huge smiles isn’t it!

  • Gizmo

    I really like second gear in Asheville NC, you can outright purchase used gear or trade stuff in on other gear……..you can check it out here……. http://www.secondgearwnc.com/ …..They seem decent on prices and thoughtfully set up.

    Gizmo

  • Karla from CO

    My thought is to broaden the scope and make it a site to exchange all types of backpacking/camping gear – UL and regular plus car camping stuff, too. This would include more people and result in more gear being listed, thus perhaps more possibilities of finding what you want, but not get lost in all the Craigslist postings.  And then the definition of UL wouldn’t have to be debated – just list an item with specs and photos and let the user decide. “)

    Call it “Back to Back” = the gear goes from one back to another… 

  • http://www.beuteltiere.org/ Basti Beuteltiere

    Have you already had a look at http://www.kaffelykke.com/gearswap/
    by Nordic Light Packing? Still quite unknown but used by some well known UL-bloggers. It’s a smart trading platform. You can either search, sell or even exchange gear! 
    Got a nearly unused Haglöfs Oz there.

  • James Conley

    What you’ve ultimately described is craigslist and ebay.

  • Qz4bhansen

    Yes, I like the idea. Would rather see included all types of gear, not just UL. Example: I have a never used (all tags still on it, too) -25 sleeping bag for which I have no need. It’s lightweight, but don’t know if it qualifies as UL.

  • DillonJohn

    It seems more like a synthesis of the ebay and craigslist platforms, targeted at a much more specific user base. The notion of having an integrated mobile/social app sounds like a good idea too. If it were me, I would go that route. A brick-and-mortar warehouse would mean either rent or purchase costs, as well as utility bills and a certain amount of staffing. All these costs add up quickly and make it much more difficult to start a project like this. If one were to go the web-based / user-based route, where at least initially all the trading/buying/selling was done through the exchange service (at a nominal fee, to cover maintenance and upgrade costs), but by the interested parties, it would be considerably more cost effective. Eventually, if the concept became widely adopted and successful, integrating a secondary service wherein the operator(s) of the gear exchange had a warehouse from which to keep a consistent stock, it could only become more successful. I also agree with those who suggested that making it a more general-use exchange would allow for greater acceptance within the community of backpackers and campers. Gear could easily be categorized by many different factors, simply by requiring basic information like manufacturer, model, weight, color, level of wear-and-tear, etc. to be filled out in a form that would be used by anyone who had some gear they wanted to trade.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    No it’s not. My ideal solution would be a backpacking gear trading/swapping tool without the underlying selling/purchasing capability. More of a platform credit system with social integration.

    If I wanted to just sell gear I’d use one of the two you had mentioned. I’m suggesting something different and community based. If I was not clear about that then I apologize.

    From the comments I’ve read it seems there are several active sites already doing this.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Point taken on the whole UL thing, let’s not get hung up on that. We might need categories for condition of gear: New/un-opened, opened but still has tags, lightly used, etc..

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I like it! I’d even like to see some sort of gear weight metadata so that I could plan how much my gear would be if I picked up this new piece or swapped it out. Maybe even links to the manufacturer’s site and user manuals.

  • http://twitter.com/janwillembol Jan Willem Bol

    In addition to the exchange of gear; there should be an option to purchase second hand gear. For instance, I’m a backpacking starter and I don’t have much gear of my own. But might be interested in one of your not / lightly used products. I’d like to pay for it, just not the (top) prices some manufacturers charge :)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    And that’s precisely why I don’t want to use ebay or craigslist. There is implied trust in our smaller community and flexibility if things don’t work out. We’re each so highly visible that there is no real way to hide behind a username like a bad seller on ebay. If I sell or trade gear with you I am going to remain approachable and friendly if something goes wrong or you are not happy. There’s a LOT to be said for that.

  • Brian Literman

    GearTrade.com handles a lot of the sorting that has been mentioned, but with a buy/sell platform instead of bartering. I’m pretty sure that site is managed by Backcountry.com so I wouldn’t know how willing they would be to add barter functionality. They already allow private users to list their items (at no charge as far as I can tell) so they might be willing to add the added function. Some people offer trades for items in the comments section, but these aren’t protected by the site’s buyer assurance program.

  • http://informatiqs.com/ Brian G.

    I think it’s a great idea! Sign me up!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16379286384274427821 Leo

    I think that it would be wonderful.

  • Jimmy Bob

    I think the forums on http://www.backpackinglight.com are pretty good for this.  The Membership fee is pretty steep, but it sort of makes it a smaller/more trustworthy/willing to pay/buy gear online community

  • Ryan Wheeler

    I’ve only been starting to really pay attention to my gear weight while prepping for my AT thru. Before that, I would carry a 70L pack loaded full with everything I had, even for a day hike. I’ve now been taking a keen eye to everything on my back, and have already had drastic improvement on that.

    I’m not quite UL yet, but I’m getting there, and I think something like this would be a great service to me testing out other pieces of gear to see how I like them vs. other items that I’ve used. I don’t have much to offer in terms of gear to send back to whoever else, but I’d definitely enjoy a site that’s specific for UL-UL trades. At least it’d be a reassurance that if I end up pulling the trigger on something I don’t quite like, or am not ready for, then there’s an option to simply trade it to someone else for something different. Much less risk in taking the UL plunge than without it, if you ask me.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I’ve never been a paid or very active member of BPL so I kinda missed that this feature even existed. If that’s sufficient then that’s great, I’m merely asking if there is a demand and if solutions are available or need to be created?