My favorite outdoor outfitter is by far Goodwill Thrift Stores with The Salvation Army coming in at close second. I’m lucky as I live in NYC and have 2 very active Goodwill and 1 Salvation Army Thrift stores in between my home and work. I find so much high quality gear that I can be picky about what I decide to add to my gear. Let’s look at what I found over the past month in three visits.
Before I show the bounty I turned up you should know that I am pretty familiar with these stores. I have donated a fair amount of things every time I move out of NYC. I know when the stores get their drop off, when things get processed, and when the merchandise hits the shelves. I’ll follow this up with a short ‘How To’. I’m not lucky, I’m consistent.
Actual Bicycle Gear
I found a really nice base layer from Helly Hansen that I purchased for $6.99. It’s in perfect shape and I invite you to buy your own at amazon.com – Helly Hansen Warm Freeze 1/2 Zip Mens Long Underwear Top. This top retails for $90-$120…A score from Goodwill. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was never used by the original owner. There is nothing like Merino wool.
This is a lightweight and packable high visibility Illuminite cycling jacket from Performance Bicycle. I’m pretty sure that this jacket is no longer made. A quick search on Amazon shows many pricey IllumiNite products. This may even be a woman’s model. It packs well, is high visibility, and will cut the wind so at $5.99 from The Salvation Army I am quite happy to add it to my gear pile.
A brand new United States Postal Office cycling jersey for $5.99 from Goodwill. This is in perfect shape. I see a lot of ‘Livestrong’ and Lance related gear in thrift stores. I have forgiven Lance and will have no problem riding around in this.
A slightly weathered but still serviceable Pearl Izumi cycling jersey for $3.99. The zipper pulls down about 1/2 length.
A North Face Tekware wind vest with a mesh back for $2.99. This thing packs up to wallet size and is the perfect compliment to those times when the speed at which you are traveling brings a slight chill to the rider.
This is a wool dress vest and is 100% cashmere. This will fit perfectly under the wind vest above and help provide some insulation while on the bike or at night. This thing is warm, soft, and CHEAP! I am tempted to wear this to work – $3.99.
I challenge anyone anywhere to go into a thrift store and NOT find Merino wool products for less than $5.99. This is 100% merino wool and has a full length zipper. It’s a small size and will be used for those nights when the chill is on.
Two pair of name brand long undies. I paid $1.99 for the Arcteryx [woman's] pair and $0.99 for the Terramar pair. This is easily a savings of over $50. They both look to be largely unused. I bought two additional pairs of the Terramar brand in super small sizes that I will fashion a set of arm warmers from.
I find so much Under Armour gear that it almost a joke. I pay less than $3.99 per UA item. The hat was $0.99. If you want to get super cheap there are throngs of knock off UA gear with different brand names.
These are a packable set of ‘Rucanor’ rain pants. I hate rain pants and use them as little as possible. It is nice to have a super duper packable set for times when your body temperature might be affected by the wet weather. The seams are taped and the velcro cuffs will help prevent these from getting caught in the chain. I hope to never use these so $3.99 is an acceptable price.
EMS GoreTex full zipper rain pants. These are not so packable but were such a good buy at $8.99 that I couldn’t pass them up. They are in perfect shape. I have not decided if I am bringing these yet.
Off the bike
Again ‘Livestrong’ gear is everywhere in the Thrift isles. These look unworn. They will make the perfect ‘camp pant’. Lightweight, stylish, packable, pockets, pull cords on the ankle cuffs, and quick drying material. Look at the drawcord in the closeup. These have never even been used. What’s not to like at $6.99.
Every time their is a big running event you will find high quality name brand athletic apparel with the event name stamped on the front and sleeve. There were at least 100 NYC Marathon shirts in all shapes and sizes. This will be a great camp shirt for $3.99.
A brand new Brooks running tank top for $3.99. The perfect camp lounging gear inside the tent when things are muggy.
How to Find Gear in a Thrift Store
1. Locate the Thrift stores that are convenient to you. Cast a small net where you can visit regularly.
2. Be nice to the employees and ask when they usually get their shipments in.
3. Consistency is the key here. Regular visits and canvas the whole store.
4. If you are a small to medium sized male do not overlook the ladies and kids sections. There will be lots of misplaced items. All small sized unisex items seem to find their way into these sections. Nobody is watching…just go for it.
5. Scrutinize everything: Check zippers, buttons, drawcords, and look for wear and tear. Cuffs and collars take a beating. If anything strikes you as off putting put the item back and move on.
6. Learn how to scan racks for the right materials. I can zero in on lightweight windproof and waterproof materials with a scan of the eye.
7. A smartphone can help you google a product to see if it is worthy of your kit.
8. Take your time. I think you will find this to be an enjoyable activity.
9. Be prepared to wait at the register. This isn’t retail and they will be understaffed.
10. Start donating stuff you don’t use then find it in the store. See how quick the rotation is from donation until it is removed from the rack. It’s a new store every two weeks.
11. They won’t allow you to carry a backpack or bag in the store so show up with one you can fit in a pocket.
12. Most places do NOT have a fitting room. Find a dark corner and just go for it. Nobody cares as long as there are no kids running around.
13. Don’t be a junk collector. Know what you need and go find it. Know your size. Don’t get caught up in buying stuff you don’t need.
14. Take it home and wash it and any clothes you used to try these on over/with in VERY HOT water.
15. Have fun. My sister introduced me to The Salvation Army when I was just a kid. It’s basically a treasure hunt.