What To Do With Your Old Or Damaged Outdoor Gear | Kit Care Guide - Outdoors Magic

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What To Do With Your Old Or Damaged Outdoor Gear | Kit Care Guide

Stop your old kit from going to landfill: get it fixed for free or give it away to someone in need

What do you do with the outdoor gear you no longer need? Chuck it? Stuff it in a dusty box or cupboard somewhere for years? Or use it to help someone else get outdoors? There are loads of good ways to give old gear new life. That’s a good thing, since a lot of outdoor clothing and equipment is made up of synthetic material which can be hard to recycle and might take hundreds of years to decompose.

To stop outdoor kit ending up in landfill, here’s our guide on what to do with outdated, worn out or simply unwanted outdoor kit.

Give It Away

One of the easiest and most beneficial things you can do to give old new life is simply donate it to someone else. Gift Your Gear collect all sorts of outdoor kit, as long as it’s in usable condition. Clothing, camping equipment, backpacks, sunglasses and maps and guidebooks are all accepted. These items are then redistributed to UK community organisations, youth groups and charities working with young people in the outdoors. Donations can be posted or collected by a local group, making it pretty straightforward for you too. This is perfect if you have an accumulated pile of unused kit.

Alpkit run a similar scheme with their Continuum Project. Good, clean, functional kit is passed on to charities working with groups at home and abroad. They’ll accept a wide range of kit including clothing, camping gear and rucksacks. These items go straight to projects working with the homeless, to porters on Kilimanjaro and many others.

Some outdoor groups such as Girl Guides, Scouts and Duke of Edinburgh will accept functional, clean kit too. Get in touch with your local group to find out. Homeless shelters may also welcome donations of clean, warm clothing and camping equipment. Find places near you at Homeless Link. Sleeping bags are accepted by some animal shelters to be used as bedding for cats and dogs.

And then, of course, there are a variety of sharing websites and apps, the most well-known of which is probably Freecycle. This operates in regional groups, where pretty much anything, in any condition, can be offered for free.

…And Get Paid

Of course, you can always use your old kit to fund (at least partially) the new, shiny stuff. Rohan have collection points in all their stores thanks to a partnership with Gift Your Gear (see above). This gives you 15% off any purchase made on the same day in exchange for clean, functional kit. The donation and discount scheme only runs for fixed periods, however, so check their website for the latest dates.

Alternatively, specialist groups such as the Outdoor Gear Exchange or Outdoor Kit Exchange on Facebook are great places to buy and sell unwanted outdoor gear. You’ll need a Facebook account and to join the groups in order to post here. Then, of course, there are more general sites such as eBay or Gumtree. Unwanted kit can be bought and sold on either site, but you won’t reach such a specialist audience.

Give Old Gear New Life

If there’s life in the old dog yet, then a little bit of care can restore your kit to almost-new quality. Waterproof jackets are commonly misidentified as being knackered, when in fact what they need is a deep clean and reproofing treatment. ‘Wetting out’ is when water no longer rolls off the surface of the fabric. It is most often caused by the wearing away or masking of the DWR (durable water repellent) treatment on the outer fabric. Happily, this is an easy fix.

Nikwax, Grangers and Storm Care all produce washes and reproofers that can simply be added to your washing machine. Never use ordinary clothing detergent on waterproof fabrics as it irreversibly clogs the waterproof-breathable membrane. This makes it impossible for moisture from the inside of your jacket to move outside of it. In case of this tragedy, skip ahead to ‘recycle’.

The same applies to almost all fabric; tents and sleeping bags included. Down items especially can benefit from a periodic wash and re-fluff to restore loft. Always use a specialist down wash and spin thoroughly in the washing machine before drying. Chucking a studded ball in the drier with it will help to break up clumps and restore loft.

When it comes to simple gear repairs, there is plenty of advice online. Check out our Outdoors Magic guides on how to give old gear new life. We’ve recently covered how to repair a down jacket and how to repair torn waterproofs. We’ve also put together useful articles on retaping the seams of your waterproof jacket and patching an inflatable sleeping mat. US brand Patagonia have also produced a series of short videos with instructions on how to perform simple repairs such as rethreading a drawstring.

…Or Get It Fixed

Of course, doing this kind of home-care on your beloved (and often pricey) outdoor kit can be a heart-in-mouth operation, in which case you can get someone more experienced to do it for you. George Fisher in Keswick offer an in-house reproofing service and will test the clothing afterwards to make sure all is well. They charge £10 for one garment and £15 for two. High street drycleaners, Johnson, offer the same service too. However, it might take up to two weeks – much longer than George Fisher’s one-day turnaround.

Some things, unfortunately, are beyond such simple rejuvenation. But despair not. Alpkit will repair products from any brand at their stores in Hathersage, Ambleside, Keswick and Gateshead. Their ‘Hack Patch and Sew’ services aim to give old gear new life by patching down or waterproof clothing from £10, zip replacements on backpacks and stitching adjustments.

George Fisher will also service Leki and Black Diamond walking poles for free, fully dismantling them and making any minor repairs. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for Patagonia’s Worn Wear tour, which travels around the US and Europe every year, and where you can bring gear from any brand to be repaired.

If none of these are nearby, your local Timpson’s may be able to help. They undertake a wide variety of clothing and boot repairs, including replacing zips, repairing inner membranes and leather uppers.

Don’t forget to get in touch with the brand who made your kit too. Even if it’s out of warranty they may be able to fix it for you or provide replacement parts. These are both good ways to give old gear new life. Outdoor brands tend to be very aware of their environmental impact. As such, many are generally keen to improve their credentials and performance in this area.

Great Products To Help Revitalise Or Recycle Your Kit

The following half-dozen products have all been selected as excellent ways to give old gear new life. They can all help to either prolong the life of your outdoor kit, restore its performance or enable it to be disposed of and recycled easily.

Nikwax Tech Wash/TX Direct Twin Pack – £11

Nikwax Tech Wash will clean your kit, maintaining breathability and revitalising (but not replacing) the DWR coating. It may be all you need but if not, TX Direct will add a new layer of DWR coating to the fabric. It doesn’t need to be tumble dried to work and can just be added to your washing machine, making it one of the easiest to use.

Fabsil Tent and Gear Care Kit  £23

With a sponge, tent cleaner and reproofing protector, this handy kit has everything you need to revive your tent. The cleaner removes all residue, including dust and pollen, ready for the paint-on treatment which adds water-repellency and UV protection.

Grangers Down Wash Kit  £10.00

Washing your down jacket or sleeping bag will help to maintain loft and get rid of any smells. This down wash is specially formulated for all types of insulation, including synthetic, without damaging the fibres. The studded balls help to prevent clumping and maintain loft better than tennis balls which can crush the fibres.

Nikwax Waterproofing Wax for Leather – £4

To maintain their waterproofing and prevent cracking, leather boots need regular attention. This sponge-on wax should be applied to clean, damp boots with the surplus removed with a cloth. It’s specially formulated to maintain breathability to perfect for boots with a waterproof, breathable membrane such as Gore-tex or eVent.

Nikwax Footwear Cleaning Gel – £4

Just as with waterproof jackets, dirt on the outside of your boots can affect the DWR coating. Cleaning it with specialist cleaner removes any residue and revitalises the DWR treatment. Standard boot cleaners tend to be hydrophilic (attracting water) so aren’t best for footwear, where waterproofing is important.

Jetboil CrunchIt Tool  £8

Image by Jetboil

This handy little gadget makes recycling butane gas canisters super easy. It screws onto the top of the gas canister, venting leftover fuel from the canister. Then a gentle push of the thumb safely punctures the can. Because it’s securely attached to the thread of the canister, there’s no chance of slipping and causing injury.

Recycle It

If all else fails or the thing has been punished beyond function, some use can still be squeezed, cut or shredded out of it. Some outdoor gear, especially that made of single, non-composite materials, can be easily recycled. Others are more difficult, but it’s still possible.

Most kerbside recycling bins don’t accept clothing and metals but it’s worth checking with your local council. Most likely, you’ll need to take it to a recycling point: you can find your nearest one here. Alternatively, Terracycle will recycle all manner of things including backpacks, sunglasses and sporting goods – even crisp packets. But this can be as expensive as buying the thing itself, from new.

Green Peak Gear are great for old climbing gear and will take ropes, harnesses, helmets, slings, nuts and karabiners. Donations are recycled into dog (and cat!) leads, bags and even teddy bears with profits going to the BMC Access and Conservation Trust. It’s an innovative and creative way to give old gear new life. You can find collection points at a number of climbing walls.

The boot garden approach. Photo: Sarah Ryan

Safe Disposal

When it comes to disposing of spent gas canisters and old or broken stoves, they should end up at your local recycling point. Gas canisters are a tricky one. They can be recycled, but need to be drained of any gas first.

The best way to do this is by using as much as you can while cooking. Inverting the can will help to get the very last of it out. Then you need to punch a hole in it either by using a specialist tool, screwdriver, nail or ice axe – anything that will safely puncture metal. Avoid using anything like a hacksaw which can create sparks. If your kerbside recycling services pick up mixed metals, then you can just chuck it in your recycling bin. If not, you may need to find your local recycling point.

Tents can be difficult to recycle because they’re made up of so many different types of material: composite fabric, plastics and metal. However, they should be able to be recycled at your local recycling point, especially if they are taken apart. Those centres should also be able to take electronics such as old head torches.

Start Early

You can ease the end-of-life recycling process when you first buy your outdoor kit. Ensure that, where possible, it’s made from either recyclable or easily biodegradable materials. This is usually easiest with clothing. Unmixed fabrics, such as 100% polyester for example, are easier to recycle than composite fabrics.

But why not make some money out of your efforts to give old gear new life? Some brands and shops now will collect clothing for recycling and reward you for your donation with discounts or special offers. These tend to be time limited so it’s worth keeping an eye out. High street brand, H&M will take clothing of any brand in any condition and give you a £5/€5 voucher for it. The North Face ‘Clothes the Loop’ campaign rewards donations of any brand in any condition with drop-off points in most of their stores.

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