Photo by Jeff Blumenfeld

Outdoor Gear Gets Second Life at Boulder Sports Recycler



My routine is the same every morning: check to make sure the world hasn’t exploded, check stocks to determine whether or not I’ll be eating much cat food upon retirement, then log on to my account at Boulder Sports Recycler (BSR), the used outdoor gear consignment store. These days, I get distinct pleasure out of seeing what bits of flotsam and jetsam from my life outdoors have recently sold.


There’s that Tilley hat gathering dust in a closet, the one I received as a gift around Y2K. It made me look 20 years older and I never wore it. Now, even though I am 20 years older, it’s time for it to go. It sells for $99.99 retail and online, but one thrifty customer at BSR snagged it new for $10, netting me $5 and more closet space.


It’s here, in a nondescript industrial warehouse building in North Boulder at 4949 Broadway, that gently used or new outdoor gear lives on. We’re talking just about everything but used socks. Team sports gear, not so much either.

During a recent visit, budget-minded and environmentally-conscience outdoor enthusiasts could select from tens of thousands of always-changing outdoor inventory at great prices.


Photo by Jeff Blumenfeld


Cyclists will find Burleys, panniers, seats, forks, cranks, seats, handlebars, cassettes, hubs, bottle cages, brakes, grips and stems.


There are inflatable kayaks and spray skirts, water skis, snowboards, splitboards, cross-country and downhill skis and skins, and ski poles.


Waist packs, backpacks, knapsacks, duffel bags, sling and laptop bags.


Even an inversion table, and a pink camp toilet seat for only $16.80.


There’s a sense of discovery to visiting BSR when 12 full- and part-time employees roll up the garage doors, pour water for the shop dogs and start the giant floor fans.


One recent find was a Scrubba wash bag. Now you can take less clothing on a backpacking trip and use the bag to wash your skivvies. Who knew?


Boulder is a mecca for outdoor retailing. One reason: You can use much of the store’s outdoor gear in the same town you buy it.


Spur of the Moment Recreating


Just visiting Boulder and your hosts decide to take you hiking on the spur of the moment? How about a pair of well-worn hiking boots, a pack, trekking poles, a waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex shell, water bottle and, ahem, a Tilley hat? BSR sells it at a fraction of retail seven days a week.


Photo by Jeff Blumenfeld


Traditional retailers—think Patagonia, Fjallraven or REI —don’t mind, according to Mick Tresemer, 36, an artist-turned-businessman from Norman, Oklahoma, who purchased the then 20-year-old business from its original owners in the mid-2010s.


“We’re so small, we’re hardly competition,” he says. “They will never put us out of business. There’s a strong market for used outdoor gear. So many people prefer to reuse rather than buy new.”


The 5,000-square-foot store is not particularly easy to find, surrounded by art galleries, microbreweries, an auto body shop and a Mexican restaurant. But that’s part of its charm. There’s no supply chain issue here. The aisles are stocked constantly as gear hounds pour in daily.


“It never ceases to amaze me what pops out of Boulder closets and garages,” Tresemer tells me during a summer party honoring a few of their 7,000 consignors from throughout the Rocky Mountain region.


“I get surprised every single day. Our sellers include many industry representatives and sponsored athletes. We get gear once used on mountaineering trips around the world. Some of the gear is really well-made and made to last, even external frame packs from the 1960s in still great condition,” Tresemer says.


Here’s the Deal


Photo by Jeff Blumenfeld


Part of the appeal to sellers is that on items priced from $1 to $100, the store splits the sales price 50-50. Pricing is loosely based on wholesale pricing, while considering the item’s original value, current condition and natural technological advances in currently available gear. A little more for gear that’s new with tags or gently used, and a little less for gear that has seen better days.


On gear over $100, the split is a minimum of 60 percent to the seller and 40 percent to the house. For instance, on a bike in good condition that sells for $600 or more, the seller receives 80 percent of the sale.


No sketchy responses to a Craigslist ad. No meeting strange buyers at your home. BSR sells it, then cuts a check to you for sold items any time. Almost like a bank, but without the free tote bags. Log on to your account and watch the totals add up faster than “Let’s Make a Deal.”


“Transparency is my goal. We make it as easy and transparent as possible,” Tresemer says. “If the item languishes for more than five months, you’re asked to pick it up or else BSR will donate it to local thrift shops.”


Thanks to BSR’s singular focus, sellers can be confident their outdoor gear will get a second chance at adventure while they declutter their homes with a good conscience.


“The goal of the store is keeping good stuff out of the landfill. With the amount of production going on of outdoor gear, it’s refreshing not adding to that world of production and not going to a store and taking an item off a shelf that has to be replaced,” says Tresemer. “If I’m going to work in my life, it feels better to reuse and recycle and not buy new. “It’s pretty gratifying.”


Jeff Blumenfeld, a resident of Boulder, is the author of Travel With Purpose: A Field Guide to Voluntourism (Rowman & Littlefield). When not shopping for bargains, you’ll find him on Boulder Creek trying to catch fish with his used boots and waders.


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