One Tree – A New Zealand Perspective

The Alpine Club’s gear sale was a treasure trove of all things outdoorsy as usual this year. It’s a highlight of my calendar in Christchurch, where you can find anything from second hand climbing equipment, to ski gear, guidebooks and sweet deals from a couple of local retailers. This year’s haul for me was a set of DMM hexes for reviving my trad climbing and an illustrated book about alpine plants!

There is a booming trade in second hand outdoor gear in New Zealand. Admittedly, it is not entirely driven by environmental concerns but it does keep gear in use in one form or another. I met the One Tree Team when I spent a winter in Courchevel and recently offered to share some experiences from the NZ outdoor scene.

One of the biggest drivers of the second hand gear trade is the prohibitive cost of buying imported goods, of which there is often a limited selection. It is possible to order online from abroad but shipping times can be unpredictable and some items may be heavily taxed on arrival. My favourite jacket was kindly posted by my family from the UK and arrived 3 months later, presumably after a very long boat trip…

Another reason an outdoorsy person here may buy second hand is the fact that adventuring in New Zealand is hard on gear. This is down to the fact that there is far less infrastructure around wilderness access here compared to the European Alps. An approach to an alpine climb or backcountry ski trip usually involves 4WD vehicle and/or hours of walking up bouldery river beds. This is usually followed by some solid bush bashing
or a spot of vertical scrub climbing before swapping out the trail shoes for mountaineering or ski boots and adventuring on.

Skiers in New Zealand have to contend with a very different approach to their ski fields compared to those in Europe, which explains to some extent the array of hardy, repaired and well used gear that is the norm at smaller ski areas. Between 5-15km of gravel road, round switchbacks past barrier-less drops tests your driving skills and coats your car in dust. Add this to grovelling in the mud fitting snow chains and no-one is shiny or bright by the time they reach the skiing, no matter how new their gear at the bottom of the hill! I must point out here that this only adds to the sense of adventure, and I am a big fan of skiing the “Clubbies”, New Zealand’s club run, laid back local ski fields.

In Christchurch, we are lucky to have a great gear repair shop to help keep our equipment going after all the fun times! They’re used to all sorts, from tents, to down jackets, and packs. I recently broke a tent pole and spent a night in the snow with a pole patched together by sports tape… Fortunately for me, I dropped off the pole Monday morning and picked it up with a replaced section and a new bungee cord by Friday ready for my next trip.

This repair service balances out some of that wear and tear and most skiers, climbers, and trampers around town would point you towards Twin Needles for your gear woes. I can’t recommend enough knowing where your nearest repair place (or One Tree Fix-It event) is so replacing with new gear doesn’t need to be your first option any more.

Besides the gear sale, the most common way to find equipment is through the busy trade on various social media groups for different sports in different regions of New Zealand. I’ve nabbed some bargain “new to me” items over the last few years including a pair of mountaineering boots, leashes for my climbing axes, and a ski jacket. Most recently, I was talking to a friend who’d bought a short camping mat when he had a tighter budget and was considering upgrading to one that would keep his feet warm but
didn’t want a mat with plenty more life in it to go to waste. Being on the shorter end of the scale and a fan of some bartering I suggested selling the mat to me and upgrading relatively guilt free!

Me and my “new to me” collection

It’s amazing how many people have gear or equipment that’s not quite right that just need a nudge to sell or trade for something you may have that suits them better.

My main point is, trading in second hand gear and repairing or adapting what you already have are commonplace in New Zealand, mostly due to high cost and low availability of new gear. The upside of this is that it drives creativity and open minded approach to equipping outdoor adventures that could be applied anywhere in the effort to reduce waste in the outdoor industry.

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