BY LINDSEY DEFRATES

In early May, I was poking around Once Upon a Child in Glenwood Springs, waiting for my donation of fancy baby clothes that my little girl never wore to be sorted, when I remembered that my five-year-old would be outgrowing his rain boots any minute now, and my two year old would need new summer sandals for playing by the river. With a quick dive into the rather intimidating shoe bins and a snag from a passing display, I scored some yellow Croc boots (Captain Yellow Boots was born!) and lightly used pair of Keens for a total of $22 dollars. Mom – 1, Budget – 0.

If you have an active family, you know the warm, fuzzy sense of satisfaction when you find the perfect lightly used sleeping bag, pair of winter boots, or strider bike for a price that reflects the reality of raising kids in this valley. Clothing is hard enough to keep up with, but add to that the gear needed for camping, skiing, hiking, rafting, SUPing, climbing, biking or any kind of adventure sport? Might as well move somewhere that doesn’t have access to any of those sports to be able to afford them. Oh, the sweet irony!

In our family, we have three kids under six and a shoestring budget, but we get outside as much as possible. Rafting, camping and biking are our main pursuits at the moment, but time was I’d lead a route or two on the rocks, and I wouldn’t mind the kids getting up there with me someday. So – tough outdoor clothes and gear for all three kiddos are always on my wish list. Here are a few resources for  overcoming the cost-prohibitive nature of introducing our children to the passions we hold so dear.

ONLINE FORUMS 

Roaring Fork Swap and Kids Swap Facebook Groups- If you haven’t joined, do it now. The admins on both sites work tirelessly to make sure that sales and swaps are from legitimate, local people. I have bought and sold, given away and picked up free items without any issues for many years.

TIP Save a search for items you need: ‘bike trailer,’ ‘SUP,’ ‘4 person tent,’ etc. and you will get notifications whenever such items are listed. Fair warning – there is a lightning fast turn around on the steals, so don’t hesitate to comment AND message the seller privately on any item that sparks your interest, or you will be the fifth ‘Next, please!’ before you know it.

CONSIGNMENTS

For gear, Ragged Mountain Sports in Carbondale and Replay Sports in Aspen each offer a thriving local exchange of goods. Their kid section is not huge, but they have a constantly rotating inventory, so you never know when a quick stop will yield the perfect pair of size 3 hiking boots for your first family backpacking trip, or a much-needed Kelty kid carrier

For clothing, Sawyer’s Closet and Once Upon a Child are outstanding children’s consignment venues. Sawyer’s Closet is located on Main Street in Carbondale, and Once Upon a Child is in South Glenwood near Walmart. Both stores can be treasure chests of warm fleece layers, coats and kids shoes. And if you have items in good condition, it is well worth it to build store credit whenever possible.

TIP Sign up for the rewards program at Once Upon a Child. While I usually have a knee jerk ‘no’ reaction to the question ‘Would you like to sign up for our rewards program?’, I have saved some major dollars with points and discounts over the years.

THRIFT STORES 

Glenwood offers quite a few adult thrift stores which, while great for you and the bigger kids in your life, they don’t often have much for littles. Aspen Thrift Store, however, is the exception to this rule. Their racks provide untold opportunities for high quality outdoor brand name items in all sizes.

TIP Hit up Aspen Thrift at the beginning of the shoulder seasons, spring and fall, as skiers or summer adventurers who came for the season often donate like-new items before they return to…wherever.

OTHER OPTIONS

For big ticket gear items like skis and bikes, try to find your way into a hand-me-down circle with other families, or reach out to friends and offer to trade.

Keep current on yard sales, which are often advertised on the Swap sites, and don’t hesitate to head to New Castle one Saturday morning and do a loop. That town has an inexplicably high percentage of yard sales per capita.

If you do need new gear, definitely wait until off-season to purchase last year’s design at significant savings. Keep an eye out for Summit Canyon Mountaineering’s Labor Day blowout sale, or similar end-of-summer discounts.

And if your child is reaching the elite level of a sport, you’d better become a brand ambassador, or may God have mercy on your soul and your budget.

It’s never easy, and it’s not cheap to keep kids safe and in gear for mountain adventures, but somehow, it is always worth it, and what else would you do with that money anyway? Take a cruise? Retire early? Where’s the fun in that?

“Clothing is hard enough to keep up with, but add to that the gear needed for camping, skiing, hiking, rafting, SUPing, climbing, biking or any kind of adventure sport? Might as well move somewhere that doesn’t have access to any of those sports to be able to afford them. Oh, the sweet irony!”