Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No Money November: Paintball Gear at Thrift Stores

In a couple of previous posts I revealed some handy paintball items that you could pick up at your local dollar store (in case you missed them, you'll find them here and here).

Now, in this post I'll reveal another little-known spot where you can pick up milsim paintball gear on the cheap: Thrift stores! Thrift stores may go by different names depending on where you're located, but I'm talking about stores like the Salvation Army or your local swap meet. These are stores where people donate clothing, household items, or sporting goods, and these in turn are sold, with the profits usually going to support any number of charities. In my neck of the woods the biggest chain of second-hand goods stores is known as Value Village (I believe it's known as Savers in the States). The sheer department store scale of these outlets means you have more selection and items to choose from, and a better chance of lucking out and finding some good gear for milsim paintball!

A common misconception about these places is that the items you find at thrift stores are all old and heavily worn. While this is true of some of the stuff, a lot of the merchandise you find is either lightly used, or even brand new with tags hanging off! Just think of the guy who buys a brand new set of realtree camo to try hunting, then he can't find a hunting buddy, or his wife gets pregnant and he has no time to go away. Or the parent who buys a bunch of paintball equipment for his kid for christmas, but by spring the kid's decided he wants to play football instead. These unused items taking up closet space are the first things to be donated when social organizations conduct their charity drives, meaning you get to buy them for pennies on the dollar when they show up at the thrift store for resale.

However, because the merchandise in stock at these stores isn't standard and is always changing, you need to visit them often to make sure you can grab that latest find before someone else does. Because that great deal on army-issue Gore-Tex boots you found also looks like a great deal to that Goth kid, or to the outdoor hiker looking for some waterproof footwear. So you need to be on the ball, and check what's in stock on a regular basis. In my case, the Value Village near my home is also conveniently located near my bank, so when I go to withdraw cash every 2 weeks on payday, I drop on to see what's up for grabs.

I'll show you a few examples of items I've picked up at Value Village lately. First up is a pair of Canadian Forces-issue Gore-Tex combat boots.

These size 9 boots showed extremely light wear in the store, and were probably worn for one weekend by a cadet or recruit in the reserves before he quit. As you can see, with a bit of polish and a lot of Lysol sprayed into them, the boots looked completely brand new.

Purchase price: $24.99. The cheapest I found them surplus online at the time (for a very beaten up old pair): $120! You seriously can't beat a pair of Gore-Tex boots for 25 bucks!

I came across this lightly-used JT mask for $8.99 one day too. Although it's not the best set of goggles, they're very flexible and fold up nicely in my gear bag, so I bring them out with me as my back- ups (or if I invite a buddy with no gear out to play).

Another item I came across is this set of brand new rollerblading knee pads. These are very similar in appearance to tactical knee pads, and I picked them up to replace my tactical knee pads on the day they eventually fall apart. Cost? $3.99! For some reason they have these in stock at my local store all the time, and elbow pads are also available.

Value Village is also a great spot to find camo pants and tops (usually in the more popular patterns like Woodland or Realtree), as well as olive drab-coloured clothing that's well-suited to paintball. Most clothing there costs $9.99 or less per item, so you could get an entire outfit for less than $20.

So find your local thrift store, and go take a look at what's available! You may be surprised, and walk away with a great deal.

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