Craig’s List (and similar sites that we’ll lump with “CL” for simplicity’s sake) can be a great clearing house for excellent deals on snowboarding gear….if you know what you are getting.
When you buy a new snowboard setup, there’s usually plenty of information available about it. You can talk to people in shops (often the best place to buy snowboard gear) and you can look things up online (also good due diligence) to find out what type of riding potential boards and bindings are designed for, what size you should be riding, flex ratings to be able to match up bindings and boards, etc. When you purchase on CL it’s rare to be able to learn much of anything about what you are buying.
Some people are of the mindset that having your own gear is better than renting. In most cases I would agree with that. Just the consistency of having the same setup every time can make things a lot easier (and quicker not having to deal with rentals). But if the gear is beat up, not fit for your size, ability, or the type of riding you want to do, then it can be more of a hindrance than a help.
The materials that make up boards will break down over time and you lose response, pop, and structural integrity of the board. So buying a second hand board that is 15 years old and beat to crap isn’t a good purchase. Buying a board because you like the graphic without knowing anything about it is not a good purchase. When you are learning to snowboard, buying a super stiff board that is too big for you is not a good purchase. In these cases you should really go to your local shop for help.
Don’t underestimate the value of a good snowboard shop. Not only will they get you matched up with a board, boots, and bindings appropriate for you. They will fit you for boots and get your bindings mounted up.
This is not to say that you can’t score good stuff on CL. You definitely can. We advertise pretty much all of our stuff on CL and a lot of it represents a great deal. But we back up our listings with knowledge. We ride what we sell. The only used boards we sell are ours, so we can tell you all about them. If you have questions we are here to answer them. And you can be assured that you are getting a quality product because we don’t sell junk. There are other people who advertise new or close to new stuff on CL because they are switching up their gear, they can’t ride it any more for whatever reason, or they need the cash. So we’re not saying you can’t get a good score.
We are saying buyer beware and know what you are getting. Learn a bit about rocker and camber. Learn about the flex of boards and how they affect your ride. Learn about what you need for the style of riding you want to do. Learn about how a specific board matches up with your ability level. And learn about the appropriate sized board for your size (spoiler alert, it’s not about your height, it’s about your weight).
Bindings…most people focus on the board and the bindings are an afterthought. You want to make sure that you arematching your snowboard and bindings up. Generally speaking stiff boards go with stiff bindings. A soft board wants soft bindings. If they match up well, the whole will greater than the sum of its parts. If you are purchasing bindings on CL, inspect them. Make sure the baseplates, heel loops, and highbacks are in good shape. No cracks or anything else that would compromise their integrity. Check ladders and ratchets to make sure they’re not stripped and the ratchets are smooth with no blown springs. Make sure the straps are in decent shape so they’re not going to break on you. Your bindings are pretty important since they connect you to your board. Also make sure if you are buying them separately that the bindings have the right discs for your board’s inserts.
Boots…buying used boots kind of rots. It rots less than renting boots that have been worn by a million different people, but used boots have been broken in for someone else’s foot, and they will never be fit specifically for you. Some boots can be heat molded and that can help if you can remold them for your feet. But if you have to invest in one piece of new gear, boots are arguably where you should spend your bucks. If your feet are unhappy, you will be unhappy so at the very least make sure they are a good fitfor you.
When you purchase new boots you want them to be snug because they will pack out, the liners will compress over time so the boots should be snug when you first put them on so once they do compress they are the right fit. When you are buying used boots they have likely already packed out so you want to make sure they are comfortable as they are and that your heels don’t lift up.
If you know what you are looking for, great…let loose on those sites. If you are just starting out and don’t understand all of what’s out there, you should probably learn more before diving in head first. And just because a setup is new doesn’t mean it’s going to be an appropriate setup for you. Don’t dismiss your local snowboard shop for great deals either- especially on past seasons' snowboarding gear. When they are trying to clear things out you can find good bargains. Specialty shops also tend to stock some reasonably priced gear aimed toward beginners so you can have a better than rental experience without completely breaking the bank.