Lack of affordable camping gear is often cited as a major—if not the major—impediment to getting more people outdoors. This is a deeper, more nuanced issue than it may first seem. It’s a vicious cycle. To enjoy yourself while recreating outdoors, at least when it comes to camping, you need decent gear. But for many people, the cost of decent camping gear can push it far out of reach, also rendering deeper immersion in the outdoors—and all the benefits that come with it—equally out of reach.
Some reputable outdoor companies specifically pitch themselves as at least relatively budget-friendly; Sierra Designs and the excellent products from REI’s house brand come to mind first. And with Walmart selling inexpensive gear in tandem with Moosejaw, there options for those who want to dip their toes into camping waters without making a heavy financial investment.
Still, there are plenty of families and individuals who don’t have a couple hundred bucks to be kitted out with even budget-level camp gear, especially if they aren’t even sure they want to make camping a significant enough part of their lives. Some urban areas have gear libraries where people can check out equipment to use while camping, but they’re few and far between. Used gear shops can also be an option, but, again, they’re not nearly as ubiquitous as stores selling brand new big ticket items.
Mo Jackson, in Washington State came up with a solution.
On a recent camping trip in Idaho, Jackson, totally enamored with their wilderness experience, wondered how they could share the joy of nature with a wider community of people.
“That day I was like, OK, what can I do to get more Black people outdoors?” they told the LA Times. “And I thought, well, I have enough savings to get three camping kits together.”
In May Jackson posted an offer on their Instagram account: If any BIPOC needed camping gear but couldn’t afford it, they could reach out to her and she’d send them a basic kit. A tent, a couple sleeping bags, and an ice chest. Just the basics to get out of the city and spend a night under the stars. If people who had the means to contribute to Jackson so they could buy more gear to give away, that was great too.
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Calling all BIPOC who wanna get out and about but can’t dipset because you don’t have the gear! We’re getting together some basic camping kits (one tent, two sleeping bags, and a cooler!) As BIPOC we are far less likely to access our national parks and camping sites but are in need of the freedom, healing, peace and fun that comes along with it. For anyone in the Olympia area I can do local drop off and can give you a quick socially distant demo on setting up your tent if you need it! Anyone outside of the area we can get things shipped to you and I can give you help over ft or ig if you want/need it. Right now we’ve got enough for 3 kits! No need to demonstrate need or write anything special, just hmu and we can get something out to you. If you’re a yt person that has had the privilege of enjoying the outdoors (hello pnw!) in this way donate! PayPal [email protected] or Venmo liluzipervert and day camp kit in the memo or I can do local pickups of new gear. Please share and if you know anyone in need let em know!
Quickly, Jackson raised enough to put together five kits. A nice little way to make a difference in their community.
Then, in July, Jackson put out another Instagram offer of BIPOC kits. This time, the country roiling with protests over the death of George Floyd, people frustrated with still being cooped up in their homes, summer in full swing, the response was nearly overwhelming. Hundreds of people contacted Jackson hoping to get a BIPOC camping kit. To fund that huge of a purchase, Jackson started a GoFundMe account to raise funds. So far, more than $78,000 has been raised.
People across the outdoor world are chipping in, helping Jackson help more people get outdoors.
After receiving some 600 requests for kits, Jackson had to push pause to get assemble the kits and get the gear out the door. At first they partnered with REI, but they’ve since switched to working with Portland, Oregon’s Next Adventure. The kits cost between $200 and $250 to put together.
“Mo and their team wanted to step up; we are just thrilled to support them and help more people get outside,” said Next Adventure’s co-owner, Deek Heykamp.
Jackson’s team includes friends who are donating their time to help. Hayley Harris, one of Jackson’s friends who’s part of the BIPOC kit program, was enthused about the idea from the start.
Tents are hundreds of dollars, sleeping bags are super expensive, and if you’re really going camping, you can’t scrimp on gear. You could end up freezing at night,” she said.
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**edit** I forgot to shout out the amazing @no.lens.cap for the pictures from this weekend. He does amazing work and is absolutely worth a follow so check him out! Dammmmn thas a lotta boxes! This weekend thanks to the support of @nextadventure with some help from @migrationbrewing and a bunch of amazing volunteers we were able to pack over 200 camping kits that will be shipped out this week. Over 200 BIPOC that will get to go out and play and rest and find peace in nature. I am beyond proud of this project, my team, the folks that we're partnering with and the community that came together and showed out to support us. Sometimes shit just works out. And that's not to say that we didn't put the work in, because we really did, but we were also lucky. Lucky that all of our ig peeps tagged a million people, lucky that someone at @nextadventure saw those tags and saw how worthy this cause was. Lucky that Devin reached out on the 16th of July to begin figuring out how they could support this dream and dammmn lucky that by the 1st of August we were packing up boxes. Can't wait to see all of the pictures of people getting out and making good use of the gear (tag me or #bipoccampkit cuz we'd love love to see your gorgeous faces!) We have big things coming down the line and right now the biggest help is getting more funding so we can get the other 400 requests sent out. Stay tuned cuz we'll have a big info dump coming your way this week! As always share boost donate!! Cheers!! #bipoccampkit #bipocsolidarity #blackoutside #indigenousoutdoors #blackpeopledohike #indigenoushikers
BIPOC Camp Kits has plans to become a legal non-profit down the road. For now, Jackson and her team are working hard to get the kits out the door and to expand their mission to get more BIPOC campers out there.
“Being in nature is healing,” Harris said. “People who need that healing most are Black and Indigenous people, and the idea that it’s inaccessible … it’s just not right.
Top photo: Wilson Ye