In Leadville Colorado, county residents have access to a world of outdoor gear riches without having to buy them. The brand new Get Outdoor Gear Library, funded from Great Outdoors Colorado’s Generation Wild initiative, the library offers mountain bikes, hiking boots, snow shoes, hiking poles, camp stoves, ski boots—you get the idea. If you need it for camping or hiking or adventuring, they likely have it.
The whole idea is to make this kind of gear accessible for people who don’t already own it, can’t afford it, or simply just don’t want to buy stuff. Maybe because they only camp or hike a few times per year and can’t justify purchasing gear for that. Maybe because buying too much stuff can be a vice. Or simply because of good ole’ common sense — no need to buy new when you can rent used, inexpensively.
But the focus here is really on providing outdoor opportunities for people who may not otherwise have them because they lack the gear. The base price is $5/month, but if locals can afford to pay more, it’s encouraged.
“When I look at the gear library I think about my early experiences in the outdoors and I know what kind of impact those experiences can have,” says the executive director of Get Outdoors Leadville!, Vanessa Saldivar. “Those barriers continue for low income families and immigrant families and families of color. The gear library … is totally addressing some of those barriers.”
The library is on downtown Leadville’s Colorado Mountain College campus. The college offers a two-year outdoor leadership program, and the library offers students in the program hands on experience managing gear inventory, maintaining bikes, and dealing with the public. They also learn how to better support diversity initiatives in the outdoor business world, a potential career path for kids in the program.
In addition, the Get Outdoors Leadville! program offers workshops in Nordic skiing, camping, and cycling, through the library.
Locals can donate gently used equipment to the library too.
Proper gear goes a long, long way to enjoyment outdoors. So too does feeling like you belong there. Gear libraries like this one can address both of those issues. Wouldn’t be a bad thing either to bake the concept of community sharing into outdoor gear at some level. Outdoor towns across the country are loaded with garages and gear sheds overstuffed with outdoor gear. How many people buy skis they use maybe once a year, then eventually just gather dust in a garage somewhere? It’s wasteful, but also locks up the fun that gear can provide, as it sits, idle, while people who would love to use it, but can’t afford it, go without.
Here’s hoping for a renaissance of gear lending libraries.
Top photos: Jasperdo/Flickr