Happy Birthday To The Mountaineers Gear Library

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, we celebrate our Gear Library's one year anniversary and look back at what this resource has accomplished.
Hannah Piatok Hannah Piatok
Former Gear Library Coordinator
September 24, 2019

The Mountaineers Gear Library recently turned one, and looking back it’s hard to believe a full year has passed since we started gearing up with youth organizations. Our hope with the library was to work with youth-serving organizations to reduce barriers to outdoor access. Since launching in August 2018, we’ve outfitted over 350 young people to explore and recreate in the Pacific Northwest, enjoying activities like hiking, snowshoeing, backpacking, and camping. Notably, we had an especially active winter season, sending out the most snowshoes in youth program history. We’re so lucky to be able to share our love of adventure with the future leaders of tomorrow.

Reflecting on how many outdoor experiences we’ve shared, we feel exceptionally grateful for all our volunteers and partner organizations who gave so much to make the Gear Library a success. King County and REI provided the initial funding to build the library from concept to reality. Washington Trails Association (WTA) shared endless guidance to help create systems and infrastructure, and partnered in facilitating training workshops for youth-serving organizations. Our volunteers donated time to label each piece of gear and keep everything organized. Our partner organizations dedicated time and talent to getting more youth into the wild spaces all around us. This resource is a labor of love, impacted by everyone who has so generously offered funds, time, and expertise. Thank you.

The author at our Gear Library Launch Party.

To celebrate this collective milestone, we reached out to our partners to hear more about their experiences with our Gear Library. From Discovery Park to Mount Rainier to Mount Baker, new and seasoned youth recreationists were outfitted with technical layers, boots, snowshoes, tents, sleeping bags, cookwear, and more as they explored all around us. Here’s what they had to say about those experiences:

Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) | Snoqualmie Snowshoe

“When we first told our youth that we were going to the mountains to go snowshoeing, many of them asked if we were going to the peak they could see from their Seattle neighborhood of Rainier Vista. They didn't know its name, but this is what they thought of when they thought of "mountains." Before our bus even arrived at Lake Easton State Park, children marveled at the peaks seen from the bus. They asked what the names of those mountains were, and when we could go climb to the tops of those mountains. For almost all of the 24 youth and four parent chaperones who attended, this was the first time they had ventured out of Seattle to enjoy the outdoors.

“When we arrived at Lake Easton State Park, we met rangers who guided us through the snowy terrain on snowshoes. Youth learned about animal adaptations for winter, similar to the snowshoes they wore on their feet. They were able to experiment with trekking through wooded areas and up and down hills with snowshoes, and of course lots of play time!

“This field trip expanded their view of what mountains are, from a singular far-away peak they can see from their neighborhood in Seattle to an expansive piece of their world. A nine-year-old summarized the day as ‘it's lit.’

“The Mountaineers Gear Library had small sizes for our young explorers to wear while trekking in the snow, which removed a huge barrier. When we first discussed the field trip with families, the first concern named by many parents was that their children didn't have the right clothes or shoes to go play in the snow. Being able to provide all of our trip participants with appropriately sized gear for free removed a huge barrier for our youth and families being able to participate fully in this outing.”

- Sophie Hoover, ReWA’s Elementary Program Coordinator

Nepal Seattle Hiking Community (NSHC) | Mount Baker Exploration

“Thank you, because without the snowshoes the trip wouldn’t be complete. Our community members had the best time. Saturday, part of the group went to Heather Meadows to snowshoe. Sunday, another group went up to Artist Point to snowshoe and to celebrate Holi, the festival of colors. In total 65 people played in the snow. See you again next year!”

- Nil Tilija, NSHC Group Leader

Soccer Without Borders | Gold Creek Snowshoe

“Being a Wisconsin native myself, I naturally had crafted a nice snowball to give a toss to. Once one participant saw this, it had made its way through the whole group! Even though we had had record snow in Seattle, most students weren’t interacting with it outside.

“After our 'organized' snowball fight the group had really relaxed and got comfortable navigating the snow. It was really nice to watch these participants experience snow in new ways! You could tell they were having a great time shaking tree limbs to cause falling snow, snow angels and falling into piles of powdery snow!

“It was great to see the shift of the 20 participants’ mentality before signing up for the trip and after. Many thought it was too cold or lacked interest to play in the snow but once they were out there, you could tell that they were comfortable and excited to enjoy the outdoors. One of our five rules is "Try Everything" and I could tell that participants were worried or intimidated by the cold. It was great to see such a large turnout for an event that was clearly new and slightly intimidating for participants. They really stepped up and enjoyed themselves, thanks to the help of The Mountaineers!”

- Zeke Kelderman, coach and master snowball builder

Snowshoeing at Gold Creek. Photo courtesy of Soccer Without Borders.


The gear library would not be possible without the generous support from: Adidas TERREX, Adventure Medical Kits, Bogs, Cascade Designs, Cocoon, Deuter, Helly Hansen, Jansport, King Country, Kovea USA, Outdoor Research, Petzl, Rab USA, REI, Salomon, Sea to Summit, The North Face, Vasque, Washington Trails Association, and Wise Owl Outfitters. Thank you for believing in and supporting our vision. You made the smiles pictured here possible.


Want to use the Gear Library? We work with a variety of organizations to help get youth in the Puget Sound area outside. The first step is attending a Gear Library Orientation to learn more about this program and process for checking out, caring for, and using this gear. We have two coming up on September 16 and October 21. For more information please visit www.mountaineers.org/ youth/gear-library or email our Outreach Manager at daniellel@mountaineers.org.


This article originally appeared in our Fall 2019 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

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