New Youth Gear Library Opens Outdoors for Broader Community

After a year of work behind-the-scenes, we've launched a community-facing gear lending library to make the outdoors more accessible to the next generation of outdoor enthuiasts.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
September 12, 2018

Thanks to support from hundreds of people and partners, we're excited to launch our new Mountaineers Gear Lending Library and leader training programs. As we seek to continue to engage future Mountaineers, expand our youth programs, and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the outdoors, this resource will make the outdoors more accessible to all outdoor enthusiasts.

The Mountaineers is deeply committed to helping our community explore, learn about, and enjoy the outdoors. We have been from the very beginning - providing leadership and training for people in our community wanting to get outside. Our members founded REI to create access to quality gear that at the time only existed in Europe. Moving into Magnuson Park in 2007, our volunteers developed our new facility as an urban training ground and a place to keep a supply of technical gear needed for teaching our courses. We are an organization committed to making the outdoors accessible.

True to this mission, we are equally committed to helping the next generation to play and engage in the amazing outdoor resources around us. Our region is growing and becoming more diverse, and the economy is changing. We know many people, especially youth, experience a wide range of barriers to getting outside: time, transportation, money, training, support, and gear.

We’ve been partnering with more than 50 youth-serving agencies over the past 8 years to help get kids outside by reducing these barriers. Our volunteers provide instruction, and our donor-funded Mountaineers Access Program (MAP) Fund helps cover the costs of training and transportation. Our new Gear Lending Library provides the next evolution of this youth outdoor programming. By providing training and free access to gear to leaders of our partner agencies, we’ll empower groups to get outside on their terms and their schedules, without having to rely on Mountaineers leaders. It’s the next step towards making the outdoors accessible to everyone.

“Inclusion in the outdoors matters because everyone has the right to have amazing experiences in our wild places.” –The Mountaineers CEO Tom Vogl

What is a Gear Lending Library?

With seed money from the REI Foundation and King County, and help from our partners at Washington Trails Association (WTA), The Mountaineers have been working to build the gear and infrastructure for a new Gear Lending Library. With WTA, we are working to collaboratively build this second library in Seattle with shared training and reciprocal privileges to scale up the resources available to youth and youth leaders in the Puget Sound area.

Here's how it works

Leaders of youth programs will have free access to the skills and gear they need to get their kids outside. Youth leaders get involved through this process:

  1. Gear Orientation: Leaders attend an orientation either with WTA or The Mountaineers to learn about how to check gear out, care for it, and what the expectations are for returning it. 
  2. Outdoor Leadership Training: Leaders attend a training with either WTA or The Mountaineers that is specific to the activity they want to do with their kids. So, whether you want to take your kids hiking, camping, or snowshoeing, there's a training for you to give you the tools you need for a successful outing.
  3. Sign out gear: Gear can be signed out through The Mountaineers or WTA. Our partnership helps ensure there's enough gear to go around on the busiest weekends!
  4. Return the gear clean and dry for the next group: As leaders learn in gear orientation, its important that gear is returned on time and ready for the next group to borrow. This way as many kids can get outside with our gear as possible!

The library is now open to leaders who have completed Washington Trails Association’s OLT Program to take their groups hiking. Later this fall, we’ll have car camping gear available, and snowshoeing gear this winter. Petzl headlamps, MSR tents, Vasque and Salomon hiking boots, and REI trekking poles are just a sampling of the products available at no cost to our partner agencies.

Sign Up for Leadership Training

Looking Ahead

Spread the word! While we have lots of wonderful partner agencies who already do programming with us, we’d like this gear library to stretch far and wide. Any leader of any youth group wanting to take their kids outside is welcome to join a training session and partner with us to borrow gear for themselves and their kiddos. If you are, or know of such a youth leader, ask us about future training sessions.

THank you!

At The Mountaineers, we are so fortunate to have innovative and future-thinking volunteers, the luxury of space to house a gear library, and incredible partners who share in the mission to connect kids and nature. This gear library would not have been possible without strong collaborative partners and dedicated volunteers. We deeply value the 18 organizations that have joined The Mountaineers to launch this community resource.

We have been working with WTA’s Outdoor Leadership Training Program throughout this process, sharing training and reciprocal services to scale up the resources available to youth and youth leaders in the Puget Sound area.

The three leading sponsors of the gear library are: REI Foundation, King County – Youth Amateur Sports Fund Grant, and Rab USA.

Additional supporters include: The Moccasin Lake Foundation, Cascade Designs, Petzl, Bogs, Cocoon, Deuter, Wise Owl Outfitters, Salomon, Adidas TERREX, Adventure Medical Kits, The North Face, Sea to Summit, Kovea USA, Vasque, and Helly Hansen. 

Get Involved!

Whether you’re a volunteer, a youth leader or someone who wants to contribute gear, we’d love for you to join in this community resource. Contact andyb@mountaineers.org to get connected.


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Cheryl Talbert
Cheryl Talbert says:
Thu, Sep 13, 2018 2:39 PM

What gear will be available for loan? Backpacking gear? Snowshoes?