Outdoor ‘gear libraries’ aim to break the barriers of camping


(WXYZ) — Have you ever dreamed about going camping but didn’t have access to the gear? If so, there are now so-called “gear libraries,” which aim to give everyone the opportunity to try out camping.

Inside one warehouse, there is a ton of camping gear and other gear in general. All of it is used to help better serve the underprivileged youth, and give them the opportunity to try something new.

Garrett Dempsey is a Sierra Club staffer who helps run the Detroit Outdoor Program. It’s a collaboration of the Detroit Parks and Recreation department, the YMCA of Metro Detroit, and the Sierra Club.

“Our goal is to help connect more youth and families with outdoor experiences and experiences in nature,” Dempsey said. “The primary way we do that is by lowering the barrier of accessing high-quality camping gear.”

The club also gives access to some of the training and skills needed to run and lead a successful camping trip. The list includes tents, sleeping bags, jackets and more.

They go to Rouge Park, Belle Isle, and other places around the city to give people a glimpse of what the outdoor world is like.

Bill Albrecht is a high school biology teacher with Hamtramck Public Schools. He helped start an outdoor club, with the goal of getting kids outside, exploring nature, and ditching their phones.

“How do we create spaces for kids to go non-digital and just to get that other experience that they’re not getting? A lot of kids all day long, their experience is this digital thing,” he said.

Albrecht uses the program to help his students get in direct connection with the outdoors.

“There’s curiosity that comes afterward. Kids ask a lot of questions. There are genuine expressions of curiosity that I don’t see in a classroom,” he said.

There’s also a ton of curiosity out there about these types of gear rental programs. While we were visiting, a group from the YMCA had just picked up their gear rental equipment to head to the Upper Peninsula.

Rachel Felder took her first camping trip with Detroit Outdoors when she was 17. She has since graduated college but is now back where she fell in love with the outdoors.

“I think it’s such an amazing experience. Because like me, I had never been camping before and I was graduating High School,” she said. So just to see 6-year-olds, 12-year-olds just having that experience at a younger age and be like this is something not only I am interested in doing but this is a career path.”


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