One of the best things about hiking is that it doesn't take a lot of money or specialized gear. Some sturdy shoes and a backpack with the Ten Essentials are often all that you will need for a day in the woods. Many of these basics can be found at thrift stores or borrowed from a friend.
Other equipment, like backpacking packs, stoves, snowshoes, tents or sleeping bags may require more of an investment. If you're not in a position to buy new gear or not sure you want to commit to a new sport just yet, consider renting what you need. Below are some resources for renting and borrowing gear in Washington state.
Where to rent hiking, camping and snowshoeing gear
- Washington State Parks (all Washington) has partnered with Arrive Outdoors to offer gear rentals sent directly to you via FedEx. Arrive Outdoors supports camping, backpacking, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing trips and more.
- Back 40 Outfitters (Seattle) doesn't have a physical location, but specializes in distributing backpacking gear rentals in the Seattle area via drop boxes or delivery. They only rent gear in kits organized around different types of trips.
- Brown's Outdoor (Port Angeles) rents winter recreation equipment such as snowshoes, crampons, trekking poles and ice axes.
- Daypacked (Seattle) This settle-based company rents fully loaded daypacks as well as dog packs.
- Der Sportsmann (Leavenworth) rents snowshoes and cross-country skis.
- Equipment Shop at American Alpine Institute (Bellingham) rents climbing, camping, and winter recreation gear. They also offer student discounts on all rentals.
- Feathered Friends (Seattle) rents down sleeping bags, parkas and pants; climbing gear like helmets, crampons and ice axes; avalanche safety gear and snowshoes and trekking poles.
- Fitness Fanatics (Spokane) rents cross country skis, skate skis and snowshoes.
- Gearhouse (Seattle) is a hangout space and outdoor gear library with a monthly subscription model that allows members to borrow a variety of gear including camping, backpacking, mountaineering, trail running, splitboarding and paddleboarding gear.
- GeerGarage (Seattle) connects you with peers nearby who can rent you the equipment you need for a wide array of outdoor activities including camping, backpacking, paddleboarding, kayaking, biking and winter sports. Have gear lying around? Help your peers get outside by listing it for rent.
- Kaf Adventures (Seattle) offers both gear to rent, as well as outdoor travel experiences dedicated to wilderness education and leadership development through outdoor recreation, adventure travel and wilderness exploration.
- Methow Cycle & Sport (Mazama) rents cross country skis and snowshoes.
- Outdoor Recreational Gears (Tacoma) All the winter gear and summer gear you need to get outside for skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking and camping. Memberships available.
- Outdoor Research (Seattle) rents ice axes, crampons, helmets, shovels, trekking poles, snowshoes, avalanche beacons and probes.
- Plain Valley Ski Trails (Leavenworth/Lake Wenatchee area) rents out skis and snowshoes.
- REI (statewide). Each REI store rents a slighlty different set of gear, ranging from tents, backpacks and sleeping bags to snowshoes and mountaineering gear.
- Spokane Public Library (Spokane) rents out snowshoes — for free!
- Whittaker Mountaineering (Ashford) has a massive selection of rentals (including tire chains!) with an easy online reservation system. Stop on your way to Mount Rainier and you'll be set.
Rental and borrowing resources for college students
Check with the outdoor recreation department or club at your high school or university to see if they have a gear rental program. Below are just a few of the resources available to students in Washington.
- The University of Washington's Gear Garage Rental Center rents skis, and snowshoes, as well as backcountry gear.
- Washington State University's Outdoor Recreation Rental Shop has an incredibly extensive list of rental gear for hikers, backpackers and snowshoers, including tents, 3- and 4-season sleeping bags, sleeping pads, headlamps, stoves, bear canisters, trekking poles, snowshoes, gaiters and more.
- Western Washington University's Outdoor Center rents our backpacks, guidebooks, avalanche gear, snowshoeing gear and more.
- Central Washington University rents camping, backpacking and winter activities gear.
- Eastern Washington University's EPIC Adventures outdoor program rents backpacking, hiking and snow gear including apparel like fleece jackets, cooking gear, tents and snowshoeing gear.
- Whitman College's Outdoor Program Rental Shop has everything you need for backpacking, water sports, mountaineering, and winter recreation.
Free gear for educators and their students
WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training program offers access to a free gear library, money for transportation and other trip costs, and training workshops for teachers and youth workers who want to take their youth groups outdoors. Workshop graduates have access to a gear lending library, where they can borrow jackets, rain pants, layers and boots and packs to outfit their outdoor experiences.
Rental resources for Washington's military
- Fairchild Air Force Base Outdoor Recreation Program and Rentals
- Joint Base Lewis - McChord MWR Outdoor Recreation Rental Facilities
- Naval Outdoor Programs and Gear Rentals for NBK Bangor, NAVSTA Everett and NAS Whidbeys
Create a lending library among friends
A gear lending system between friends and neighbors is a great way to get what you need and build community while you're at it. Want to give it a try? Here are a few tips for making it work.
- Agree on some community guidelines, so that everyone is on the same page from the beginning.
- Keep it informal, and just post a shout-out when you need something.
- More of an organizer? Take an inventory of all the available gear, noting things like size and condition. You can even include photos. Put this information in a shared document online for everyone to see.
- Take note of the condition of gear before and after each trip. This process can be as casual or formal as you want it to be.
- Create a clear understanding of who is responsible if something is lost or needs repair.
- Don't put anything in the library that you're too attached to.