GR Outside

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Everyone in Grand Rapids deserves equitable access to outdoor equipment and spaces

We know that time outdoors, no matter how you spend it, is a key part of a healthy life. We also know that access to outdoor spaces and equipment is not equitable for everyone. That's where we come in. Our Gear Library, outdoor events, and educational courses are here to help everyone in Grand Rapids spend time outside. 

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If you want to spend time outside, good gear is important 

We know outdoor gear and clothing is expensive, and sometimes it can also be difficult to use without someone showing you how. The GR Outside Gear Library is here to help! Not only do we have free or low cost equipment rentals, our staff is also available to show you how to use items, or help you plan your next outdoor adventure. 

The GR Outside Gear Library is a community resource that is open to everyone. We use a "pay what you can" system. This means that you tell us what you are comfortable paying for your rental. As a community we can make the outdoors more accessible for everyone!  


View Our Online Gear Library Inventory

Become a Member (families and individuals)

Membership Overview

To become a GR Outside Gear Library Member you can either create an account online or visit us in person. Either way we ask that you attend an in-person new member orientation during your first visit or gear pickup. The new-member orientation takes about 15 minutes and will cover library policies, a facility tour, and our lending process. At this time, the GR Outside Gear Library is offering individual and family memberships to Kent County residents only. 

Become a member online:

Visit our virtual Gear Library at the link below. Select "Create Account" at the top of the page. If you wish, you can place a reservation for up to 8 items right away. Whenever you make your first in-person visit, we will give you a new member orientation.

Create your online account

Become a member in person:

Visit us at the GR Outside Gear Library (739 Van Raalte Dr SW) anytime during our open hours. No appointment needed. We will create your account and give you a new member orientation. You can borrow or reserve items right away during this visit. 


Become a Member (large groups)

If you are representing a large group like a nonprofit, business, or classroom, we have a membership just for you! Group memberships have larger gear limits, and a slightly longer registration process to help us understand your needs. At this time, group memberships are only available for groups that operate within Grand Rapids city limits.

To become a group member, email to setup a 30 minute consultation.


Kids and leaders smiling excitedly at an outdoor Thrive Outside event


Location and Hours

The GR Outside Gear Library is located in the lower level of the Roosevelt Park Lodge building (739 Van Raalte Dr SW). The library is open every week on Tuesday through Friday from 3:00 - 7:00 pm. 

Spanish speaking staff members are often on site during open hours. Contact us in advance if you would like to ensure a Spanish speaking staff member will be available. Translations for most languages can also be made available during all open hours through a call-in service.


Frequently asked questions

I don't live in Grand Rapids. Can I still borrow items? 

At this time you must be a Kent County resident to start an individual or family membership. Large groups must be based within Grand Rapids city limits to utilize the Gear Library.'

How long can I borrow Items? 

Items can be borrowed for up to a week at a time. Our mission is to support people in getting outside for somewhat local excursions. This limit also ensures that equipment is in and out the doors often, and therefore available for more people in the community. 

What should I expect during a membership orientation?

 At this time we are not requiring ID or proof of address. We ask that you join us for a 10-15 minute orientation that will cover everything you need to know about using the gear library. 

How is equipment cleaned? 

 We ask that you do certain cleaning tasks before returning items. Staff check items after drop off to make sure they are cleaned and still working properly before the next person comes to pickup. There are certain items you will be asked not to clean. Staff will make this clear when you pickup your items. 

What if equipment gets broken or lost?

Every situation is different, and we will never charge fees for malfunctions or wear and tear. If we have to charge you for a broken or lost item, we will only ask you to pay our replacement cost of the item (usually about 60% of the item's retail cost).

We know that life gets crazy! Even if you cannot pay a fee, please bring items back and talk to us about what happened. Every issue can be resolved through open communication. 




Gear Library Camping Program

You heard that right, the Gear Library even has camping equipment!

If Gear Library members want to borrow camping equipment, they must join our camping program by taking one of our Camping Certification Courses. During a certification course you will learn by doing - setting up your own tent, lighting a camp stove, and hearing tons of tricks and tips from GR Outside staff. Space in our camping program is limited, and our true goal is to support new campers that have not had the opportunity to camp before. If you are not a beginner camper, please consider finding another source for your camping equipment. 

Sign up for your camping certification


What is the Gear Library Camping Program?

GR Outside believes that camping is one of the most impactful things a person can do outside. We also know that camping has historically been exclusive to those with the right combination of money, gear, skills, and a surrounding community. 

If you have never had the opportunity to camp before, we want you to join our camping community! 

Our camping program starts with a certification course that shows you how to use all of the camping gear housed in the Gear Library. After the course, GR Outside staff are here to help you plan your next trip.

Once you are a part of our Camping Program, GR Outside can work with you to: 

  • Pick and book a campsite
  • Plan a food menu
  • Build a camping packing list

What is a camping certification course?

Our camping certification course covers:

  • Trip planning and packing basics
  • How to use and take care of tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp stoves and cookware, and more
  • How to pack and clean equipment before and after your trip

We require camping orientations for two reasons:

  1. To ensure that members are comfortable with the equipment, so they can have maximum fun
  2. To ensure that our camping equipment is treated the same way by everyone who borrows it





We offer year round courses and workshops! Public courses require advance registration.

Current Offerings: 

Click here to see 2023 Kayaking Trips






Our work wouldn't be possible without support from our partners. To learn more about how your organization or business can support our work, you contact us via email, phone, or a Gear Library visit. 

Thrive Outside Grand Rapids is a proud member of the Outdoors Empowered Network


The GR Gear Library was made possible with equipment donations from the following sponsors: 

Logo of Wolverine Worldwide


Logo of Merrell


Logo of Moosejaw


Logo of Bill and Paul's Sporthaus

 UGQ Outdoor LLC Logo



Initiative Background

In 2016, Our Community’s Children led a community planning effort - with support from the Children & Nature Network and National League of Cities. The effort was a part of the national Cities Connecting Children to Nature Initiative

Learn more about Our Community’s Children and their work in Connecting Children to Nature

In 2019, Our Community’s Children was the recipient of the Outdoor Foundation Thrive Outside Grant, and closely partnered with the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department to spearhead this initiative. The Thrive Outside Initiative was built on the foundation created by the Cities Connecting Children to Nature initiative. 

Read more about the Thrive Outside Initiative

In 2020, the Thrive Outside Gear Library began pilot programs and community outreach. The Gear Library then celebrated its grand opening and ribbon cutting in October of 2021. 

In 2023, The Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department absorbed the work of Thrive Outside Grand Rapids and renamed the initiative “GR Outside”. With the support of the Parks and Rec Department, GR Outside offers residents outdoor equipment rentals, educational courses, and community events year-round.