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  

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 only pay what you are comfortable paying for your rental. As a community we can make the outdoors more accessible for everyone!  


The Gear Library is now open most days on an appointment only basis. Walk-in visits are still welcome on Fridays between 12:00 - 5:00 PM. 

To make an appointment you can place a reservation on our MyTurn inventory website. Alternatively, you're welcome to call 616-250-6652, or email to schedule an appointment directly with a staff member. 

To make an appointment with a Spanish speaking team member, please leave a note in your reservation request, or contact us directly to set up an appointment.


View Our Online Gear Library Inventory

Become a Gear Library Member

To become a GR Outside Gear Library Member we suggest that you create an account online at our MyTurn inventory website. Once you have an online account, you're welcome to place a gear reservation right away. Please note that your first gear pickup will include a new-member orientation which will take an additional 15 minutes. 

At this time, the GR Outside Gear Library is offering individual memberships to Kent county residents only. Groups and organizations must be located within Grand Rapids or work primarily with Grand Rapids residents.  

Create your online account

If you'd like to skip the online account, you can visit us during our walk-in hours on Fridays between 12:00 - 5:00 PM.You're also welcome to contact us at 616-250-6652 or to schedule an appointment to become a member in person. 


Resources for Organizations

If you are representing an organization or group that works with kids or families, we want to help you take your work outside!

Examples of ways we can partner: 

  • Group kayaking or canoeing trips
  • Camping trip support (gear lending, staff training, planning support)
  • Hikes
  • Bike Rides (ages 13+ only at this time)
  • And more! We will work with your team to plan the outing that fits your participants


To become a group member, email to schedule a group consultation. 

At this time, group memberships are only available for groups that operate within Grand Rapids city limits.


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 for walk-in visits on Fridays between 12:00 - 5:00 PM. Appointments can be made most other days of the week. 

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 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 will make this clear when you pickup your items. Staff check items after drop off to make sure they are cleaned and still working properly before the next person comes to pickup.

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

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.

Our camping program is finished taking new members for the 2023 season. Please check back in the Spring of 2024 for more camping program openings. Current camping members are welcome to continue placing camping gear reservations.


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






Upcoming Opportunities: 

This Winter we will be offering sledding, snowshoeing, and fat-tire biking. Stay tuned on this page, and on GR Outside social media to learn more as the winter gets closer. 





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.