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 when you become a member, you can choose to pay 0%, 50%, or 100% of our rental prices. As a community, the GR Outside Gear Library can make the outdoors more accessible for everyone, regardless of their budget.
 
Some items, like tents and camping stoves, require a camping certification before you can borrow them. If you'd like to borrow these items, look out for our camping certification courses that will available in the spring of 2023!

 

Please note: Rental fees will not be charged until 4/1/2023. If you wish to support this program by paying for rental items before 4/1/2023, you can still make a donation via cash, check, or online. 

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. 

Create an account 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. If you need more items, contact us, or come visit us in person. 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 become a group member, please set up a 30 minute consultation with the Gear Library Supervisor by emailing struby@grcity.us. You're also welcome to visit our facility anytime during open hours to start this process. We want to make sure that we understand your needs as a group, and we may even be able to offer additional resources such as staff training, guest staff, gear deliveries, and more.

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 on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 2:00 pm to 6:00 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. Staff will help facilitate this process.

 

Frequently asked questions

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

Yes! At this time, everyone is welcome regardless of resident status. If you're not a Grand Rapids resident, we suggest that you opt-in to pay for your rental items. 

Do I need to bring anything to my membership orientation? 

Individuals need to bring one of the following (we won't keep or copy these documents):

  • Driver's license or government-issued ID
  • Passport
  • Piece of mail with your name and address on it

If you are representing a business or organized group, you do not need to bring proof of address. You will be asked to sign a liability waiver - please ensure that the proper person in your organization is involved to sign this paperwork.

Is equipment cleaned in between uses? 

Yes it is! We have laundry facilities and processes in place to clean items between uses. We also inspect items between rentals to make sure they are working properly.

 

Gear Library Policies

The gear library  is a resource for the entire community. Please help us in our work by respecting Gear Library policies and equipment!

When you come in for a new membership orientation we will go over our policies in detail. If you'd like to see them in advance, you can check out our member agreement below. We are currently updating our Spanish translation of our policy document. Please check back soon! 

 

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Camping Certifications

Stay Tuned! Camping certification courses are coming in the Spring of 2023.

Our goal is to support first time campers, especially those who haven't had the opportunity to experience a camping trip in the past. If this is not you, please consider finding another source for your camping gear so that more course spaces are open to first-time campers. 

Camping Certifications

To borrow camping equipment, we require that you attend a camping certification course with the Gear Library staff. The course takes about 2 hours and is available in Spanish and English. 

 

We will cover: 

  • Camping trip planning basics

  • How to setup a campsite, including a tent, sleeping bags and pads, and a camp kitchen

  • How to maintain and clean camping equipment 

Why we Require a Camping Certification

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

 


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FREE Drop-In Sledding

Borrow free sleds and winter clothing, right at the hill! Conditions are good, and our team will be at the hills on 1/27 through 1/29. Check back here for updates on future dates! 

Locations:

  • Plaster Creek Park, Fridays from 3 to 5 pm
  • Mulick Park, Saturdays from 11 am to 2 pm
  • Richmond Park, Sundays from 11 am to 2 pm

Note: Sledding is weather-dependent. Check our social media or website for cancellation information.


FREE Winter Festival at Indian Trails Golf Course

What: Come demo snowshoes, fat tire bikes, sleds, and outdoor clothing. The event will have games for the whole family, along with free food, bonfires, music, and more.

When: Saturday, February 18 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Where: Indian Trails Golf Course (2776 Kalamazoo Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507)

Learn More about Winter Festiva


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We offer year round courses and workshops! Courses require registration in advance. Registration links will be shared on this page when they become available. 

Current Offerings: 

Snowshoe Walk at Indian Trails Golf Course

Upcoming Offerings: 

  • Camping Certifications (available early spring 2023)
  • Kayaking Trips (available late spring 2023)

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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

Sponsors

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

 


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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.