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.
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!
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)
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 open 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.
View our group membership guide here to get started
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?
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.
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.
If you are representing a business or organized group, 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.
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.
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:
- To ensure that members are comfortable with the equipment, so they can have maximum fun
- To ensure that our camping equipment is treated the same way by everyone who borrows it
We offer year round courses and workshops! Courses require registration in advance. Registration links will be shared on this page when they become available.
- Camping Certifications (available early spring 2023)
- Kayaking Trips (available late spring 2023)
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:
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.