How the sharing economy is making inroads in the outdoors

click to enlarge Buddy the border collie waits for his owner to strap on her rented REI backpack. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Buddy the border collie waits for his owner to strap on her rented REI backpack.

The laws of physics tell us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The laws of the universe tell us that every interest has casual and extreme adherents. Classic cars. Comic books. Model railroads. Whatever the niche interest, there's a smaller subset of super knowledgeable followers devoted to collecting items associated with it.

Same goes for outdoor recreation. There are casual weekend hikers who own a pair of boots and hardcore gearheads who know every nook and cranny of the industry magazines and buy three versions of every conceivable outdoor product.

This article is for the casual recreationist — the person who's interested enough in getting outdoors but budget conscious enough not to take out a second mortgage so you can ride your more-expensive-than-most-cars triathlon bike on the Palouse Highway every summer evening.

Fortunately for you (really, most of us), there are plenty of gear rental and sharing options to facilitate weekend adventures without requiring daily peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to save money. This is the gig and sharing economy, after all. It's not just cars and houses we can rent and share — but bikes, tents, paddleboards and... yes, even Discover Passes.

If you're looking to use — but not purchase — some of this gear, start here:

DISCOVER PASS

Access to Washington state parks and other state-run recreation land doesn't come free, at least not for trailhead parking or boat launches. If you don't want to spend the $30 for an annual pass, you have one intriguing option: check out from the library.

Spokane Public Library

Note: Don't wait until the day before your trip to inquire. See the reservation availability well in advance. They have other gear to check out, too.

CAMPING GEAR

You don't need to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on tents, sleeping bags, pads and the like in order to stay comfortable. Whether a weekend getaway to a state park or a seven-day backpacking trip on the Pacific Northwest Trail, you can find most of what you need for rent for a reasonable price, including bear canisters, stoves and backpacks, to basic climbing gear.

REI

SNOWSHOES

Every ski or board shop will rent, well, skis and boards — as will the rental shops at area mountains. But don't forget the joy of snowshoeing, either on your favorite mountain trail or just the deep powder of an open field. Rental prices vary, and remember: Different styles of snowshoes are meant for different activities — backcountry, moderate hiking, powder conditions, even light jogging. Sizing is generally done by height/weight of the user.

Fitness Fanatics

  • Spokane Valley
  • 922-6080
  • fitnessfanatics.com
  • Note: Only rented on-site at Mt. Spokane Nordic ski area.
Mountain Gear
REI
Spokane Public Library
Tri State Outfitters
Vertical Earth

BIKES

Most shops will rent bikes — either by the half day, full day or multi-day. Plus, at the end of the year, they'll often sell these rental — demo — bikes that are used (sometimes not even very much) at steep discounts compared to their full price. And since they've been at a bike shop with professional mechanics, you know they've been well maintained between rides.

Bikehub

  • Downtown, South Spokane and Spokane Valley
  • Downtown 474-1260
  • South Spokane 747-2231
  • Spokane Valley 4443-4005

Fitness Fanatics

REI

  • Spokane
  • 328-9900
  • rei.com/spokane
  • Discounts for members. Mountain and city bikes available.

Spoke n' Sport

Vertical Earth

KAYAKS & STAND-UP PADDLE BOARDS

There aren't just land-based sports in the Inland Northwest. Enjoying a relaxing paddle on Lake Coeur d'Alene or a quick jaunt down the Little Spokane River to Nine Mile Falls doesn't need to require your own boat (especially one you only use a few times a year anyway).

Fun Unlimited

Note: On-site in downtown Spokane river access off Centennial Trail. Post Falls location at Templin's Red Lion. Delivery on a "case-by-case" basis depending on staff availability. Extra fee per mile for delivery and pick up.

Mountain Gear

Note: All rentals must be picked up at the store and no trailers are provided.

REI

  • Spokane
  • 328-9900

Note: REI offers inflatable single and tandem paddle boards to rent.

SUPrents

Note: SUPRents ships inflatable paddle boards all over the country, but local customers get discounts when they pick theirs up.

SUP Spokane

Note: Scheduled delivery available within the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene region. Pickup from their Millwood offices is also available.

Tri State Outfitters

  • Moscow
  • 208-882-4555

Moses Lake

  • 765-9338
  • Coeur d'Alene 208-772-0613 Lewiston 208-746-5307
  • t-state.com

GEAR-SHARING APPS

Aside from using traditional retailers or outfitters to rent, the rise of the gig and sharing economy means the rise of web and app-based platforms to facilitate person-to-person gear sharing. The multiple apps and services for sharing seem to come and go as their business models prove difficult. The short-lived service GearCommons can attest to that, as founder Michael Brown wrote in 2016:

"Access to equipment was indeed a real problem that people had. We designed our service to solve that problem and it worked," Brown wrote in a Medium post outlining why the startup failed to take off. "However, we didn't realize at the time but we had just built a business that only makes money one day a week and one day a year.

With that difficulty and tenuous business model in mind, some apps and platforms to explore, as recommended at sharetraveler.com:

  • Expeerent
  • Fat Lama
  • Gear Around Here
  • Quipmo
  • StokeShare

  • or