There’s nothing new about renting outdoor gear. Specialist retailers have been hiring out waterproofs, boots, tents, snowshoes, ice axes and crampons for decades. For example, in the UK, Outdoor Hire covers gear for most of the spectrum of outdoor activities as well as offering advice, training and experiences. Sweden-based Houdini Sportswear’s rental and subscription developments offer genuinely disruptive initiatives that challenge retail models.
Further afield, REI Co-op has a well-organised rental program stating on its website, ‘Gear up for your next outdoor adventure with rentable gear from your local REI store, handpicked by our in-store experts. you can rent snowshoes, skis, snowboards, camping gear and more. and we can show you how to use it’.
This month, USA-based Coozie Outdoors announced the launch of its outdoor gear rental platform, focused on camping and backpacking, which it calls ‘the most convenient, sustainable and cost-effective way to experience the outdoors’ and which ‘will fundamentally transform the (USA) $184B outdoor gear and services industry into an experience-driven market’. Its website offers a variety of brands including Marmot, Deuter, MSR, Therm-a-Rest, Sea to Summit, Black Diamond, Helinox and Nemo.
The platform allows customers to rent premium outdoor gear online starting at 15% of the retail price, delivering everywhere in the continental USA; each rental includes a free return label. It also offers ‘one-on-one customer support to help select gear, offer packing tips and even find the perfect destination’.
The initiative comes from co-founders Rachelle Snyder and Ross Richmond who stated they started it after they grew frustrated with the lack of alternatives to gear ownership and what they term, ‘the hyper-specialised gear industry that ultimately limits access to the outdoors by demanding consumers dedicate money, time and storage space to gear that will likely be used sporadically’.
Hmm? That thinking may work for people with a ‘give it a go’ outlook and are unsure what they need but the solution is far from unique. I guess it does avoid people having to listen to gear freaks in-store. Anyone who has watched the in-store purchase scenes from the film ‘A Walk in the Woods’ will know what I mean.
Coozie Outdoors aims ‘to guide novice and experienced adventurers alike with a concierge-style search that recommends gear based on info such as travel dates, destination, activity type and the number of travelers.’ With this info, Coozie Outdoors delivers tailored product recommendations to each customer for them to consider ordering.
Snyder said, “We make it incredibly simple for our customer to know what gear they need for their trip. And by providing our customers one-on-one support and resources, we’re helping them focus on the experience of the outdoors rather than the hassle of gear ownership.”
Coozie Outdoors is supported by Science Inc., a Los Angeles-based incubator and venture fund focused on technology and internet companies that ‘tap into societal shifts and disrupt entrenched markets by partnering with early-stage entrepreneurs’. Mike Jones, Science Inc co-founder and CEO, said, “Coozie Outdoors is paving a new way for people to experience the outdoors. Its rental model democratizes access to otherwise expensive gear while supporting sustainability. They are positioned to disrupt the massive outdoor gear and services market with an approach that captures a commitment-conscious consumer looking for new experiences.”
To me, it looks like re-inventing the wheel or maybe just re-packaging it.