GearCommons is a simple—nonetheless long-overdue—concept for outdoor enthusiasts: a peer-to-peer network in which people who own gear can connect with people who need it, and can circulate their specialized and oftentimes expensive equipment for a price. The simple, but clever idea came to college friends James Rogers and Mike Brown in the middle of a snowshoe marathon in Vermont. Friends wanted to participate, but didn’t have the appropriate gear; meanwhile, others who weren’t interested had the requisite equipment sitting, unused at home. “It was kind of an ‘Aha!’ moment in the middle of that race,” says Brown. “We started coding the weekend after.” Later, the friends brought on fellow outdoor adventurer and software developer Joel Weber.
Many outdoor activities (like whitewater kayaking or mountain climbing, for example) go hand-in-hand with expensive, but necessary equipment. Even once you’ve made the commitment and handed over a credit card, the demands of work and everyday life might mean you only get to use the equipment a few times per year. GearCommons addresses both of those problems and lists everything from surfboards to tents to ice tools. Brown explains that it’s about redefining the concept of ownership—and therefore, consumption. “[People] are starting to value access over ownership. It has obvious positive impacts on the environment, because we’re consuming less, and it also positively impacts your wallet by only paying for gear when you need it as opposed to spending thousands up front to own it,” he says.
At the moment, most of the equipment is located in the Boston area, which is where the three developers are located and in close proximity to the wilderness of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. However, as the GearCommons network grows, its founders believe both its reach and the scope of equipment they provide will expand; “We expect it to continue with water-sports like kayaking and paddle-boarding as the summer season starts.”
The transactions are conducted online, but the exchanges are made in person. This allows both the owner and the renter to discuss the current state of the gear, instructions for use, and what will consist of normal wear on tear—after all, it’s valuable property. Real life exchanges also helps further foster the local outdoor community. Brown says, “We think of it as an ‘act local on a global scale’ kind of approach.”
Lead image by Graham Hiemstra, all others courtesy of GearCommons