Born to be Worn, Not Stitched to be Ditched

Sarah Howcroft
Wednesday, 19th February 2014

Many of us upgrade our outdoor clothing as materials develop, but what happens with our old gear that is still fully functioning? Sarah Howcroft, co-founder of Rohan has created 'Gift Your Gear', recycling old clothing for those who need it!

I have been producing outdoor gear for over 40 years. In the early days, as co-founder of Rohan, I actually made the garments. Over the years I have seen many developments in how outdoor clothing is made and what they are made of. Most outdoor gear will last much longer than we want or need it too. Durability is a given in outdoor gear, it has to be capable of functioning regardless of all the the stresses and strains climate and terrain can produce. I've seen clothing I made more than thirty years ago donated to Gift Your Gear and guess what, they have been sent out again for a second lease of life on the hills. Now that's longevity. 

Developments in outdoor fabrics move quickly and in order to get the benefit these fabrics offer we tend to buy new outdoor clothing long before the existing gear has reached the end of its useful life. The question of what happens to all the gear we no longer want or need has interested me for a number of years. I discovered some get donated to charity shops, some to family members and by far the greatest amount, nothing happens to them, they are left to languish in wardrobes, lofts and garages.

Over the years I have had a lot of contact with outdoor groups and charities working with young people in the outdoors. I have always been impressed by the work they do and the results they achieve. During the last few years the income of these organisations has been reduced and so has their ability to buy outdoor gear.

So I founded Gift Your Gear in order to reuse and redirect the gear we no longer want or need to those who can use it.

Partnering the unwanted with the needed!

Gift Your Gear provides outdoor clothing and equipment to UK community organisations, youth groups and charities working with young people in the outdoors. I am always keen to hear about possible new beneficiaries. To be eligible to receive Gift Your Gear donations the organisation should meet the beneficiaries criteria. One of these being that the donated gear is held in a gear pool. This is to avoid individual ownership of the gear and to ensure the maximum number of people benefit for the longest period of time.

I make personal visits to each beneficiary to learn more about them and what they need to operate properly in the outdoors. By doing that I get a deep understanding of the requirements of these groups. I spend the day with the teams; learn how they do things, what they need, and how the pools are working, making sure the clothing is being used again and again. In doing so it ensures the maximum number of people get the greatest benefit from the gear.

These are charities and organisations that work with young people in the outdoors and provide them with the opportunity to offer the correct clothing to their visitors, for example the Brathay Trust in The Lakes, The Calvert Trust, Aspatria Dream scheme and Fix the Fells all expanded their gear pools with donations from Gift Your Gear. 

Our young people need to get outdoors for their physical, emotional and intellectual health. We need to help them by making access to the outdoors affordable. The sun doesn’t always shine. The outdoors can be cold, wet and windy. Quality outdoor clothing and equipment enhances our enjoyment of the outdoor experience. It can be difficult to appreciate the majesty of nature when it seems as if the wind is slicing you like a knife. Feeling like a wet rag is unlikely to inspire a novice hillwalker or kayaker to repeat the experience.

It's not possible to put an exact figure on how much has been donated to Gift Your Gear since officially accepting donations around 18 months ago. To date, more than 150 community organisations, youth groups and charities who are passionate about putting the wind in the hair and the sparkle in the eye of UK youth have benefited from donations that have enabled them to set up gear pools.

Gift Your Gear gratefully accepts all unwanted waterproofs, fleeces, outdoor trousers, insulated jackets, gloves, hats and boots that are gathering dust in our wardrobes, attics and garages. When they could be gathering mountain miles. They were born to be worn, not stitched to be ditched. The great outdoors are where they belong, not languishing in the back of a dark wardrobe or dusty attic.

Gift Your Gear is a true win-win. Youth are properly and economically provided with quality clothing to better enjoy their outdoor experience (and research shows that the earlier someone forms a positive connection with the natural world, the more likely they are to care for it in later life. Being second hand, this gear is as environmentally benign as it can be. Your home is decluttered, and your heart warmed by the good deed done. Go on: make your kit count!

The month of March see Gift Your Gear partner with Rohan, the award winning outdoor and travel clothing company. Donate your unwanted outdoor clothing to Gift Your Gear at any Rohan Shop during March, that's all outdoor clothing regardless of brand, including children's clothing. The two Rohan Shops in The Lakes in Ambleside and Keswick are very keen to welcome anyone that has unwanted outdoor gear to donate and in return are offering a 15% discount on any new Rohan purchased on the day. 

For more information visit 

Sarah Howcroft, has spent over forty years working in the UK outdoor industry. Her main areas of interest are centred around sustainable development and ethical business practices within the industry. Sarah is keen to develop practical solutions to help overcome some of the problems the industry faces. Gift Your Gear is a very practical example of this. 

Further resources

Recycling to create art - computer component bugs

How to build a pig enclosure from pallets

Building your own renewable energy systems from recycled materials

Reduce, reuse, recycle for just £4.95

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