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Our guide on where to donate your outdoor gear

Don't let your outdoor gear go to waste. Donate, reuse, recycle.

By: Aurora Slaughter + Save to a List

It’s easy to get attached to your outdoor gear. However, after serving you well on all your adventures, you may be ready to get something newer or no longer need the gear. When this happens, you likely will not want to just throw it away or give it to a random place. Luckily for you, a lot of outdoor gear can get pretty pricey and there are a lot of people who are seeking adventures but are unable to afford the equipment. You can make a difference by donating or recycling your well-loved and retired gear to a great company. For some suggestions on where and how to donate your gear, read our guide below.

Why you should donate

Maybe the newest gear for your favorite outdoor activity is too hard to resist buying. Maybe you have way too many fleece jackets and are running out of closet space. No matter the reason, when you are ready to move on from your old gear, a great option is donating.

Every year outdoor gear ends up being thrown away even when it has barely been used or only needs minor fixes. This creates a huge carbon footprint. By donating your gear instead of tossing it, you can help reduce landfill waste and make a positive environmental impact on the beautiful outdoor spaces we all love to enjoy. Donating can also help get more people into the outdoors and participating in activities that are unable to afford the gear. After all the incredible adventures your outdoor gear has helped give you, it can be so rewarding to give another person that same opportunity.

A person stares out of their tent at the view of the surrounding mountains

Photo by: Sarah Vaughn

What to donate

It is important when you are donating gear that the clothing or equipment is still usable for the next person. It is best not to donate safety or life-saving equipment, such as harnesses, as these have specific structural integrity needed to function correctly and are most effective when they are new. Overall, donate things that are gently used and still in fairly good condition.

However, here is where a distinction comes in. Donating used gear means passing the gear directly to another person or company for further use. Recycling gear means giving your used gear to a company that will use the material to make something new. Therefore, if you have well-worn gear that you believe is no longer usable and beyond any minor fixes, there is still no need to throw it away. The materials used to make the gear are likely still functional. Recycle your unsalvageable gear and help reduce the amount of new material needed in the production process for new gear.

Some popular items to consider donating include:

  • Hiking shoes
  • Fleece/insulated jackets and pullovers
  • Hiking backpacks
  • Tents
  • Sleeping bags
A person snowshoes across a snow covered valley.

Photo by: Sonja Saxe

How to get gear ready for donation

Clean your gear

Things get dirty in the outdoors. We don’t want to donate them that way though. It is essential to run things like clothing and sleeping bags through the washing machine and wipe down items like tents and footwear before donating them.

Put it in the right packaging

There are a lot of places where you can ship your used outdoor gear. It is important to ship it in tightly sealed packaging and clearly label it, so it does not get dirty, lost, or broken in transit. It is also important to fold or place the items being donated neatly in the packaging so the company can have an easier time sorting it upon arrival.

Where to donate

Outdoor Outreach

Outdoor Outreach is a San Diego-based company that strives to “connect youth to the transformative power of the outdoors.” Founded in 1999 they provide programs that help get kids involved in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, climbing, or kayaking while helping facilitate positive youth development and environmental education. They accept donations of new and lightly used gear.

Gear Forward

Gear Forward also focuses on helping children get outside. Their goal is to “outfit the next generation of adventurers” and ensure every kid has the necessary gear to explore outside. The company was created in 2015 by former outdoor blogger and eagle scout Scott Gauvin and has local groups you can donate gear in every state. They accept donations of sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, and Scouts uniforms which can be shipped to them or donate locally by joining the state Facebook groups.

REI Co-Op Trade-In 

REI is an outdoor apparel and gear company that was founded in 1938. They work to promote the transformational power of nature and invest more than 70 percent of their annual profits back into the outdoor community through dividends to REI members, employee profit-sharing and retiring, and investments in outdoor non-profits. If you are looking to donate old gear in order to get new gear, REI has a great program that allows you to trade in old gear for store credit. Round up the gear you want to trade in and check online (https://www.rei.com/used/trade-it-in/search) for its eligibility and credit value. To donate, visit your local REI store or send your items by mail. 

A person's feet are seen sticking out over a ledge onlooking a circular road and pine forests

Photo by: Liam McNally

Outward Bound 

Since 1962, this nonprofit organization has been working to provide outdoor education programs for young people. With several locations across the U.S., they lead expeditions such as backpacking, mountaineering, whitewater rafting, canoeing, dog sledding, and sailing for both youth and adults. Individual states have their own branches of this company with different ways to get involved. Outward Bound California allows you to fill out an info form to donate your durable gear that is in new or very good condition.


This popular company is known for its great outdoor apparel and commitment to reducing its environmental impact. Patagonia accepts their gear back for both recycling and donations. To recycle your Patagonia gear that is beyond repair, you just have to send it or drop it off at a service center or retail store. If you have gently used Patagonia clothing you would like to donate you can visit Patagonia’s website for used clothing called Worn Wear. Worn Wear allows you to trade in your gently used clothes and get store credit for your next purchase.

The North Face Renewed

This company creates outdoor and sports apparel and is committed to making sustainably-conscious products. Their Initiative The North Face Renewed encourages people to shop used gear in order to keep it out of the landfill. Their motto is “Repair. Refurbish. Recycle.” You can donate your unwanted clothing and footwear at a local North Face store near you.

The Gear Fund Collective

The Gear Fund Collective is a new organization founded in 2021 to increase diverse representation in the outdoor community and provide gear to people who cannot access the outdoors due to a lack of funding and access to high-cost gear. The organization prioritizes giving donations to BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and adaptive folks. They accept donations of all outdoor items in good condition other than used safety gear. 

A person stares out at the snow covered, rocky peak they have summited with a backpack and snowboard on their back

Photo by: Hayden Quinn

Think Local

If you have any local summer camps or outdoor programs reach out and see if they need donations. Some local programs create wish lists or mention donations on their websites.

A couple of examples:

  1. City Kids Wilderness Project: This nonprofit organization works to give children from 6th-12th grade in Washington DC an enriching outdoor experience. Serving 134 youth, they attend summer camp at the ranch Broken Arrow in Wyoming and during the school year participate in activities like biking the C&O Canal, sea kayaking, and rock climbing in DC. They provide a wish list with all the supplies they need to be donated to help provide these services.
  2. Camp Phoenix: This summer camp provides programs with activities such as outdoor adventures, skits, and engaging math and reading challenges. They also have planned outdoor activities kids can participate in throughout the school year. They create an Amazon wish list of camp supplies they need to be donated to help keep their camp running and their campers entertained.

Other local outdoor programs will not have an official donation area or website, but many of them need equipment to run their programming. Most will accept any gear you can provide to assist their participants, campers, etc. This can be a great way to support your local community in their effort to get outside.

Cover photo by: Jamie Fleck

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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