Doing Good with Old Mountain Gear

My gear room is full. Most of it with items that reflect my age. Vintage, cool, historic. And I know I’m not alone! We all hate throwing things away and, in the age of the circular economy, many of us are searching for ways to prevent these once cherished items from going to waste. Luckily, for much outdoor kit, there are lots of options! In particular warm clothing and waterproofs can almost always be used by someone else.

You can sell your items on the usual sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace. Even Décathlon offers a reselling service. But you won’t get much, so why not do some good by donating your items to the homeless instead?

The best items for donation are unquestionably warm clothing, but don't forget waterproof trousers. They are very useful for the homeless. As for sleeping bags, just make sure that they are not too worn out and remember that down is not a great option in the British wet!


First Point of Call: Outdoor Retailers

Some retailers have systems in place to collect second-hand items and in various ways distribute the proceeds to charities. Having checked most of the shops in London, the bins are not obvious. You’ll often need to ask a shop assistant to help you locate them.

But many of the outdoor shops which recycle do not give to charities. Instead they sell the recycled items to a large company that in turn sells them on the second-hand market in Eastern Europe and Africa where the unusable items are transformed into fibres. Not to say that this is necessarily a bad thing - at least items do not go to landfill. But it is not a charitable action.

The only UK retailers I have found who donate their collected clothes to charities are:

  • Outside – Our very own Dick Turnbull has set up a scheme, run by his sons Robert and James, to receive second-hand outdoor clothing. These are refurbished when needed and sold. The proceeds are then donated to local homeless charities. Sleeping bags are donated immediately without reselling. 
  • Ellis Brigham – You can bring in your old outdoor clothes and they will donate them to homeless charities.
  • Rohan – Has a “Gift your Gear” scheme whereby donated items are gifted to a wide array of charities which are listed on their website. 
  • Alpkit Continuum – Kit can be donated in store or sent free of charge via a Royal Mail Tracked service. There is a comprehensive list of charities served on the Alpkit website
  • Mountain Warehouse – Items will be sold by the charity New Life which will use the funds to buy equipment for disabled children. 
  • The Climbers Shop and Joe Browns – Will send your gear to the Brathay Trust for their youth projects and other charities. 


Details of Outside's Re-action Scheme


Second Point of Call: Give Directly to Charities

As a volunteer in a homeless daycentre, I know that it’s best not to give directly to homeless charities unless you have ascertained that they need your stuff. Don’t just drop a bag in front of their door. I have been on the receiving end of such generous but ill-advised donations. We end up spending a lot of resources in manpower and space to store and sort donations. In the end, we get very few items that are actually usable by our population of homeless who have very specific needs.

That is why I set up KindWinter, with the support of the Rotary Club, to solve this pain point of sorting random donations. At KindWinter we procure the specific equipment that is needed by the homeless in order to withstand sleeping out. We either get gear directly from companies or fundraise and bulk-buy exactly what people need: warm clothing, warm underlayers, waterproof outerlayers, synthetic sleeping bags, bivvy bags…etc The homeless get the right kit, new and clean.

If you are in the outdoor industry, or know someone who is, please consider giving KindWinter a helping hand by donating your surplus stock. 

Alternatively, anyone can make a financial contribution at any time by donating via our website.


And next time we are bivvying, let us all be grateful for the opportunity we have to watch the stars even if we are cold and uncomfortable. Because we are doing so out of choice rather than necessity and, unlike so many others, we have a comfy bed waiting for us back home.


Françoise Call is an Alpine Club member and the founder of KindWinter. 
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