A fresh start for retired outdoor gear

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Fran is a single mum enjoys sharing her love for the outdoors with her two kids. Together they hike, camp, and wild swim.

One day, Frans kids bring home a kit list for a scouting event. As a low income family, Fran was lucky that while in work she had previously got together much of the kid needed but began to wonder how others may not have this luxury.

Fran considered that not having kit or the means to affort it can be a real barrier to accessing the outdoors. Missing out on the physical and psycholical benefits of the outdoors simply because of a low income and lack of resoruces seemed such a shame, and hence Kitsquad was born.

Fran approached me recently asking to share Kitsquad on our community page. I’m always excited by, and open to innovation and had to learn more about this up and coming charity/nonprofit.

So without further delay, here is a Q&A with Fran, from Kitsquad.

How did the idea of Kitsquad come about?

My children both attend scouts and they came home with their kit lists for scout camp. We had everything on the list already, as being outdoors is what we choose to do for our family time.

I had to give up a full time salary 6 years ago to become a full time family member, losing that income and becoming reliant on benefits was tough and absolutely not part of my life plan. I would not have been able to afford the items on the kit list, had we not already had the gear to hand.

This got me thinking that there must be families out there that are unable to afford this and their children are missing out on these opportunities as a result.

Since the scheme has started, I’ve supplied gear to many people, including items to enable young people to complete scout camps and DofE expeditions. No one is excluded from benefiting from the scheme, as long as they are classed as low income.

As a family, we are very aware of the impact people are having on our planet and we try to minimise our carbon footprint where we can. A great way to do this is to recycle. This scheme shares that same ethos.

As far as I’m aware, there is no other nationwide scheme that supplies adventure gear to low income individuals in the whole of the UK.

Where do your donations typically come from?

I receive donations mainly from individuals who have found they have items that have become surplus to their requirements.

Until recently, I have been operating the scheme on word of mouth, only just publicly launching Kitsquad in January 2022.

The scheme has dramatically grown in this short space of time, confirming there really is a need for it.

As a result of this growth and a clear need for adventure gear, I am currently contacting companies, that make the kind of kit the scheme needs, to see if they would be willing to support us by donating slightly damaged goods that cannot be sold on, but their original purpose is not compromised.

As it stands though, this scheme wouldn’t operate without the incredible individual donations folk send in. They are the real heroes here, I am just the person in the middle that completes the logistics.

Describe the logistics behind getting donations back to you, refurbishing them, and getting them ready for gifting to those who need them?

The concept is quite simple. People donate gear, it’s sent to me. Once received, it’s logged, checked, cleaned, and reproofed (if needed).

I am currently operating this scheme from home, so having a quick turnover helps me cope with the minimum amount of storage that I have here.

Washing and cleaning clothing and boots and shoes are done at home.

Sleeping bags and garments requiring more specialist cleaning are taken to my local laundrette / dry cleaners.

Probably the most challenging task I have is turning the donated tents around. This is easy in the warmer months when I can put them up, check them, and reproof them in the garden. Over the winter months, this is proving a challenge, as I lack the room indoors to do this.

Whilst I was operating this scheme solely on word of mouth, I would typically receive 2-3 parcels a week of donations and would be sending out a similar number of parcels every week to recipients.

Since the scheme was officially and publicly launched in January 2022, I am tripled the number of parcels going out to recipients, with many more requests for gear and pledges of donations coming in daily.

The quality of the donations continues to be of a very good standard. My local delivery drivers have been very busy!

Once the recipient has received the donation, that is theirs to keep. Though I do request that if they find it has become of no further use to them for whatever reason, its re-gifted back to the scheme for someone else to use.

I cover the whole of the UK

Who receives your donations?

The only requirement my beneficiaries have is that they must be low-income. This scheme is targeting people on benefits, whether that’s universal credit, tax credits or unemployment benefits.

The best thing about hiking, wild camping, and wild swimming is that it’s free, but to participate in these pastimes safely does come with a certain amount of personal responsibility.

One of the responsible aspects is having the necessary and correct gear, with appropriate clothing and footwear being the obvious example.

The benefits to physical and mental health through being in the great outdoors are well documented and everyone should be encouraged to do this.

This scheme aims to remove the financial barrier that could stop someone from reaping the health benefits of being in nature.

I should point out at this point, I do not supply community groups as a whole with gear, I operate purely on an individual level. There are schemes out there that do support community groups and I would be happy to pass on their details if required. However, if a teacher, scout leader, or equivalent wants to liaise with Kitsquad on behalf of one of their service users, this can be accommodated too.

Do you have any stories for recipients of the donations and how it has impacted them?

I have also provided an entire kit list for a person, who had found herself becoming reliant on benefits (not unlike myself) and she was participating in a fundraising trek to Everest Base Camp. This was a huge expedition and I’m so pleased Kitsquad was a contributing factor that allowed her to complete this. I have to point out though, that many requests are from people who want to engage in more micro adventures local to them, Adventures big or small, Kitsquad will try its best to accommodate.

The details of beneficiaries of Kitsquad are kept confidential.

What are your ambitions for the project?

There is currently no other scheme like this that covers the whole of the UK. So this little project that started at home in my lounge has the opportunity to become pioneering in its field.

There is clearly a great need for this scheme and I really believe that it has the potential to be huge. I am currently writing grant applications and I am hoping that as the scheme continues to grow, I am able to move into more suitable premises, with more storage facilities.

My aim over the next year is to move this scheme from a not-for-profit community scheme to a registered charity.

This will enable Kitsquad to continue to grow and to support more people getting outdoors and having great adventures.

What gear to you need? Is there any adventure gear you wont accept and what is your most requested items?

Imagine yourself going on an adventure and then have a think of what kit you might need to enable you to complete that adventure. This is the kit we need. A more comprehensive list is on the Kitsquad Facebook page. It is not a complete list, with anything being considered.

The most requested items are walking boots, rucksacks, waterproof trousers and waterproof jackets

How can readers get hold of Kitsquad?

Kitsquad can be found on Facebook

The email address is: kitsquadsecondhandgear@gmail.com

Phone, text or WhatsApp: 07385204692

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