Molly Parker

Give equal access to outdoor gear and equipment

February 11, 2022

All UVM students, regardless of economic background, deserve the same access to affordable outdoor gear.

UVM is known for being outdoorsy.

There is a Living/Learning community dedicated entirely to the outdoors called Outdoor Experience.

 UVM has several clubs dedicated to the outdoors: UVM Ski and Snowboard club, the Outing club, Audubon UVM, Chicks on Sticks Vermont, UVM Bikes, UVM Kayak club, UVM summit sisters and People of Color Outdoors, according to UVM clubs.

Despite the overwhelming outdoors culture, not all UVM students have equal access to the gear they need to participate.

Outdoor activities should not be limited to those who can afford to partake. All students should be able to engage in whatever hobby they desire.

The Outing club, a club dedicated to connecting UVM students to the wilderness, supplies rental gear to students going on trips, according to the UVM Clubs lynx page.

However, students do not have access to this gear outside of these trips.

This problem extends to other initiatives for equity in going outdoors.

Rubenstein is in the process of creating a library of gear, but the access is limited to those enrolled in the college, according to a Dec. 13, 2021 email from Brittany LeBeau to Rubenstein undergraduate students.

These initiatives work toward equal access, but they do not extend to the entire UVM community of 11,081 undergraduates. 

UVM needs a campus-wide plan for outdoor gear access, extending to the wider campus community, rather than only having access for trips and students who can afford outdoor gear.

Outdoor spaces lack diversity and inclusion. Historically, natural areas and parks catered to rich white people and left out people of color in the designs and creations of parks, according to a Dec. 14, 2020 North Carolina State University article. 

UVM providing a gear bank for all students may lessen these historical disparities and promote outdoor activities to those who never experienced them before.

Of the population at UVM, 82% identify as “white, non-Hispanic,” according to UVM’s 2020-21 Common Data Set.

As a predominantly white institution, it is important for the UVM community to contemplate access for those without privilege.

In terms of the outdoors, this means lessening the barrier to join in on activities for those who have never experienced it.

Gear is expensive.

The cheapest new backpacking equipment from REI can range from just under $100 to $500, according to the REI Co-Op online shop.

While REI and stores downtown such as Outdoor Gear Exchange offer discounted prices for used items, gear at a discount is still too expensive for college students.

Considering other expenses such as tuition, housing and food, splurging on the newest crampons is not in the budget of many college-aged students.

The multimedia desk in the library allows students to rent out camera, video and lighting equipment, according to the Howe Library website.

This system should be adopted for outing equipment.

If I did not have access to correct gear I would struggle to feel confident in my abilities outdoors.

I am lucky to come from a family that hikes, a family who can afford gear.

Not all UVM students come from privilege.

The UVM community needs to reduce the barrier of entry and supply gear to all.

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