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‘The outdoors is for everyone’ is a phrase that we hear a lot these days. Recent years have seen more and more people heading outdoors in order to enjoy the mental and physical benefits that activity in nature can provide, and whilst it may seem that our open spaces are free for all to enjoy, the associated costs of essential kit are still prohibitive for many.
While training soldiers overseas, ex-British Army Office Bruce Leishman realised that many felt apprehensive about outdoor activities owing to a lack of experience or confidence in using the equipment and clothing required to participate fully and safely. This realisation inspired Bruce to found KitUp – a rental service and app that allows users to hire outdoor gear from other outdoor enthusiasts based on location and activity, reducing costs and emissions as well as improving accessibility.
Below, Bruce gives us an insight into the company’s humble beginnings, and how KitUp is on a mission to open up adventure to more people by improving accessibility and connecting communities.
Imagine a world where everyone can enjoy the outdoors in the way they want to because access to equipment and outdoor education is universal. This is the vision that I am working towards with KitUp – a rental marketplace that allows anyone to access paddle boards, bikes, kayaks, outdoor clothing and much more, to and from anyone else. The overarching purpose of KitUp is to make adventure more accessible to people from all walks of life.
The Story of KitUp
Before founding KitUp, I was an Officer in the British Army and spent a lot of my time training soldiers in some remarkable places, from the deserts of Oman to winter training in the alps. Many of these men and women had never been exposed to such environments before and the biggest difficulty was convincing them to leave their games consoles for a week and come skiing! I found this bizarre, and after doing some digging I realised that for many, the thought of learning how to ski or climb a mountain was about as foreign as being asked to go on a trip into Space.
Two of the most significant barriers to adventure for people are:
A lack of access to outdoor equipment
Little outdoor education, particularly around using equipment safely
Much of the kit we use is bulky, incredibly expensive and not something to be bought on a whim. The rental options are limited and often of poor quality, or even as expensive as buying in the first place! With Kitup, this was the first thing we wanted to address. Secondly, even if one was to go out and spend a small fortune, what should they do with it? Unless you were brought up by the beach or walking through the hills, there is a high chance that you just wouldn’t know or wouldn’t feel confident without heavily investing in education and training.
Soldiers and Officers from The Household Cavalry, about to start a 50km run through the mountains of Nizwa, Oman (October 2017)
Improving Access To Education
When it comes to the outdoors, particularly for those exploring for the first time, knowing how to stay safe is key. There are lots of brilliant safety resources out there, but you have to know where to look. At KitUp we bring everything into one place – we like to think of it as a one-stop-shop for outdoor safety guides! We’re continuously updating our library of resources, and we regularly talk about outdoor safety on our Instagram profile too – be sure to give us a follow!
we like to think of it as a one-stop-shop for outdoor safety guides!
In my garage, I have a couple of paddle boards, a mountain bike, a road bike and a few pairs of skis, poles and boots. As much as I would love for this kit to be used regularly, it’s not. I bought a new mountain bike in 2021, and if I am being very honest, this was entirely unnecessary and also tied me into a fixed debt for 2 years. Over that time it has been ridden a grand total of 14 days. When I calculated the cost per use I was astounded. For me to ‘get my money’s worth’ from this bike (instead of renting), I will need to ride it for 60 days (assuming an average day rental rate of £50 per day). At my current rate of use, this will take me over 8 years! Clearly, this does not take into account the maintenance, cleaning costs, transport costs etc. If this were to be included, it would be considerably more.
Renting that piece of expensive kit that is sadly languishing in the shed can be a great way of earning a little passive income, on top of providing an opportunity for use by someone else. Thankfully, rental seems to be catching on!
2 weeks ago, an incredible thing happened. Another KitUp user rented my paddle boards for the weekend and that rental took me to the point that both boards had been used as often by other KitUp users this summer as they have by me. This not only makes me feel great, knowing that people have been able to go out and enjoy them, but those people have not had to buy and store boards (this is the most cited benefit of using KitUp!). This is so much more sustainable and is so easy to do.
Unlocking New Opportunities
Justine and her fluffy BFF Albie love paddle boarding and spend lots of time out on the river together. Justine’s friend was keen to join them, but had never paddled before and didn’t have a board herself. The team were able to find an additional board to borrow through KitUp, which provided the perfect opportunity for a SUP adventure at only a small cost.
Another example of KitUp coming to the rescue was for Kirsty, who loves taking part in competitive sporting events. She was given an entry into the London Triathlon but did not own an appropriate bike. She did not want to buy one as she did not intend on taking up cycling and didn’t have the space to store it in her flat. Through the KitUp app, she found Dani, another user that lived just minutes away. Kirsty rented the perfect bike for the weekend and proceeded to smash the event – great work!
SUP adventures with a board borrowed through KitUp.
Supporting Sustainability and Environmental Initiatives
Other than creating better access to equipment, there is another issue that we have to talk about and that is sustainability. For an industry that is entirely dependent on customers engaging with the environment, the outdoor industry has a terrible track record in this area. The majority of the equipment we use is of petrochemical construction (it comes from oil) and spends most of its life cycle not being used – more than 50% of paddle boards bought in the UK over the last 2 years have been used less than 5 times. This is remarkable. By increasing the usage of kit and by making more kit available, far less need be bought in the first place. This also incentivises people to buy better quality kit that will last longer as it can also be rented to others.
Leading the way – KitUp joins a River Thames Clean up hosted by Planet Patrol in 2023. In just over an hour we extracted more than 100 items of plastic from the river!
KitUp at the National Snow Show in Birmingham where we got to meet so many of our users. Hearing your experiences has always been the best part of our journey!
Join The KitUp Community Today
Hopefully by now you’ve got a bit of an idea of the ways in which we want to help everyone build better relationships with adventure – the outdoors does so much for our physical and mental health. You can join KitUp (it’s totally free) either via our website or by downloading our new app which is available to both Apple and Android users.
If you are the owner of equipment and would like to add to our list, we can’t wait to see your kit! Take some great photos and upload them to the website or app, the listing is then sent to the Admin team for approval. Once approved, renters will be able to find your kit and send you requests and messages. Simple.
We’d love to hear from our adventure community with any suggestions, questions or ideas, so if you have any questions or would just like some adventure inspiration, get in touch – right here.
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