Club gear hire services – the practicalities

Let’s face it, outdoor gear is usually expensive. For those who are new to the outdoors, or to a particular activity, the cost involved can be a real barrier to giving it a go. Clubs that offer gear hire are providing an excellent service to help people to get into, and stay safe in, our wild places.

Let’s face it, outdoor gear is usually expensive. For those who are new to the outdoors, or to a particular activity, the cost involved can be a real barrier to giving it a go. Clubs that offer gear hire are providing an excellent service to help people to get into, and stay safe in, our wild places.

Gear hire really shines for clubs that offer instruction courses. Being able to invite (new) members to up-skill, and then be able to offer to hire/provide the right gear to attend, provides just the kick start that many people need to get hooked on the outdoors.

In this resource, we take a look at a number of ways that clubs operate these services, find out what works and what doesn’t. We also have compiled a separate page which has information about the obligations under the law for hiring out gear. The good news is that it is relatively easy for most clubs to remain exempt from any legal liability.  

We’d like to thank the following people and clubs for contributing information so that we can compile this resource.

As always, if you would like to help update or add to this resource, please contact us

Getting the gear

Start up funding

Although many clubs have their own mechanisms for raising funds, an often overlooked avenue is funding from the wide array of charitable trusts. There are tens of millions of dollars being funded to community based projects and organisations. Each has specific requirements for what types of projects they will fund, and many will fund projects only in specific areas that are local to the trust. You can expect to have to fill out application forms and meet certain conditions, but most of the trusts have pretty helpful guidance for how to put together a successful application.

Whilst you’re looking for which trust might help fund some gear for your club, you might also have in the back of your mind other projects that could use some community funding.

There are numerous websites which help you find funding, but one place to start is the Sport NZ website.

 

Where to get the gear

Don’t be shy in trying to ask for discounts from suppliers, especially when buying several items of equipment. These companies will often be keen to be seen to be supporting local community organisations, especially for equipment that will increase the safety of the members.

Consider looking at classifieds type websites like TradeMe; there’s always lots of second hand packs and boots going cheap!

Club stalwarts who have been doing it for years probably have a few bits of old gear that hardly gets used that they might wish to donate to the club.  Just make sure that if you ask for donated gear, you are strict about only accepting what the club actually needs, otherwise the gear room might become more like a dump for useless old stuff!

 

What to get

If your club is thinking about starting a gear hire service, you have probably already identified the gear that you think you need to offer.

If you already run a gear service, you should have some good records about what is popular and what is not, as well as member feedback about what could be worth getting. Even if an item is seldom used, unless it is causing a storage or maintenance burden, it is probably worth hanging on to. For those infrequent times, it is probably making the difference between being able to go on a trip or not for the hirer!

It’s likely that as a hire pool develops, some gear is going to be popular and often ‘all hired out’. The club would be wise to prioritise club trips/instruction courses and make it known that during those times certain gear might be in short (or no) supply. At other times, a club with a smaller hire pool might consider a booking system as a reasonable way to cope with excess demand.

 

PLBs

Although the cost has come down in recent years, they still aren’t cheap for something that you hope to never actually use. Clubs that own PLBs say that they are a very popular piece of hire equipment and many clubs make it mandatory for groups to carry a PLB.

Providing PLBs does mean that you need to think about how they are registered and the trip intentions are managed.  Each PLB has a unique code and must be registered with the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ). In the event of activating the beacon, the RCCNZ will look up the emergency contact details on the registration form, and contact the provided phone numbers to get more information about the missing party to aid in the rescue.  Tararua Tramping Club (TTC) gives each person that hires a beacon a link to a Google Form. The form collects the basic trip information and puts it automatically into a Google Spreadsheet that several club members can access. The person who takes the PLB still has a responsibility to have an emergency contact person, but the club can then put RCCNZ in touch with that emergency contact person if needed.

TTC has had their system tested; a badly twisted knee in Nelson Lakes resulted in an activation. The RCCNZ had to make a few phone calls to get the right person, but the right information was able to be passed to them without much delay.

PLBs are virtually maintenance free, but do require new batteries to be installed by a service center every 5-10 years. Each unit will state its battery life; it’s worth finding the price for replacements when considering what units to get as replacement battery packs have a ballpark cost of $200.

 

Technical climbing/alpine equipment

Many clubs run instruction courses for climbing and mountaineering. For an individual to get set up is a big investment that many people would not want to make until they know they are really hooked. Technical gear is not cheap, so it is important to consider the amount of use it gets, versus the benefit that other more basic gear could give to your membership.

‘Basic’ alpine gear like helmets, harnesses, crampons and ice axes are common and well used hire kit. With the popularity of softer tramping boots, many active trampers might not have boots that are compatible with crampons, so a few sets of stiff soled boots can come in handy for alpine instruction courses. Avalanche safety gear (especially the expensive transceivers) are also very popular.

Technical gear, especially ‘soft’ gear like ropes and slings, needs special care in its use and inspection. So think about how you’re going to manage that issue before deciding to get it.

Rental gear should be the robust model, not the fanciest lightweight one!

 

The basics

Any club which hopes to attract and nurture newcomers to outdoor pursuits should consider a stock of basic gear to help get those people out on trips. An obvious example are university clubs; a very high membership turnover with high numbers of new members who don’t have their own gear.

Although it is less common for non-university clubs, there are always people who join a club later in life to learn how to go tramping or climbing; if your club can fit them out with a few bits of gear for those first few trips, you’ll have a loyal member and a new advocate for our outdoor community!

Non-university clubs which have youth programs are prime candidates for having a good stock of basic items such as packs, raincoats, sleeping pads, boots, gaiters etc (Also take a look at our other resource for Taking a Kid Tramping programs with more ideas for how to kit the young /new people up!)

 

Big group kit

Things like large tent flies, bothy bags, big billies which are great for bigger groups but seldom owned by individuals are often useful additions to the hire pool.

 

Items that perhaps you might not get

Although some items might be desirable at times, they could possibly be more hassle than they are worth in terms of maintenance, hygiene or safety.

White spirit cookers are an example.  They need a little care and regular cleaning to work well. Dangerous leaks are not out of the question, and an alternative gas cannister stove can be bought very cheaply.

Sleeping bags are another. Whilst they are often a bit expensive, and essential for an overnight trip, the hassle of cleaning them to keep them hygienic is often too much for club volunteers to want to have them available for hire.

 

Who should you hire the gear to?

There are four main answers, each with pros and cons.

Any members

Most clubs view gear hire as a service for members, rather than for raising funds, so this is the most common approach. Hiring the gear at rates that sustain the service rather than raise funds has the benefit that it excludes the club from any obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993. (Have a read of the page on Gear hire services – the legal issues)

As a benefit for club members, it can provide an incentive for new people to join, or to stay members of the club. It’s more likely that members will return the gear on time, clean and that they will report any damage than people who are not members.

 

Club instructors only

Technical safety equipment (like ropes, slings, carabiners etc) has to be in good condition to do its job. Careless use can sometimes cause damage that isn’t obvious, so many clubs limit the loan of such gear to trusted club instructors that are taking the gear on club instruction courses.

 

Any members, plus public with approval

Some clubs have the facility in their rules to allow gear to be hired by non-members, subject to the approval from certain people in the club. One advantage, is that it can allow the club to let it’s gear be used by prospective members on introductory trips. Some clubs have good relationships with other clubs in the same city/region, allowing gear to be hired/loaned out to those other clubs for specific courses or trips.  

Either way, the club still has a trusted person looking over the use of the gear, whether a club member or another club that it has a relationship with.

 

Anyone

Some clubs offer gear hire to members and to the public. Offering gear hire to the public usually means that there is the opportunity to charge a profitable fee for the hireage. However, as soon as you intend to make a profit for general fundraising, the club will have some duties under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993. (Have a read of the page on Gear hire services – the legal issues)

There are also greater risks that non-members won’t take as good care of the equipment or be tardy in returning it. A carefully thought out security deposit system will help mitigate that risk.

If the service is well used by the public, a club might ask themselves ‘why aren’t those people joining the club?’ Making the gear hire for ‘members only’ could result in a number of new members. However, current members might miss out on popular items during busy periods or if they leave it to the last minute to make their plans.

If your club does hire to the public, there needs to be a very careful weighing up of the potential funds raised, against the extra work required, legal obligations, and risks of diluting member benefits. Some clubs seem to have good systems which allow them to raise worthwhile funds from the gear hire service, though many have decided the possible rewards aren’t worth the hassle/risk.

 

Storage and hours of operation

A key to the effectiveness of a gear hire system is the ease with which people can hire and return the gear, and the amount of effort required by those operating the system.

The location of the gear also influences the processes for hiring and returning the gear.

 

At the club rooms

If your club is fortunate to have club rooms, then a section of the building for the gear is the obvious solution.  

Tararua Tramping Club has weekly meetings on a Tuesday, and the gear officers do returns and issues in the time before the formal part of the meeting begins. TTC has a roster of 5-6 gear officers which keeps the effort required by one person at an acceptable level.

If your meetings are less frequent, you’ll need to consider how to do the returns and issues regularly enough that it is suitable for those who need the gear.

 

At a member’s home

Storing gear and operating a gear service out of a member’s home is possible, but it is very dependent on getting the right member!

As well as being willing to volunteer, the member would ideally be home at regular times which are convenient for issuing and returning gear. They’d also need space suitable for storing the gear.

Whilst it might suit some people and clubs, it is very dependent on the circumstance of that club member staying the same. Some clubs reported that this type of solution became a bit of an inconvenience for both the gear officer and the members and that they stopped the service because of that.

 

At another club or community location

It is worth considering approaching other like-minded clubs or community organisations which have buildings and potential storage options.

The Canterbury University Tramping Club operates its service out of a shipping container, which is owned by the Uni of Canterbury Students Association. The container is close to the campus, and the gear officer is present at set times after lectures, twice a week.

 

A local business

If you have a good relationship with the local outdoor shop, you may be able to convince them to operate the gear hire service from the shop on your club’s behalf.  If you’re lucky, the shop might operate it for the good of the relationship with the club and for the fact that they’ll have more people through the shop (who hopefully purchase other bits of gear).

Other businesses in towns might be willing to help your club out, especially if they already are hiring other things out. For example, there are many places around NZ where you can hire a PLB, including petrol stations, DOC offices, Fishing Shops, Construction Hire firms etc.

Although the service would have the advantage of being available during all business hours, being closed outside of business hours could be a significant disadvantage for some.

It is most likely that the shop will want to be paid something in return for offering the service (which is reasonable), but as soon as they charge the club a fee, legal obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 begin to apply.  (Have a read of the page on Gear hire services – the legal issues)

If the club did enter into an agreement, you’d need to be very clear about the division of responsibilities between the club and the shop.

 

Don’t forget about insurance

Some clubs have amassed a reasonably substantial amount of gear for hire, which would be problematic to replace if the storage location burned down or if there was a burglary. Have a read of our guidance on Insurance for clubs here on Wilderlife and think carefully about your situation.

Sometimes insurance away from the clubrooms is more expensive. As there will be an excess and as you’re unlikely to lose a whole lot of gear together away from the clubrooms, it’s probably not worth paying the extra. Also note that many policies exclude damage to sports equipment while in use. If you do have cover away from your base, check how your insurer defines sports equipment. It probably includes an ice axe (especially if they read Hemingway: “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games”), but a tent might be arguable.

 

Issuing the gear  

When you issue the gear, it’s important to encourage the hirer to check that it’s functional and fit for the purpose they intend before leaving the hire location. Many clubs are small enough that the gear officer will probably know the person hiring the gear’s experience/skills. But in bigger clubs, it is a good idea to discuss the trip and equipment (especially for snow gear) so the gear officer is satisfied that the member is competent to use the equipment.

When hiring crampons, it’s important to get the hirer to bring along the boots to ensure they fit appropriately, and with PLBs to ensure the hirer understands when and how to activate it, plus their obligations for leaving intentions.

Having clear policies for operation of the gear hire service on the club website and/or newsletter, helps set expectations, but it doesn’t hurt for gear officers to remind people of commonly forgotten conditions at the time of hire; like when they need to be returned!

 

Documentation

Gear should have a serial number, so that records for its useful life, maintenance and use can be easily kept.

Ideally, there should be two sets of records:

 

Hire log book

This records the day to day hiring and returning of equipment. Columns to consider include:

  • Date of hire
  • Name, email and phone of hirer
  • Serial numbers and description of gear hired
  • Return due date
  • Fees/deposits charged
  • A hirer’s signature accepting the club gear service policy
  • Record of return
  • Record of refunds

Having a record of who has what gear allows you to follow up when gear isn’t returned and to see trends in usage over time (ie to help you decide whether you need more of a particular item).

If there are hire fees involved, then recording the amounts at the time of hire gives a record to aid in bookkeeping and accounting for the club.

 

Gear log book / asset register

This records the purchase, inspection, maintenance and retirement of each bit of gear.

Consider a helpful numbering system: Canterbury Uni Tramping Club uses the year of purchase and an incrementing number; ie Tent 1 from 2014 is numbered 1401. Or if you are using spreadsheets to record the information, giving the type of item a number can be useful; tents could be 01, so the tent above could be #011401.  

Records can be kept in hard copy or digitally, but however you do it, ensure that it’s quick and easy for members and the gear officer to fill out, otherwise it will get forgotten or ignored.

 

Returns

It’s worth having a basic policy that gear must be clean and dry on return (unless you have a suitable location for it to dry out and gear officers who are willing to cope with the extra hassle). The policy should also include notes on what will happen if gear isn’t returned as expected: whether it be late, dirty, wet, damaged or lost.

Hirers should be asked to report damage and gear officers should know what to look for when giving gear a brief inspection as it is returned.

There should be a way of segregating gear which is in need of repair, so that it isn’t hired out again until the damage has been fixed.

 

Hire fees, deposits and money management

A free service

Currently, the Tararua Tramping Club does not charge its members for the use of the loan equipment (apart from the touring skis). Previously they had a hire charge per item per weekend, but they considered effort required for money handling was too much, and they wanted to ensure the equipment was as accessible as possible for all members.

This does simplify the process of issue and return, but provides a challenge for financing the maintenance and replacement of equipment as it wears out. TTC applies for funding from a community trust each year, and receives just enough to roll over the gear as it wears out.

TTC does have policies in place that any loss or damage over and above wear and tear needs to be paid for by the member.

 

Fees to covers the costs of the service

In order to set the fee for hiring of gear, a balance must be struck between gaining sufficient funds to cover replacing/upgrading items as needed, and making the service affordable for members and easy to operate for the club.

You might choose to charge different amounts based on the expected lifespan and replacement cost of the item, or you might try to keep the charge schedule as simple as possible for ease of use.

Borrowing a bunch of gear for a new member could add up to quite a bit, so it’s worth considering a cap for the hire fee, or a set rate for hire when going on club trips/instruction courses.

It’s also worth considering lowering (or waiving) the hire charge for safety gear that you want to encourage members to take. For instance, the Canterbury Uni Tramping Club doesn’t charge for PLBs, bothy bags, helmets or first aid kits.

In bigger clubs with higher turnover and where the gear officer doesn’t know all the members, or where there have been past problems with returning gear, clubs may consider requiring a deposit. Deducting a late fee from a deposit helps encourage members to return the gear on time. The deposit also provides for ready funds to be used for cleaning/repair/replacement. The deposit amount should take into account the cost of replacing the item.

If a club decides not to take a deposit, it is worth considering how the club would effectively get money from a member who has lost or damaged an item, or who ‘keeps forgetting’ to pay or disagrees with the amount they are being charged. Removal of future gear hire privilege is one of the simplest mechanisms but that policy should be available to all members before it gets enforced.

Requiring a deposit does make it less convenient for members if they have to get cash out, and cash can pose a security hassle for the gear officers. Taking credit card details is another option (though the club would need a facility such as PayPal to charge the card) but again adds complexity to the process.

 

Fundraising for other purposes using the profits of the service.

Some clubs who offer gear hire to the general public do so with the intention of raising funds for the club and not necessarily just to operate the gear service. As we mentioned previously, hiring with the intention of making a profit does mean some obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993. (Have a read of the page on Gear hire services – the legal issues)

Setting appropriate rates for hire and deposit essentially becomes a business decision; selecting a high enough rate that will make the desired profit, but that which is low enough to be competitive.

It might be smart to consider the cost of hireage for similar gear in neighbouring areas, but if you find yourself looking at the hire rates for a shop in your town, it might be worth thinking twice whether you really want to be directly competing with a local business.

 

Using credit cards to accept payments

The hassle of arranging bank transfers or dealing with cash can be partially avoided by the use of credit/debit cards for payment.

There are a number of online services which allow account holders to process card payments electronically. The service provider does charge for this, but when the charge is a percentage of each sale, usually there are no ongoing or setup costs to worry about. The fee isn’t insignificant, but it is the cost of convenience and simplicity in money handling. There are a number of options, but one well known service is Paypal.

Within Paypal, you can ask the system to generate some HTML code, that displays as a button. This would be easy for your club’s web person to display on your club’s website on the gear page. When issuing gear, it would be as simple as asking the hirer to go to the club’s website, click the right button, enter their credit card details and the hit ‘pay’.  All they’d need to do is show the gear officer the receipt on the phone and then the equipment can be issued.

 

Inspection and maintenance; keeping the gear safe.

Whilst gear should always be given a basic inspection by a gear officer when it is returned, it is important that gear gets inspected regularly enough to ensure it is in good working order and replaced when it is nearing the end of its life.  Write up an appropriate schedule which you stick to and re-visit annually.

A good reminder for more detailed inspection is prior to a club’s instructional courses. For example, before the first Alpine Instruction Course, it would make sense for the instructors/gear officers to spend a little time checking the serviceability of the crampons, ice axes and so on.  

Most gear can be inspected by a suitably experienced club member. A record of the inspections should be made by those members and kept by the gear officer.

Technical/climbing equipment needs to be inspected before each period of use by someone with sufficient knowledge. All technical gear has care and inspection instructions supplied when they are purchased, and can easily be found on the manufacturer’s website. This is especially important for all ‘soft’ gear, like ropes, harnesses and slings, which are much more susceptible to damage.

 

We’d like to thank the following people and clubs for contributing information so that we can compile this resource.

As always, if you would like to help update or add to this resource, please contact us

Last updated: 21 September 2018

Wilderlife