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The Alternative to Clothes Recycling: Gift Your Gear

There is a whole range of reasons why we acquire new outdoor gear for our cycling and walking holidays. More often than not, the items we have, can still be used…. Don't discard them, instead take them to a clothes recycling point or why not Gift Your Gear.


Gift Your Gear, an initiative that accepts gear donations and then provides them to community organisations, youth groups and charities that work with young people in the outdoors. This outdoor gear exchange initiative was founded in 2012 by Sarah Howcroft, who was co-founder of the outdoor clothing company Rohan. Sarah has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 40 years and this has taken her all over the world. We asked her some questions about the clothes recycling initiative Gift Your Gear.


Collection for clothes to recycle for Gift Your Gear ©Malcolm Snelgrove

©Malcolm Snelgrove

“It has been great to follow the development of some of the outdoor travel areas over 40 years.” – Sarah Howcroft

What is the story behind Gift Your Gear?

Gift Your Gear came about out of a realisation of two realities. Because I have been in the outdoor industry for over 40 years I have seen a lot of outdoor gear. I have made the gear, sold the gear and used the gear. In general, outdoor gear is made to last. It is made well and because product failure is not an option by default, the gear last.


However, over the last few years I have become increasingly aware that most gear does not get used until it wears out. The outdoor industry is innovation-lead and active travellers in general want the latest gear. That means there is a lot of outdoor gear that is unused and unwanted. I spent some time looking at what happens to this gear. The answer is anything from nothing to ending up in charity shops.


About the same time, I became more aware that funding for the groups responsible for getting young people out on to the hills was being reduced and cut. This resulted in, amongst other things, a serious lack of outdoor equipment available to groups.


So the solution was simple: redirect the gear that was no longer wanted to where it is needed and that is what Gift Your Gear today is.

"The solution was simple: redirect the gear that was no longer wanted to where it is needed."

What happens with the gear after you receive a donation?

Gear that is sent to our depot in Manchester is sorted, checked and donated to Gift Your Gear beneficiary groups. We also have a network of local groups that are involved in getting young people outdoors and who will collect gear donations around the UK.

Gift Your Gear provides a reuse solution. There is very little that cannot be reused. Maybe not for the original purpose or we recycle the clothes for other means. For example, a waterproof that is no longer waterproof can still make a great windproof.


Can travellers from outside the UK donate their gear too?

We collect outdoor gear by various methods inside the UK. We also receive parcels from people all over the world at our depot in Manchester and if Sherpa travellers are looking for a good place to recycle their clothes, they can send the goods or bring them to Europe with them. When people are in the UK, they can drop off gear either at our depot or through a national network of outdoor shops and supporters that collect for Gift Your Gear.


Do you have other tips for travellers to recycle their outdoor clothes & gear?

Well, my number 1 tip is be careful what outdoor clothes you buy. Make sure you can use it to the end of its life. Longevity of use is by far the best option. Better even than to reuse and finally recycling the gear. There is no global network for the reuse of outdoor gear, but one solution is to put a free ad on the UK-based platform Here you can state if you wish to donate your gear to a particular profile or group it is also a place where travellers can browse and purchase second hand outdoor gear.


What are do’s & don’ts for travellers who want to donate their gear?

Do your research before you go out to actually bring a donation. There may be similar initiatives like Gift Your Gear locally to you. Please also send us an email at Gift Your Gear and we will look at ways at how we can help.


Outdoor gear donated to young people ©GiftYourGear


Can you tell us some examples of what has happened with donated gear?

Since 2012, Gift Your Gear has supplied over 1000 groups in the UK with quantities of unwanted outdoor clothing and equipment. They range from DofE Groups, scout and guide groups, cadet groups, school groups, forest schools and more. Let me give you two examples that embody the spirit of Gift Your Gear.


Au Revoir Olfio

An Olfio is a classic Rohan over-the-head piece of clothing; a padded top with lots of pockets. We have two nationwide Olfio collections each year through Rohan Shops in the UK. The ideas is that during one collection, we receive a substantial number of donated Olfios, some appeared to be even over 30 years old and all are in great condition. We decided to send them back in to the great outdoors.


Fresh Tracks

This is a programme that was created especially for young adults with a range of challenging life issues. The youngsters are from both mainstream and special needs schools. The programme was created, coordinated and delivered by the Equine Assisted Learning section at the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, and is called ‘Ponies Inspiring People’.


Olfios clothes recycled ©GiftYourGear


Is there anything else you like to share with our travellers?

Because dedicated travellers rely so heavily on their gear, they often become very attached to their gear. We know of travellers that have experienced the disappointment of going out with gear that really does not perform to expectations. So, for anyone that has a special attachment to their gear, we like you to know that we will make sure your gear goes on to a new life in the outdoors after you donate it to Gift Your Gear. It’s a nice feeling and this way of clothes recycling really makes a difference.


Learn more about Gift Your Gear or contact one of our team for any specific questions you may have. 


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