There are a handful of companies that I know about offering peer to peer travel gear rentals and I’ve seen a number of new businesses coming on the scene in this space in the past two years. It’s an interesting model: instead of traveling with that large and hard-to-transport gear, or stuff you rarely use and don’t need to own, instead you rent it from someone local who has it sitting idle in their home. Bikes, kayaks, tents, baby strollers, camera equipment, snowboards, all the stuff that you need for only a few days but will have to pay excess luggage fees and work out the logistics of getting it to your destination. These can all be rented directly from locals on peer-to-peer gear rental sites.
The idea of the sharing economy for gear rental is quite simple: most people have a lot of stuff they own that sits idle. Why not share that with others and cover part of your cost of purchase? But there are a few problems for these gear rental shops to overcome before they can be serious players in the travel market.
Participation: The trick is getting enough people participating so that it’s possible to find what you need, where you need it. Also, lots of gear is customized: you need a bike that fits your body and skis with the bindings set for your boot size. This multiplies the number of users needed to find matches. But there is also a lot of gear that is universal: kayaks, tents, crash pads, climbing ropes and racks, some diving gear, and baby strollers, just to name a few.
Trust and safety: There is a potential challenge with trusting someone else’s used gear. Would I use a climbing rope from someone I don’t know? Probably not as I have no way of knowing how many falls were taken on it and what it’s lifespan looks like. But I wouldn’t hesitate to borrow a kayak or bike for a casual day of fun. I’m not sure what the insurance model looks like for people renting out gear for risky sports, but I hope the rental sites are making people sign wavers so that there aren’t any lawsuits if people using the gear get injured. Just like you sign at a ski rental shop, this seems like an important element.
Michael Brown, a co-founder of GearCommons, wrote a detailed description of his company’s rise and fall in this space, explaining why GearCommons failed after 2.5 years of trying to get traction. It’s a compelling failure story, suggesting that anyone trying to break into the sharing economy gear rental business is going to struggle. But for users like myself, it sure is convenient to find a cheap kayak to rent from a local. I’m big on traveling light, so in general I welcome more opportunities to rent the gear I need cheaply at my destination.
Want to check out all the peer to peer gear rental networks? Filter down to the “Adventure Gear” category on my spreadsheet.