The rules of borrowing gear should be common sense, but they are not. If you read this and you are like, “yeah, I return the stuff like he mentions”, then you're free to borrow my gear. You're one of the good gals or guys. Thanks a bunch. If you are the loaner of gear, I recommend printing this out and dropping in your gear when loaning it out. Better yet, send them little piece via email and ask if it sounds reasonable. If they don't respond, thank me for keeping the boneheads from borrowing your stuff in the first place. With that said, here are “my rules” when loaning gear.
Rule 1: PPP
Party. People. Principle. I don't loan my gear to you. I know what happens to gear when it's used by party people. They sleep, smoke, sex and everything else in their stuff. It gets messed up. That's your gear, not mine. If you go camping to party it up and yell, “woo” often at night, then I refer to you as a woo-bird. Woo-birds, don't ask to borrow my gear.
Rule 2: Dry it and wipe it down at a minimum.
Certain gear needs speciality cleaning and only the owner should clean those items. For example, if you borrow my down sleeping bag, don't jam it in your washer with regular detergent. Ask if you're not certain and never throw anything in the washer unless you know for sure it is OK. If there is obvious mud, sand or dirt on it you can wipe off with a damp towel and let air dry. Speaking for drying items, all hiking and backpacking gear should be dried thoroughly when you return from your trip. If it feels dry to touch when you come home from a trip and you've not let it air dry yet, it's not dry. Your funk, sweat and humidity has funky'd it up. Wipe off obvious stuff. Then allow it to air dry in a cool dry place for 12-24 hours. Then repack it. Return timely. If you're not sure whether or not to clean, ask the owner. If you're not sure how to clean it, don't.
Rule 3: Check the gear before you return
Did you return the stakes? Stuff bag? Know what you borrow and take special precautions about returning things in their entirety.
Rule 4: Jack it up. Let em' know and pay for it.
There's an unspoken rule that you're on the hook to replace or repay for any item that you messed up or otherwise became lost/unusable. If you mess something up, let them know. For the loaner, they accept that stuff may not come back whole and must be ready to replace it. If they aren't ready for that rule, they should not loan it.
Rule 5: If loaner looks queasy about loaning it, don't accept it.
If you want to borrow someone's sleeping bag and they look uneasy, don't take it. It won't end well. I'm queasy about loaning one of my sleeping bags, a certain backpack and specific sleeping pad. These are lent only to individuals that understand exactly how to use, prepare and care for these.
Rule 6: Show them how to use it.
If someone doesn't know how to use a device or piece of equipment, the chances of it retuning broken are higher. Take a few minutes to show them the ins and outs. Most importantly, our gear earns our love over time. There can be an extra little piece of knowledge about how to effectively use it, a quirk one might say. If there's a little gem of knowledge about your equipment that makes it easy to setup or use, let them know. Things like color coding on poles is a typical practice for tents. Someone that's borrowing your gear may not know that, be sure to share that little nugget of wisdom.
Rule 7: This gear keeps me alive. Treat it that way.
This isn't said to be overly dramatic, but this is my personal housing, transportation (bicycle), warmth and food. I treat it with great respect. Now that doesn't mean that I treat it as if it's fragile, but it helps keep me safe in my adventures. I treat it with great respect, please do the same.
Rule 8: Be timely.
I provided my gear when you needed it. Please return it in a timely way. I try to return things within a few days after usage, but definitely within a week. Set expectations when you'll return borrowed items too. You don't know when they might need next.
Rule 9: Don't do maintenance.
Gear is designed to be maintained in a specific way. I clean and lube my bicycle chain after most rides. I don't expect you to do that. You can wipe down dirt, but I'll take it from here.
Rule 10: Show gratitude.
I'm not loaning it for the thanks, but make sure there is a form of appreciation expressed. It can be as simple as new batteries for the headlamp or a six pack of my favorite Kentucky Soda, Ale 8. It sure makes saying yes easier the next time you (or anyone else) asks to borrow something.
As someone that likes to try different activities, I appreciate the art of borrowing gear. I want to do something that I haven't done and do not wish to invest until I know I'll love something. However, there is a subtle art to loaning and borrowing gear from folks. Our rules above will get you started on the right path.
If you have a pet peeve about borrowing or loaning gear, post it here. We'd love to know about it!
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