Out With The Old: Recycling, Upcycling And Donating Old Gear

This is a scheduled post. I am currently walking the Wales Coast Path to raise money for the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team. (Update: I completed the Wales Coast Path on 7th February 2022 and raised £1,300)

I recently had to accept that it was time to retire my old hiking boots. This time, I didn’t want to send them off to a landfill fate, but they were way past the point where they would make any sort of useful donation to a charity shop. I contacted HiTec Europe to ask if they had any sort of programs for old boots – any recycling things or donations where they pimped them up and then gave them to third world farmers or something. Unfortunately they did not yet have any such programs. So I asked on the internet for advice and, being out of options, I took the general enthusiastic encouragement to turn them into pot plants. Now, I’ll be honest, I’m still a bit dubious; they sort of look like the cringey hiker equivalent of a ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ sign and, well, I still like to think I’m a tad cooler than all that. Regardless, they have a comfy and aesthetic retirement.

Post Christmas, I expect many of this island’s outdoorsy folk will have received upgrades – an even lighter tent here, a more robust stove there, the most downy of down jackets, a more durable day pack, a chonky pack of proper socks – and will be thinking about what to do with their suddenly outdated gear.

For a pastime and a lifestyle constructed of people that love and cherish the outdoors and the environment in an above average hands-on type of passion, unfortunately a lot of the gear required is not the best for it. Most gear companies are now going to great lengths to make their manufacturing process and their products more sustainable and environmentally friendly but there’s still a way to go.

So what can you go with the old clothes, gear and boots to remain true to your values? Well, lucky for you, I have compiled this whole damn list for the picking and the choosing so you can send your old gear off with a clear conscience before you start planning out your year of adventures with your new goodies.

I promise, making pot plants out of boots is not on the list.

(There’s a fair amount of repeats, but it’s for the sake of being able to scroll to the relevent section without having to read through everything else)

All organisations mentioned are UK based, and information here is correct as of November 2021

Tents

Recyling and Donating

Most donations are only useful if your gear is still functional. Waterproof gear could benefit from a re-proofing either at home with a product like NikWax or you can bring them to High Street cleaners Johnson for a proofing service. For minor repairs, Alpkit repairs items from any brand at their stores.

Gift Your Gear from Rohan takes your old gear to donate to community organisations, youth groups and charities. You can post it to them, or drop off in store. From time to time Rohan will offer a 15% discount voucher for those who donate.

The Global Aid Network (UK) looks for donations to send to refugees. If you happen to have a spare pack of nappies around that’ll also go a long way towards the 30,000 nappies that are required each month. They are currently packing a shipment of donated items to send to Lesvos at the end of January.

Contact your local Scouts, Girl Guides or Duke of Edinburgh groups to see if they require donations. This is more relevant in more disadvantaged areas where the expense of even reasonable gear can be a barrier to children and teenagers being introduced to the physical and mental benefits, as well as the enjoyment of, the outdoors.

Upcycling

Many different parts of a tent can be used in the garden. Tent poles can be used as plant supports whilst clear windows can make a mini tunnel.

The material is already lightweight and waterproof so cut it up and make tote and carrier bags that can crunch down conveniently small. Alternatively stitch it to make outdoor cushions or beanbags.

Alternatively, keep squares around of the various fabrics to patch up your new tent if (when) it starts to wear out.

Keep it going! Make stuff sacks out of the outer and groundsheet so it can keep going on your adventures with you.

Boots

Recycling and Donating

Most donations are only useful if your gear is still functional. Waterproof boots could benefit from a re-proofing either at home with a product like NikWax. For minor repairs, Alpkit repairs items from any brand at their stores or High Street locksmiths, engravers, cobblers and all round good guys Timpsons can help.

Many recycling centres and shoe banks will accept old hiking boots in a useable condition. Check where your local shoe bin is on Recycle Now. Useable shoes will be sent abroad for re-use, and shoes that are knackered will be recycled responsibly.

Gift Your Gear from Rohan takes your old gear to donate to community organisations, youth groups and charities. You can post it to them, or drop off in store. From time to time Rohan will offer a 15% discount voucher for those who donate.

Cotswold Outdoors has partnered with SOEX to reuse or recycle clothing donated in their in store bins.

Find local homeless charities to donate to at Homeless Link, though you might want to hold off a couple months. The Christmas months usually bring far more donations than small shelters and hostels can even store, whilst summer months are significantly emptier.

Contact your local Scouts, Girl Guides or Duke of Edinburgh groups to see if they require donations. This is more relevant in more disadvantaged areas where the expense of even reasonable gear can be a barrier to children and teenagers being introduced to the physical and mental benefits, as well as the enjoyment of, the outdoors.

Upcycling

Make into birdhouses. I know, I’m dubious as well, but its literally the only suggestion that isn’t a pot plant. Pot plants? There I said it.

In related news, did you know that the tourism board for Iceland started making hiking boots out of peoples donated trackie bums that they had slobbed through all of lockdown in? Done with an amusing call that it was aiming to reawaken people’s senses after a year of stationary stagnation! To be fair the resulting boots looked really cool. Unfortunately, you had to be in Iceland to donate and buy.

Backpacks

Recycling and Donating

Despite backpack brands being amongst the most enthusiastic forerunners in designing new ethical and recycled ranges, there’s not an awful lot out there to be specifically donating an old bag to or places that offer to recycle it. If you know of any, please let me know so I can update the list!

Most donations are only useful if your gear is still functional. Waterproof gear could benefit from a re-proofing either at home with a product like NikWax or you can bring them to High Street cleaners Johnson for a proofing service. For minor repairs, Alpkit repairs items from any brand at their stores.

Many backpacks, or large components of them, can be recycled at your local recycling station. However there are a few materials that some recycling centres cannot accept so, if you would choose it, ask someone there for advice.

Gift Your Gear from Rohan takes your old gear to donate to community organisations, youth groups and charities. You can post it to them, or drop off in store. From time to time Rohan will offer a 15% discount voucher for those who donate. Osprey is also partnered with Gift your Gear and encourages donations of used backpacks.

Home of Millican takes your old bags, makes them good again if needed, then has them reused by charity organisations that aid refugees, community groups and youth projects. It’s only a small team so they’re a bit behind right now, but maybe check out their links to their charity partners and see if you can donate directly to them?

Contact your local Scouts, Girl Guides or Duke of Edinburgh groups to see if they require donations. This is more relevant in more disadvantaged areas where the expense of even reasonable gear can be a barrier to children and teenagers being introduced to the physical and mental benefits, as well as the enjoyment of, the outdoors.

Upcycling

Whilst there’s a lot of suggestions on how to make backpacks out of other stuff that wants reusing, there’s not an awful lot you can do, it seems, with an old hiking backpack except to salvage it for parts. This isn’t a bad suggestion at all as the materials from an old backpack can be used to patch, revamp and reinforce a number of items, both for the outdoors and the indoors, but perhaps its worth giving the local scouts a bell first eh?

Down

Recycling and Donating

Most donations are only useful if your gear is still functional. Waterproof gear could benefit from a re-proofing either at home with a product like NikWax or you can bring them to High Street cleaners Johnson for a proofing service. Smelly, clumped down will benefit from a down wash. For minor repairs, Alpkit repairs items from any brand at their stores.

Gift Your Gear from Rohan takes your old gear to donate to community organisations, youth groups and charities. You can post it to them, or drop off in store. From time to time Rohan will offer a 15% discount voucher for those who donate.

Contiuum from Alpkit donates your old hiking clothes to charity projects both here and abroad. Anything not used will be recycled and they promise that nothing will end up in landfill. Drop off in store or post your donation to them.

Cotswold Outdoors has partnered with SOEX to reuse or recycle clothing donated in their in store bins.

Ellis Brigham has six drop off points in the country, and uses your donations of used outdoor clothing and sleeping bags to contribute to the immediate need of the homeless. As it is winter, they specifically are requesting jackets.

Items dropped in a Clothes the Loop bin at a participating North Face store will be sent to a recycling centre where they will be repurposed for use in insulation, carpet padding, stuffing for toys, and fibers for new clothing.

Mountain Warehouse has partnered with the reGAIN app to turn your donations into both recycled products and discount codes.

Rab encourages you to donate your old down items if you’re near their headquarters in Derbyshire. Their down recycling scheme has only just started and is currently being trialed, but hopes to widen out to further locations across the country. You can also contact them if you’re not near their headquarters and they’ll tell you the best place to send it.

The Global Aid Network (UK) looks for clothing donations to send to refugees and currently have a specific need for clothing for boys aged 14-17. If you happen to have a spare pack of nappies around that’ll also go a long way towards the 30,000 nappies that are required each month. They are currently packing a shipment of donated items to send to Lesvos at the end of January.

Find local homeless charities to donate to at Homeless Link, though you might want to hold off a couple months. The Christmas months usually bring far more donations than small shelters and hostels can even store, whilst summer months are significantly emptier.

Contact your local Scouts, Girl Guides or Duke of Edinburgh groups to see if they require donations. This is more relevant in more disadvantaged areas where the expense of even reasonable gear can be a barrier to children and teenagers being introduced to the physical and mental benefits, as well as the enjoyment of, the outdoors.

Upcycling

Take out the down to use in homemade throw pillows.

One suggestion was to leave the feathers out for birds to use in nests but I don’t know how recommended that is (I don’t know whether down is treated with anything).

Sleeping Bags and Quilts

Recycling and Donating

Most donations are only useful if your gear is still functional. Waterproof gear could benefit from a re-proofing either at home with a product like NikWax or you can bring them to High Street cleaners Johnson for a proofing service. Smelly, clumped down bags will benefit from a down wash. For minor repairs, Alpkit repairs items from any brand at their stores.

Gift Your Gear from Rohan takes your old gear to donate to community organisations, youth groups and charities. You can post it to them, or drop off in store. From time to time Rohan will offer a 15% discount voucher for those who donate.

Ellis Brigham has six drop off points in the country, and uses your donations of used outdoor clothing and sleeping bags to contribute to the immediate need of the homeless.

The Global Aid Network (UK) looks for donations to send to refugees. If you happen to have a spare pack of nappies around that’ll also go a long way towards the 30,000 nappies that are required each month. They are currently packing a shipment of donated items to send to Lesvos at the end of January.

Contact your local Scouts, Girl Guides or Duke of Edinburgh groups to see if they require donations. This is more relevant in more disadvantaged areas where the expense of even reasonable gear can be a barrier to children and teenagers being introduced to the physical and mental benefits, as well as the enjoyment of, the outdoors.

Upcycling

Turn into beds for your pets (probably more for dogs; the longer time you spend making something out of love for a cat the more they will be completely disinterested. Trust me.)

Refashion into a winter quilt for cosy sofa evenings

Clothing

Recycling and Donating

Most donations are only useful if your gear is still functional. Please make sure your clothing is clean before donating.

Gift Your Gear from Rohan takes your old gear to donate to community organisations, youth groups and charities. You can post it to them, or drop off in store. From time to time Rohan will offer a 15% discount voucher for those who donate.

Contiuum from Alpkit donates your old hiking clothes to charity projects both here and abroad. Anything not used will be recycled and they promise that nothing will end up in landfill. Drop off in store or post your donation to them.

Cotswold Outdoors has partnered with SOEX to reuse or recycle clothing donated in their in store bins.

Ellis Brigham has six drop off points in the country, and uses your donations of used outdoor clothing and sleeping bags to contribute to the immediate need of the homeless. As it is winter, they specifically are requesting jackets.

Items dropped in a Clothes the Loop bin at a participating North Face store will be sent to a recycling centre where they will be repurposed for use in insulation, carpet padding, stuffing for toys, and fibers for new clothing.

Mountain Warehouse has partnered with the reGAIN app to turn your donations into both recycled products and discount codes.

The Global Aid Network (UK) looks for clothing donations to send to refugees and currently have a specific need for clothing for boys aged 14-17. If you happen to have a spare pack of nappies around that’ll also go a long way towards the 30,000 nappies that are required each month. They are currently packing a shipment of donated items to send to Lesvos at the end of January.

Find local homeless charities to donate to at Homeless Link, though you might want to hold off a couple months. The Christmas months usually bring far more donations than small shelters and hostels can even store, whilst summer months are significantly emptier.

Contact your local Scouts, Girl Guides or Duke of Edinburgh groups to see if they require donations. This is more relevant in more disadvantaged areas where the expense of even reasonable gear can be a barrier to children and teenagers being introduced to the physical and mental benefits, as well as the enjoyment of, the outdoors.

Upcycling

Make scrunchies, headbands and buffs from old clothes to bring on future trails.

Tote bags (of course) out of old t shirts and fleeces.

Make a bath pillow from your old waterproof clothing.

Cut into strips and make plant holders.

Turn old socks into cleaning rags or a toy for your pet (mine use them even before I’ve decided I’m done)

Other Items

Recycling and Donating

Most donations are only useful if your gear is still functional. George Fisher in Keswick will service Black Diamond and Leki walking sticks for free – but you have to drop them off in person!

Green Peak Gear, set up by the BMC, takes used climbing equipment to make new products including rope rugs, dog leads and skipping ropes. Donations can be made at participating walls.

These days most recycling centres will now take your old fuel canisters, provided they are empty of fuel. To reassure them, you generally have to punch a hole in the top and write ’empty’ on them – Jetboil makes a tool specifically for this purpose.

Gift Your Gear from Rohan takes your old gear to donate to community organisations, youth groups and charities. You can post it to them, or drop off in store. From time to time Rohan will offer a 15% discount voucher for those who donate.

Contact your local Scouts, Girl Guides or Duke of Edinburgh groups to see if they require donations. This is more relevant in more disadvantaged areas where the expense of even reasonable gear can be a barrier to children and teenagers being introduced to the physical and mental benefits, as well as the enjoyment of, the outdoors.

Carabiner manufacturers really stress the need to make sure that retired carabiners do not fall into the hands of anyone that does not realise they are retired, or does not realise the implications of climbing with one that is retired. Therefore they advise to NOT donate old carabiners to any organisation that might continue to use it for climbing – including the Scouts and Guides.

Upcycling

Use old climbing rope to make a rope hanging shelf or a climbing rope rug. Or may I suggest a rope swing?

A old sleeping pad with a few deflated baffles may no longer be good as a sleeping pad, but may live a second life as a lilo or a portable sunbathing bed.

Foam based pads can be used to make draught blockers.

Retired carabiners can still be used to hang things around the house, or attached to items to create handles.

Some electrically knowledgeable people can turn the base of metal cooking stoves into lamps.

*

Please comment with your own suggestions

Resources

Cool of the Wild

Cotswold Outdoors

Love Camping

Outdoor Magic

Outside Online

All images are free stock images

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