Chap Grubb found more than beautiful views and chalky hands when he became involved in the sport of rock climbing at age 19 — he also discovered a community that helped him reach sobriety. So when he was in his early 20s, he spent a year living in a 1981 Volkswagen Vanagon van, traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest and climbing as often as he could, enjoying life sober. He lived on a five dollar a day budget of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, using money he’d saved up as a house painter.
Grubb loved his minimalist lifestyle, but there was still something he couldn’t quite bootstrap: quality climbing and outdoor gear. After years of scouring stores for sales and meeting up with strangers from Craigslist, Grubb decided there had to be a better way to acquire quality used gear.
About a year ago, now living in New Mexico and still a climbing enthusiast, Grubb and a couple of friends founded Rerouted Co-op: a marketplace for used gear, made simple. (Although the company currently operates as an LLC, they are planning to become an employee-owned cooperative.)
To sell gear, owners just send it to Rerouted, and the company handles the rest: storing it in their New Mexico warehouse; finding a buyer; shipping to customers; and pricing. “Nobody has to do anything but get us their gear. We do everything else — the sales, taking the pictures, writing the description, getting it on the website and making it happen,” Grubb says.
On top of making the process painless, owners have the satisfaction of choosing an environmental nonprofit, to which Rerouted will donate five percent of the sale. When owners decide to donate instead of selling, Grubb takes the opportunity to donate 50 percent to the selected partner organization. Grubb also has a Mobile Gear Unit (MGU) — or “Magoo” as he calls it — which he drives to events and trailheads around the western United States, taking donations and sales, and coordinating gear swaps alongside environmental NGOs and outdoor access groups. So far, he has about 20 nonprofit partners, and the list is growing.
With the Magoo, Grubb can be anywhere the gear is needed — whether that’s a trailhead, a climbing spot or an urban festival. “All we need is a parking spot and a place to set up our table, and we can do our business,” he says. Because owners can donate or sell their gear on site, the Magoo takes the work out of gear donations, incentivizing outdoor enthusiasts to jump into the sharing and reuse economy.
“I simply wanted to make it easier to buy, sell or donate used outdoor equipment, and to be the reliable, consistent service that enabled that exchange,” says Grubb.
Rerouted’s biggest goal is to get gear out of garages and back on the trail, the mountain, the lake or the river — and into the hands of people who need it and may not be able to afford it. And gearheads with piles of dusty equipment have been excited to help.
“We have found that donations are the majority of the business,” says Grubb. “Because the guy who has a $5000 mountain bike, he’s going to sell that himself on Craigslist. But the person that has a garage full of equipment — they’re not going to sell that on Craigslist. That’s going to take up two weeks of their time, and people just don’t have the resources to stop and do that, especially if it’s a bunch of stuff that’s worth five, 10, 15 dollars. So that’s why we do so much work with our nonprofit partners.”
Beyond access, companies like Rerouted reduce waste. “Sustainability is the key, right? The Outdoor Industry Association says that $887 billion are spent every year in the industry. Imagine how much of that gear just gets stored because people have upgraded, or people have decided not to participate any more. There are billions of dollars worth of super-usable gear, sitting in garages, storage units and closets. Companies are pushing new products, but there are so many resources already sitting in storage,” says Grubb.
Rerouted has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign because demand is beginning to outpace capacity, and the company needs to scale up. Donors get discounts, “swag” and other incentives. “I would really like us to have brick and mortar stores in most outdoor communities, and facilitate a national used-gear trade. I would like to make it so gear is never stored,” says Grubb.
While he still makes plenty of time to play outside, Grubb says, these days he rides in the Magoo rather than the Vanagon.