Written by OOFD Volunteer Steph Reid
Have you ever thought that bike camping sounded like fun, but had no idea where to start looking for the right gear to use on a trip? Look no further than the Chicago Tool Library! Despite their name, this magical spot lends out far more than just tools. With a yearly pay-what-you-can membership (available for Chicago residents 18+), Tool Library patrons can check out KitchenAid stand mixers, sewing machines, camping equipment, or even a bicycle!
Let’s face it - bikepacking equipment can be pricey and intimidating. The smaller and lighter it gets, the more expensive it usually is. It can also be difficult to justify spending so much money on such equipment if you aren’t sure it’s a hobby you plan to continue with. This is where the Chicago Tool Library really comes in handy! Some key bikepacking items that they offer include panniers, rear racks, rack bags, sleeping bags and liners, sleeping pads, tents, and cooking gear. It’s great to be able to test something out before you buy it. My pre-teen daughter became interested in baking a year or two ago, so before I bought her a stand mixer of her own, I checked one out from the Tool Library to see if she’d enjoy baking. Fortunately for me, she did!
If you’re an experienced bike camper who perhaps has a surplus of camping gear, consider donating it to the Chicago Tool Library so that others can enjoy it! Just be sure to email them first to ensure that your donation will be accepted.
Another excellent resource for obtaining or gifting camping gear is your local Buy Nothing or Free Box Facebook group. The easiest way to find one near you is to search Facebook for “[Your town/neighborhood] Buy Nothing” or “[Your town/neighborhood] Free Box.” People in such groups often have gear to give away to those who ask. I received a tent from a fellow Buy Nothing participant and then passed it along to someone else after I upgraded to something a bit fancier! It’s a great cycle to be part of.
Bike camping is an incredibly rewarding activity and we believe that it should be accessible to anyone who is interested in trying it out. Out Our Front Door welcomes participants regardless of what their gear setup looks like. At past bike camping clinics, volunteers have demonstrated a wide variety of setups ranging from milk crates zip tied onto rear racks to backpacks to saddle packs and handlebar bags. The most important thing is getting you and your gear to camp, not how it looks! However, I cannot promise that you won’t get hooked on finding the *best* possible gear setup after getting a couple of trips under your belt!
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"To immerse , educate, preserve & advance the history, culture, trails and native habitats of the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area"