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Getting (and making use of) my own gear for Yosemite

Person wearing large backpack gazing down the trail into a natural scene of wonderful beauty.

Having the right gear helps hikers access Wilderness areas in Yosemite.

I bought my backpacking backpack and sleeping bag ten years before my first backpacking trip. Naturally investing in good gear made sense after I quit my first office job and impetuously bought a Eurorail pass. To prepare I invested in a beautiful and big 60L Osprey pack and a cozy down-filled sleeping bag. I needed that dramatic Eat, Pray, Love style of change in my life and I had the funds to do it.  

I traveled to 14 countries over a three-month period. The experiences over those months helped define who I was for myself to this day. After that trip, I put the backpack aside. 

Fast forward about ten years later and I landed a dream internship working for Yosemite National Park. As I was building friendships in the community, someone casually asked me, “Would you like to go backpacking?” I was so thankful that I had invested in those expensive items years ago (when I had a much better salary than my internship’s stipend), that I could join new friends on my first real backpacking trip into Yosemite’s wilderness.   

Common barriers to gear-getting (and why it matters)

That gear has and continues to make incredible opportunities available to me. That’s what great gear does – it makes experiences available, accessible, and safe.  

That being said – Most people don’t just have backpacking gear lying around. It’s expensive with key pieces easily costing hundreds of dollars. Some of the gear ideally needs to be fitted to your body. And some of us do not have friends that have extra gear lying around to loan out. Other people live in tiny apartments and the gear can take up quite a bit of space.  

So how can people try out backpacking without investing a ton of money into a bunch of gear that they may only use a handful of times?  

 Gear-getting solutions (drum roll please) 

The team here at Yosemite Conservancy has been researching this question for a few months and we have three options to share with you today.  

  1. First, we’d like to introduce you to our friends at REI. We recently discovered the beauty of REI’s gear rental program from Yosemite’s local REI in Fresno, CA. For a fraction of the cost of buying, you can rent the major necessities to give backpacking a try: backpack, lightweight tent, sleeping pad, cook stove kit, trekking poles. Toss a few backpacking meals and bars into your cart, watch our How To Pack A Backpack video, and you’re ready for a weekend in the High Sierras.

    Marty stands at a table with backpacking gear laid out: packs, sleeping bags, first aid kits, etc are all spread out.

    Conservancy guide Marty Anderson will set you up for success with the helpful tutorial, “How to Pack Your Backpack.

  2. Not driving through Fresno on the way to the park? What about Groveland? Along 120 W just outside the park boundary in Groveland, you’ll pass the Echo Adventure Cooperative. Echo’s Yosemite Basecamp Outfitter has a limited number of backpacking kits available to rent for a weekend’s adventure. To reserve, visit echocoop.com.
  3. Don’t want to stop on your way into the park? If you’d rather have the items at home in advance of your trip – we’ve got a third option for you! KitLender.com offers complete backpacking kits that they will mail straight to your door so you’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.  

Pair your gear rental with an Outdoor Adventure registration and you will be setting yourself up for a top-notch experience in the park. All Conservancy guides are great communicators and Yosemite experts who can help ensure you have a successful backpacking trip. Whether it’s your first trip or your 100th, we guarantee you’ll learn something new along the way. 

We at Yosemite Conservancy are committed to creating opportunities for everyone to experience Yosemite in unique and meaningful ways. It’s great that REI, Echo Adventure Cooperative, and Kit Lender and their gear rental programs help make Yosemite National Park that much safer and more accessible.