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A new queer-focused outdoor gear library in Portland encourages the LGBTQ+ community to get outdoors

 Hallie Herz (from left) and Eva Fury explain the gear library to guests at a recent open house.
Courtesy photo
/
Maine Public
Hallie Herz (from left) and Eva Fury explain the gear library to guests at a recent open house.

In a cozy basement space in Portland, Hallie Herz and their partner Eva Fury are holding an open house and membership drive at Kindling Collective, a queer-focused outdoor gear library. They are outdoor enthusiasts who came up with the idea while on a hike in the White Mountains.

They wanted to make camping, backpacking, and skiing more accessible to the queer community by collecting high-end gear and lending it out to people like Mia Delbene.

Delbene is poring over some of the gear that's been acquired since last fall, including backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, lanterns and compasses.

She said she's considering joining Kindling Collective because she wants to introduce camping to her friends, and the gear library will lift the burden of buying expensive equipment.

Kindling Collective's gear library.
Courtesy photo
/
Maine Public
Kindling Collective's gear library.

"Gear is really important. It's what keeps you safe and gives you an enjoyable experience," Delbene said. "A lot of people don't have the gear so they can't have an enjoyable experience."

Co-founders Herz and Fury said they were able to get a lot of equipment donated through the Outdoors Empowered Network, where they formed partnerships with major brands and obtained access to deep discounts on wholesale pricing.

And to make membership in Kindling Collective more affordable, Herz said the annual fees are based on income.

"Our model is an economic justice model. We see Kindling Collective as a shared resource that belongs to members. It's a tiered pricing model for membership," Herz said. "So based on resources and money, the more you have the more you pay. The less you have the less you pay."

And while anyone is welcome to join Kindling Collective and borrow from the gear library, there are special training courses and trips designed to bring LGBTQ+ members outdoors in groups. Fury said some may fear for their safety in remote locations or may have had a bad experience being harassed or threatened, but still want to go hiking or camping.

A peg board loaded with outdoor gear at Kindling Collective.
Courtesy photo
/
Maine Public
A peg board loaded with outdoor gear at Kindling Collective.

"I want to try something new with a marginalized identity that isn't accepted everywhere I go. That's scary," Fury said. "So we want to smooth a pathway into those beautiful embodied joyful experiences outside but in a way that people feel they can access without as much fear."

Liz Gartley of South Portland said Kindling Collective's training, trips and inclusive approach to all body shapes and sexual orientations appeals to her.

"I thought that having this sort of community would be a great opportunity to find other people to get outdoors more, so that's why I was really excited about the events and the Camping 101," Gartley said.

Kindling Collective's gear library is open to all who want to use it, but nonqueer members must be supportive of Kindling Collective's mission to empower LGBTQ+ residents to embrace the outdoors with gear, a new skillset and a supportive community.

Kindling Collective is located at 15 Casco St. in Portland. Visit their website here.

Corrected: June 20, 2023 at 10:52 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story miscredited courtesy photos to the reporter.
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