Yes, all of us, need to stop buying new gear for every time we want to try something new. We all can relate to that one friend who is always buying the latest, greatest, newest, lightest gear to add to their closet with the rest of it. In some cases, it might even be you. But that’s what we get for living in a society that throws advertising at us from every single angle from the moment you wake up, until you rest your eyes for bed after that last Instagram swipe. With that being said, I want you to ask yourself two simple questions before the next time you click that purchase button (or pass your card over to the cashier) for that new piece of gear that you absolutely need to have.
Question 1: “Has what I want to do, been done before?”
And if that answer is a yes…
Question 2: “What gear did they use back then?”
What’s the point here? I will elaborate. Most activities I find myself getting into have been around since the turn of the century, if not forever. Climbing, the 70s, cycling, the 1800s, hiking, um… since humans learned to walk? So why is it that we think we need to buy those $200 hiking boots for the handful of day hikes we find ourselves on during the summer months? Emma Gatewood finished the entire Appalachian Trail in 1955 at the ripe age of 67, equipped with only Keds sneakers, a walking stick, and a denim ruck sack tossed over her one shoulder. Where was her 70L full frame pack? Or where were the Gore-Tex boots, pants, and jacket? To emphasize the point, Annie Londonderry, in the years 1894-95, became the first woman to bike around the world in order to win a bet. I can assure that the bike she used had no carbon anywhere on it, only a single gear, and didn’t even allow for freewheeling.
So what are you saying here Zach, to never buy gear again? No, no I don’t mean for everyone vowing to never buy gear again and raid their grandmother’s closet instead to score a pair of Keds before your next backpacking trip. I simply mean that we need to rethink how, when, and why we buy new gear every time [insert activity] season rolls around each year. I am aware how hypocritical this sounds, coming from a guy who just had a new REI box at his front door each day for a week. I love getting new ski gear at the first sign of snow in the forecast, or new bike or hiking gear when I see the temperature peak 50*F. But realistically, I’ll be just as bad on new skis as I will on my old, used pair. Or that my hiking boots, that are a few seasons old, can probably last me another one; even if they do smell worse than road kill after a long hike. As a kid, I can remember riding my skateboard until the last piece of wood chipped off the nose and tail, the wheels were down to the size of quarters, and the grip-tape was slicker than a wet, tile floor. Yet, never once did I ask for or want to buy a new board until that thing snapped in half.
Let’s face it, nearly all of us are never going to be a professional athlete, so the affect gear has on us is pretty null. Sure, that new carbon-frame bike or ultra-light trail running shoes might take a few seconds off your splits, but is it really worth it? Some of you may say yes. But is that old gear really making you so unhappy, while you spend time doing the activities you love, that you need go out every 3 months to get new versions of it? Because buying new gear is only half the battle, since you usually have to spend hours and hours on websites, forums, and blogs trying to determine which gear works best for you based on the opinion of some internet stranger. Is that old gear so bad, that we would rather spend hours behind a computer researching, rather than go outside?
Why am I even arguing for this? There are a few reasons. Like I said before, I feel like friends of mine would rather pass on an experience outside because their gear isn’t up-to-par or it’s too old or its to blah-blah-blah. Maybe this is just a way to try and convince myself that I don’t always need new gear, no matter how much I love opening a new package and getting it out on the trail ASAP. But another major reason is that the more we consume, the more that needs to be created. And when one product is created, many more products are wasted in the process. Sure there are great companies out there like Patagonia and Cotopaxi that make clothes from recycled materials, but a majority do not. And even the recycled clothes still have to make it to your doorstep the same way all the others do. A great article titled, Waste Couture, expands on this topic about our problem with consumerism. This is a problem, and one that I don’t see getting resolved any time soon, but I just wanted to shed some light on the issue to raise the question.
So maybe, the next time you feel the need to buy that new piece of gear, think twice if you absolutely need it or just want it. We all work very hard for our money, and should be able to do with it however we please. But everything has a cost, and it doesn’t just stop after the numbers beyond the dollar sign. So just get out there, with whatever you got, and enjoy whatever it is you do.
Potential alternatives to this problem:
· Borrow gear from your buddies to see if you actually like the sport first. But like really like it, not just from the parking lots.
· Rent gear from a local shop or through a guide service. Sure renting gear isn’t cost effective in the long run, but it gives you the opportunity to try entry-level and high-end gear with minimal risk.
· Use your old stuff until you literally can’t move forward in it any longer. You know those boots with holes in them, or that jacket with 4 duct tape patches, well they pretty much still work the exact same as they day you bought them with minor aesthetic differences.
· Get creative with duct-tape and make your own gear. Pretty much how all my camera gear started.