If you follow (m)any other outdoor adventure blogs or social media profiles, you’ve probably caught numerous posts/pictures/articles about the recent Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City.
Outdoor Retailer is a twice annual show (summer and winter editions) where more than 1,500 gear manufacturers exhibit their latest innovations and products to wholesale buyers and media types, products which won’t be available in retail stores for another 6+ months typically.
I have a love/hate relationship with gear.
I love buying gear and all the amazing things it helps enable me to do… I have spent a lot of money on gear and various gear upgrades over the years for ultralight backpacking, climbing, and mountaineering (there is some overlap, but not much).
I also hate gear because it is so easy to get caught up in the consumerism and gear lust that new products create.
Anti-Gravity! Cuben Fiber! Power Dry! Active Venting!
Innovation is awesome and all. Rampant consumerism and false/embellished marketing aren’t so cool.
Let’s not forget why so many of us go out into the great outdoors… To get away from this very phenomenon and embrace the simplicity of life that goes hand in hand with camping: having a hot meal, a comfortable, warm, dry place to sleep, a nice view, and maybe even a camp fire if possible.
John Muir went out into the woods without Gore-Tex, without hyper suspension load lifting backpacks, or titanium and cuben fiber based toothbrushes.
I am 100% all for buying cool things that enable you to go do cool things. Buying a $200 pair of jeans is not what I’m talking about, but rather buying a guitar that will enable you to learn a new skill, a pack raft that will broaden your adventures, or a bicycle that will get you out on the road.
I am also 100% for buying the best possible _____ (fill in the blank) for what you can afford and for what will serve 90% of your needs.
That is to say: I would much rather spend $400 on a top of the line sleeping bag that will last me decades, is light and warm, and will serve me in 90% of the temperatures I would find myself using it. It is a mistake to go buy a big, heavy 70 liter backpack because “maybe I’ll get out there for a one or two week trip” when 90% of your time will be spent doing weekend trips.
Buy the best gear you can afford that will serve the greatest range of your intended use.
Gear is also super, intensely, hyper-specific–which only encourages you to collect more and more variations. A sleeping pad for lightweight summer backpacking, a sleeping pad for winter overnights, inflatable ones, foam ones, insulated or not. They all have their place and purpose.
The point however is to eventually Stop Buying Things and Start Doing Things.
Consumerism is a slippery slope.
Science has proved time and time again that spending our money forging experiences is a sure fire way to make yourself happy, and NOT buying things. See the book Spending Money: The Science of Smarter Spending.
That Anti-Gravity, hyper lift, titanium cuben fiber backpack will give you a momentary buzz after you purchase this shiny new thing. But after a short period of time, it’s just another thing. Who cares?
Maybe that backpack is right for you purposes, maybe it isn’t. The real happiness and memories you’ll get from that backpack will be the week you spent on the trail in the High Sierras.
In all my time in the outdoors, I can’t really recall any specific memories about a particular piece of gear… Unless something went wrong with a key piece of gear and it impacted the rest of my trip.
I always get a chuckle out of this classic outdoors parody video.
So yeah, all I am saying is don’t fall into the consumerism hype and brouhaha surrounding an event like Outdoor Retailer.
Buy what you need, when you need it, and only when it will offer a marked improvement in your life experiences.
How do you feel about the ever pervasive creep of consumerism as it relates to fostering great experiences, be it through travel, outdoor activities, or something else?
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