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Is it worth it?
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David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Is it worth it? on 02/16/2011 23:25:44 MST Print View

Exit question: best spiritual/practical bang for buck tangible outdoor object (aka gear)?

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Is it worth it? on 02/16/2011 23:27:13 MST Print View


Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Is it worth it? on 02/17/2011 00:00:22 MST Print View

I agree with Jack on his exit question answer.

But in general...."is it worth it"......

While I've not been "out there" like a lot of y'all, I think I can provide a thoughtful answer.

When considering this question, we have to look at the ends, not the means. So you've got X number of pieces of gear that have been sold throughout the years, or are sitting at the back of your closet. They fall into two categories. In category one are the pieces of gear that you've actually used. In category two are those that never have seen the legitimate light of day. We'll easily dispense with category two and say that they weren't indeed "worth it." Now we can deal solely with category one.

For me, a piece of gear can do a few things. It can serve as a learning tool, be a tool of function, or serve as both simultaneously. When I consider a piece of gear's "worth," I consider my history with it.

Did I learn anything from buying it? If I learned how to improve my outdoors experience or general knowledge with this piece of gear, no matter how insignificant the item is, then I consider that a successful purchase. Yes, I may have quickly moved on from said piece of gear, but that allowed me to move forward. You can't cross a wooden footbridge without placing your foot on individual planks. (sorry for the bad analogy. it was the first thing that came to mind)

Did I get a practical use out of the item? If that piece of gear aided me in enjoying myself in any way, be it on or off the trail, then I also consider it a success. Now, when considering very expensive pieces of gear... If I buy a $1000 Alpacka raft and have fun blowing it up in my living room but never actually use it, well, then you can safely assume I've wasted my money. We'll put those gross exaggerations aside.

I had a Tarptent Squall 2 that I legitimately used twice. By "legitimate" I mean on real trips that weren't in my backyard. That was a couple of hundred bucks that seemingly got me nowhere because I sold it soon after purchasing it. But the real purchase was the fun and experience I gained from using the Squall 2. I finally knew what a Tarptent was like! I finally knew what silnylon was! I finally knew what a single wall shelter was like! I finally knew what no-see-um netting with a sewn-in floor was like!

And so on.

So far I've no real wasted purchases. Of course in hindsight I have some that I could have done without. But that's why they call it hindsight. :)

Serge Giachetti
(sgiachetti) - M

Locale: Boulder, CO
wilderness connection starts with the feet on 02/17/2011 00:13:46 MST Print View

I had a profound spiritual attachment to my first pair of hiking boots, some leather/goretex asolo boots. I would never imagine wearing anything remotely like this on my feet again, but these lasted me about 1500 miles and I felt like a hiking warrior god when I put them on :) The same bombproof build that I would blame today for lack of proprioceptivity and agility, gave me the feeling that I could go anywhere in those.
Had lots of moments of gratitude looking down at these boots in various terrains.

My light trail runners don't last me nearly as long today, but I think this is the gear I grow most fond of. There is a real sense that my mobility in the mountains completely depends on them. Barefooting is cool, but wouldn't go more than a few miles in the rockies without something between my feet and the ground. Speaking of which, have ya'll tried the merrell trail glove? Just got a pair and loving them!

I would ad that switching out the big 3 to UL, was a big spiritual/practical move. Completely changed my relationship to the mountains, but ya'll know about it of course.

Edited by sgiachetti on 02/17/2011 00:16:37 MST.

a b
Is it worth it? on 02/17/2011 00:50:07 MST Print View

My pack represented my home on the two long trails I have hiked.
That would be the practical side.
When i think of the closest piece of gear to my spiritual side, at least on the CDT, it was my compass.
I never took it off the whole hike.
I made a promise to myself that i would hike from Mexico to Canada and find my own way if I lost the trail and never turn back. My compass with it's unfailing needle was my connection to something mystical within the earth that would guide me. Once in Wyoming I "misplaced" the trail and took a look at my map and literally set a course of zero degrees and walked it through the bush until I found a landmark I could recognize from the map.
That was the point in the hike where it really hit home to me that I CAN hike my own path and it's not about "where I am?" but "where is this place?".
I took my compass off after the CDT for the plane ride home. It was taken from my pack along with my camera and so other stuff. It hurt pretty bad because i had worn that compass for the whole hike and i had grown sentimental about it.
However the real experience I had on the trail with that compass cannot be taken away.
And guess what brand new shiny object I am wearing around my neck at this moment?

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Is it worth it?" on 02/17/2011 06:17:29 MST Print View


I lace them up and don't think about them on the trail- if they're good.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Is it worth it? on 02/17/2011 07:28:50 MST Print View

Well, not backpacking gear, but certainly an outdoor object.

My Koga-Miyata World Traveller touring bike, circa 1990.

I was stationed in Germany, and had rediscovered the joy of cycling (thanks to the wonderful and bike friendly German countryside). After a month and a half field exercise, I took my unspent paychecks and bought the most expensive thing (except a car, and it was even close to that as all my previous cars were used) I had ever purchased up to that point.

That Koga-Miyata opened up the world to me in a way it had never been opened up before. Shortly after its purchase I rode my bike from Garlstedt (between Bremerhaven and Bremen) to a really cool concert. In Berlin. The 'Wall' had come down but East and West had not yet reunified. I rode my bike to the Roger Waters 'The Wall' concert at Potsdammer Platz in East Berlin (which was incredible, BTW, both musically and historically). Then rode down to Dresden, up to Leipzig, and down back into West Germany to Munich. On my own, camping along the way. I have enough stories from that one bike ride to span multiple bottles of scotch and beer halls full of laughter.

I went on to ride, generally three weeks at a time, in New Zealand's south island, Ireland, northeastern France, Holland and Scotland. All unsupported, just a buddy and I. Wonderful adventures all. After I was back in the States I even did Arizona for three weeks.

So that bike, more than anything else, shaped me into who I am today -- my world views, my desire for activity-filled adventure (instead of prepackaged, sanitized and chaperoned adventure so rife in today's world), and even helped me gain a level of maturity that had been sorely lacking up to that point.

I still have that bike. It's the one thing I don't think I'll ever let go.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Is it worth it? on 02/17/2011 07:56:20 MST Print View

@ Dave "But a new pair of AT boots is a round trip plane ticket to Alaska, and experience continues to fill one up long after gear has been worn out and replaced"

The line quoted above is the same filter I use when evaluating gear. Perhaps for me a map is the best bang for the buck outdoor object, as it serves to inspire me...

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: is it worth it? on 02/17/2011 08:26:22 MST Print View

Maps? Compass? Camera? Pack? Shoes? Bikes??

All soft spots for me. Nice work gents, thanks.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Is it worth it? on 02/17/2011 09:07:05 MST Print View

I consider few, if any, pieces of specific gear essential to what I do. Granted, I need certain things to stay warm, etc.

But I've begun to feel that a bag is a bag, a tent is a tent, a bike is a bike.
If it wasn't the one I already have, it would be a different one likely doing just as well. If not my WM Summerlite, it would be something else. I have no real attachments, just certain pieces I use a lot. I love my Jam2...but I know I'll find or make something just as good when I wear it out.

I can think of few things that I couldn't have done were it not for a specific piece of gear. Granted, some pieces are better suited, but I suppose there's always a way around the gear...

Cycling for instance: I've done double-centuries on high-end road bikes with carbon and all the fancy components. But I'm pretty confident I could've done the same rides on a restored old thrift-store purchased road bike. Maybe slower...but I don't believe it would have diminished the experience. In fact, it could've created an entirely new one, perhaps more rewarding?

If it comes down to bang for the buck, I guess for me it's shoes...whichever ones I happen to be wearing...

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
relevance? on 02/17/2011 12:09:35 MST Print View

i used to think that gear was important ... dont get me wrong the weight is important ... but an individual piece of gear is not going to make or break you 99% of the time

whether you hike with a 5 or 10 lb base load wont really affect what most people do ... most people including myself have an extra 5 lb they could easily lose to make up for it

whether you use a nice cottage manuf pack or a generic osprey exos is also quite irrelevant overall except in terms of fit

the most important thing about gear is that it fits and does whats needed ... then price, which includes durability ... other than that its what makes you warm and fuzzay

i personally think that many people, including myself, overcompensate with gear because they have certain inadequacies ... whether its not enough time, not enough skill, or just plain whoring ...

its sad to see those strapping teens run up the hills with their school daypacks, thrift store clothes, and borrowed gear ... when i cant even keep up with all my shiny new dead bird ... lol

its the person, not the gear that matters ...

Edited by rcaffin on 02/17/2011 15:10:01 MST.

Brian Austin
(footeab) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: relevance? on 02/17/2011 16:54:32 MST Print View

Its the camera, not the light weight gear that matters. The camera brings home the memories and keeps them alive as screen savers and as wall posters. The camera provides inspiration to climb a line in a photograph that you might not otherwise have seen. The camera inspires others to go when they view your pictures as your screensaver on your giant plasma TV or LCD screen.

Its the Camera that is relevant.

The hiking through hyperbole articles posted here on BPL are an excellent example. It was the pictures that made the article. A picture is worth a thousand words: easily.

Next most important is the weather report... Wet and miserable is, miserable

Edited by footeab on 02/17/2011 17:15:26 MST.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
matters on 02/17/2011 17:07:52 MST Print View

Aarn pack and hiking poles-otherwise i wouldn't be hiking due to back problems. Because they get me on the trail they are number one, second is my camera, third GPS.

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
My stove. on 02/17/2011 17:11:21 MST Print View

The comments re the camera are good except its the pictures I enjoy looking after I get back, not necessarily using the camera whilst on the trail. Therefore, in terms of what I appreciate the most is probably my stove (whichever one it happens to be at the time). To sit somewhere and watch nature pass by over a hot drink or hot food as the sun sets is perfect for me.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: My stove. on 02/17/2011 17:15:06 MST Print View

The vehicle that gets me to the trailhead. Mine is relatively inexpensive. But to be able to get to places to hike it is worth it's weight in gold. It's all gravy after that.

Edited by kthompson on 02/17/2011 17:17:01 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
existential whoring on 02/17/2011 19:33:10 MST Print View

"i personally think that many people, including myself, overcompensate with gear because they have certain inadequacies ... whether its not enough time, not enough skill, or just plain whoring"

Agreed, and well said.

More good answers all around! As much as I'm loath to admit it, I'm very fond of my 4x4, and on the two occasions it's been in the shop for extended periods feel more trapped than I care to admit (even though I was able to ride my bike to work and around town just fine).

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Worth It? on 02/17/2011 22:15:43 MST Print View

"But a new pair of AT boots is a round trip plane ticket to Alaska, and experience continues to fill one up long after gear has been worn out and replaced"

Tough one...both AT boots and Alaska are awesome. You need to do what I did this year, and buy some AT boots at a sick sale price so you can have both. I got brand new Dynafit boots for $199 (down from $765). I can honestly say these boots have contributed to better experiences this winter. My new AT setup is so much lighter than my old one (9lbs/ft vs. 16lbs/ft) that I'm no longer in agony on the uphills due to my hip flexors (sp?) complaining the whole time. I truly enjoy the uphills now, so it has been money well spent....especially now that I've got a ton of use out of them.

"1) is the cost of advanced, new technology worth the performance and fun benefits?"
Yes usually, but it's more worth it if you've already suffered and learned with less advanced gear. Someone who has used a thin CCF sleeping pad for years will appreciate the comfort of a NeoAir far more than someone who is brand new to hiking and hasn't used anything else. Yet a NeoAir would likely be a good purchase for either of them. So there is something to said for starting at the bottom and working your way up, but it's not worth forcing yourself to start at the bottom if you have access to much better stuff.

"Best spiritual/practical bang for buck tangible outdoor object (aka gear)?"
Good question. The answer is definitely not any piece of gear that isn't durable enough to last a long time. Time builds relationship, memories and attachment.

In the last couple years I've changed packs many times, but I suspect that if I held on to one long enough, it would become one of my most highly valued objects from a 'spiritual' viewpoint. To me, a pack is so central to hiking that just looking at one makes it easy to recall the trips we've shared. When I look at my pack, I can easily list all the major trips I've carried it on, whereas I couldn't do the same thing for a lot of other pieces of gear.

Next for me is probably my shelter. Few things build attachment to gear like successfully weathering a major storm or just spending a lot of time in a shelter. I tend to be very appreciative of my shelter if it has stood up well in the face of harsh weather. I quickly developed a lot of respect and appreciation for my tent last fall when our campsite was flooded with several inches of water and I was actually floating on my NeoAir, yet the tent floor kept it all out. Had it failed, our down bags would have been soaked and we would have been in a very serious situation.

Edited by dandydan on 02/17/2011 22:17:27 MST.