Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hopelessly Devoted to Your Gear?

A girl and her pack - a love story?

Recently I was reading an issue of New Zealand Wilderness magazine, and came across an article which mentioned a postgraduate student trying to determine whether Kiwis are emotionally attached to their tramping gear.

To me, the answer was a no-brainer. Of course we are!

I expect that any non-tramper would question why. After all, we're just talking about practical "stuff". But I also expect a number of those same people are a little too fond of their cars, or their i-phones, or whatever they spend their time with.

As humans, we tend to create stronger bonds with one another when we've been through something challenging or life-changing together. The more challenging or life-changing, the stronger the bond is likely to be. This is why war buddies are often life-long friends. They've been to hell and back together, and the bond is about as strong as it gets!

This is one of my selling points for tramping as a couple. You face challenges together while tramping, and come out with a stronger bond at the other end of it. Many of the couples I surveyed while writing Sex in a Tent confirmed that this one of the best things about their outdoor adventures together.

So if this works between people, why not (to a lesser degree) between a person and his or her gear? My backpack has been there with me through a lot. I've thought about shopping for a nice, new one - maybe with some more hi-tech features, or lower weight - but I've grown rather fond of mine.

It was lent to me by my Aunt Judy for my first multi-day jaunt into the wilderness some six years ago. When I told her how well it had worked for me, she let me keep it since her backpacking days were pretty much behind her. It moved with me to New Zealand, and has been on every tramp I've been on since.

Perhaps that's an extreme example, since most gear is not a family heirloom. But even things like hiking boots are difficult for me to throw away when the time comes. They've walked the miles, and it's sad to see them go.

I'm not sure how far this extends. I guess it depends on your personal experiences. If your life once depended on your camping knife, or your headlamp, or some other item that might otherwise seem pretty impersonal, you could find it hard to part with.

Of course this is the sort of thinking that drives retailers and manufacturers nuts. They would prefer we got quickly tired of our gear and excited about the latest marvel of technology they're selling. Instead, some of us wander into the shops lamenting how they "don't make 'em like they used to".

I do have a pair of boots that are at the end of their usefulness. By the time summer is over, I will have to bid them a fond farewell. They've served me well, and I will lament their passing.


Mike said...

Hi Michelle. You could try growing something in your old boots rather than throwing them out, as I've heard some people do. Apparently ferns like them from what I hear.

etphone said...

You can become hopelessly devoted to a brand and purchase more of it this way too. My wife and I each purchased an icebreaker t-shirt while in NZ (knowing about it because of this blog) while on an around the world trip. A year later we now own more then a dozen icebreaker products...

Anonymous said...

Glad to see the pack is still trekking.
I wonder how many people who tried outdor activities would be still enjoying them if they had the right gear.It's unfortunate that most people try things out with inferior gear and think they don't want to spend too much at first. We all do that.But gear does count.
I couldn't backcountry ski all day without my well fitted body hugging dayback which is fully loaded with "just in case" supplies _ Judy

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