We are not the poster children for frugality, and in fact we try to be a reassuring voice reminding people that it’s okay to spend money on the things that improve their lives. (That’s what money’s for, right?)
We’re likewise not the poster children for minimalism, though we admire people who live that way. We do our best to live intentionally, but we are into too many sports and hobbies to have a stark, clutter-free home. (Also, books. We’ll never quit you.)
Maybe it’s because we live in a mountain town, maybe it’s because I travel a lot, but we are constantly surrounded by people who have bought all of these things.
The expensive outdoor gear. The fancy travel gadgets. These things have taken on an almost totemic meaning, as the currency of the activities. They have become — or at least people seem to believe that they have become — the signifiers that I belong here.
Think the $300 Bose noise-cancelling headphones. The $900 avalanche airbag pack. The $200 cycling jersey.
All of these things can be justified rationally, but the truth is that they are pure signifiers. They don’t actually make life better, then just bring cachet.
And you don’t need any of that stuff. None of us do.
Things That Signify
This is something we see nearly every weekend when we venture onto our local slopes and trails. Check out this recent photo, snapped surreptitiously:
This was a group we passed on a local trail, a group clearly comprised of tourists. How do we know? Look at all of that brand new, expensive, unnecessary gear! It’s like they all went to REI together and said, “We’re going for a long-distance hike, and we need everything possible to do that right!”
This trail was seven miles round-trip.
Also, it was 90 degrees. Yet everyone in this group was rocking multiple layers and must have been dying. But they had paid for all of this stuff, so I get why they were wearing it all.
Here’s a good rule: If the thing you’re considering buying has a special word in the name, you almost certainly don’t need it.
In outdoors gear, if it has the word “trekking” in it, you might as well replace “trekking” with “expensive thing you can live without.”
Let’s take another look at that photo:
I count almost $800 worth of specialized clothing and gear just on that one guy, and only based on what we can see from that back. And how much of that gear was essential to the hike they were doing? Maybe the shoes.
Because here’s the thing: hiking is walking. (My favorite Sex and the City quote ever.) It’s fundamentally the same as walking around the block, except you might go out for longer, walk on steeper or more uneven ground and maybe need to be prepared for bad conditions. But do you need a technical shirt that wicks your sweat and repels mosquitos to go for a walk? Of course not. Do you need fancy collapsing trekking poles? Maybe, if you have bad knees, or you’re carrying a 40-pound long distance backpacking pack. But for a dayhike with a daypack? Nah. All the rest? Same answer.
Our preferred hiking clothing: t-shirts and pants or shorts we’d wear to the gym. Add a baseball cap for shade and whatever non-specialized backpack we have laying around, and we’re set. For easy hikes, we’ll just wear regular sneakers, though for a more rocky or steep hike we might actually wear hiking boots.
Related post: You don’t need to buy a bunch of new stuff to go camping
Apply the same thinking to airplane travel. Fundamentally, what is it? Going for a walk and then sitting in a chair. Granted, our current airport security system makes it beneficial to have things like three-ounce refillable bottles for toiletries, and shoes that go on and off easily, but that’s a tiny part of the experience. For the rest of it, it’s really just sitting, something most of us do a big part of every day plenty well without special gear. Besides, noise cancelling headphones take up a lot of space in your bag, and so do fancy travel pillows. (Need to kill some time? Search for “travel pillow” on Amazon. Your head will explode.)
Before we buy anything new, let’s ask ourselves what we’re buying it for, and really scrutinize that. Hiking? Really just walking. Flying? Really just sitting. Long distance road tripping? More sitting. Gourmet cooking? Mostly cutting and stirring.
Adding Cachet, Not Value
The interesting thing we’ve noticed over time is that the people with the very best outdoor gear are rarely the people who live in the mountains. And the travelers with all the gadgets aren’t those who travel the most. It’s not that those of us who spend lots of time doing these things haven’t tried all those toys, but at a certain point you realize that they aren’t adding value to your life, they’re only adding cachet.
They make you look like the type of person who belongs in that place. You must be a really good skier if you have that airbag pack. And you must travel all the time if you have those headphones, that Tumi suitcase. But ultimately it’s just more stuff. More weight to carry, more clutter to corral. It doesn’t actually make life better, and it certainly doesn’t make you better at that activity. No one has ever become a world-class anything just by buying the best gear. (Though many have tried.)
Things That Actually Make Life Better
Despite the profusion of things that no one needs, let alone those who pursue hobbies only casually (ahem, seven-mile dayhikers wearing thousands of dollars of brand new stuff), there are truly some things that make life better. And those are up to each of us to define.
I spend a lot of my life on airplanes, so I’m glad that I bought high quality, leak-proof glass containers that I can fill with my own food.
Being able to eat actual vegetables is so much better than relying on the overpriced junk on the plane, even if work is paying. It’s worth it to me to have spent money on quality containers because we believe health is worth investing in.
I’m also happy to have packing cubes, because I pack and unpack a lot, and they make that so much easier. But to someone else, they’re probably an unnecessary gimmick. Same goes for my insulated stainless steel water bottle, my external battery pack for my phone, and a handful of other splurges that no one needs, but that I’m happy I have because of the value they add to my life.
Just as we should spend according to our values, we should also expect that what we spend money on gives value back to us.
What Adds Value to Your Life?
We’d love to hear from you guys — what unnecessary items feel totally worth it to you because they make your life better in some meaningful way? And what gadgets and gizmos do you see around you that might make people look cool, but don’t add value? (Teslas come to mind, but maybe that’s just me… happy to debate that one in the comments!) ;-)
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Categories: we've learned
I love the idea that if it has a special name, it’s overpriced.
I find that it’s best to try to do things with as little as possible in extra stuff and slowly “evolve” into using things that will make life a little bit easier. That way you can appreciate what the technology can add in terms of value, comfort, etc.
So I start with a free shirt, realize that I sweat profusely, and it gets gross. That doesn’t necessarily mean buy a sweat wicking shirt, maybe it means I bring a second in a backpack so I can change. Or it does mean I buy a sweat wicking shirt but now I can appreciate it!
By starting with nothing and doing it the “hardest” way, you can slowly upgrade and appreciate the purchases more.
You won’t ever convince people who buy for cachet that they’re making a foolish purchase though. :)
I completely agree with you! Start with the free thing, and then upgrade as you go when something truly seems necessary. (And is it just me, or do the technical shirts always end up with gross permafunk anyway??! Just me? Okay, nevermind.)
So, I was just noticing this a few days ago. I recently started biking once a weekend, for sprint triathlon training, and last week I biked past a cycling club of maybe 60 people. Since I was biking in the opposite direction, I saw everyone was very well decked out. Of course, there were those guys on gazillion dollar bikes that were super fast, but the majority of people were piddling along looking quite professional also. The thought actually crossed my mind that maybe I should get a biking shirt, because my t-shirt was flapping around in the wind annoying me…. but then I thought of all the tighter fit shirts I have that would work just as well.
But, this hits on a point Mr. SSC and I have been disagreeing on recently. My mom gave me her 40 year old road bike, which is nice, and I spent ~$120 getting it tuned up and a new seat, and I think it works just fine for weekly rides. But, Mr SSC has mentioned a few times that maybe I should just get a new bike, and he himself is seriously shopping for a new bike. Granted all this comes from our allowances so it doesn’t matter. But, for weekly bike rides, I am even fine with sharing my new old-bike with Mr SSC.
I could see how buying some new shiny fun gear could get people mentally excited to take up a new hobby, or deal with not-so-fun things like flying all the time… or I guess taking up weekly bike ride.
And Mr. SSC recently divulged how big your allowance fund is, so I know you can afford a new bike and a bike jersey! Hahaha. ;-) (Though maybe he can’t!) I have a strong opinion on all that cycling apparel, and I think you don’t need any of it. Just wear a tighter shirt, as you said. *Maybe* padded shorts are worth it, and I do actually love using cycling shoes with the cleats. But I would actually feel pretty foolish decking myself out in all that gear just to ride like someone who will clearly never compete in the Tour De France! As for whether a new bike is worth it, it’s all about what makes you happy. But if you feel like your current bike works just fine, then it seems like there’s no reason to shell out more money for a new one. (Especially because bikes are not cheap!)
Oh – I did buy triathlon shorts, so I use those. They are pretty nice, just lightly padded. But, let me tell you, I got one of those crazy looking seats with the holes in the middle, and it is freaking amazing! So worth the $40… probably a better purchase that shorts.
So true – I could buy maybe 7 bikes, and Mr SSC could buy a wheel of a new bike!
I need to upgrade my seat to that! I did get one specially fitted, but I think the seat with the hole should be my next bike related purchase. I keep joking that I want to get one of those big granny beach cruiser suits on my road bike… that would be quite a sight. ;-)
FYI: I find (and have resold) fancy bike shirts at the Goodwill all the time.
Ooh, new post-retirement business opportunity!
The great bike gear debate! I live in the Pacific Northwest where outdoor gear is plentiful, so I get a lot of stuff on sale or used at the outdoor gear’s consignment section. If you’re serious about biking, always good to see what shops are in your area.
Padded shorts are uber worth it if you are doing distance. Chafing is not fun. I got a lot of funny looks from other cyclists when I started doing longer rides with my sweet-looking, but very not padded Columbia shorts (bought on sale with the employee discount). 20 miles is my personal cutoff – after that I like the padding for bike rides. And if you know you’re going to be doing mucho hills, padding is appreciated!
Bike jerseys with back pockets rock, too, because you can access goodies while riding without having to stop – but then again I have never paid more than $25 for mine. I suppose you can always stop to get out whatever you need – it just depends on whether you ride in a group or not.
If you bike enough in rainy weather, rain jackets with arm pit vents are super handy – but you have to bike A LOT in rain to justify the expense. And then again rain jackets can be multipurpose outside of biking. And then again again you can also buy these used…
There is something to be said about ‘looking the part’ to fit in with your cycling group. Once I have my workout outfit to my liking, I’m much more motivated to do the exercise, e.g. cycling, yoga, biking, hiking, swimming. But it’s definitely possible to go budget or mid range instead of $$$.
It sounds like you’re super into cycling, so some investment in it makes total sense. Especially the accessories that make riding in the rain more comfortable, given that you live in a rainy place. The “looking the part” observation is interesting, too — good to know that about yourself that you feel more motivated when you’re dressed a certain way. So long as you don’t drop a cool grand every time you want to try something new! Haha. ;-)
Definitely not embarrassed to say we were just like those hikers you saw not too long ago 😅 I think novices or those accustomed to luxury think starting a hobby means having all the accoutrements that go along with it. Experienced hobbyists learn what is necessary and what isn’t, but that’s hard to know when you’re just starting out.
That said, some people want to look like big shots. They will regret it when they have to lug all that extra gear around for 7 miles!
LOL — Yes, indeed! We’ve seen plenty of people laboring under those giant heavy packs, too! (And I’m pretty sure I was that person on my first backpacking outing. I brought a chair for goodness sake! Hahaha.) I think you’re right that there’s something in our culture that says we need all the things to do the hobby right. But most likely we’ll do just fine with the basics!
Love that labeled picture! We saw a couple with kayaks that had a similar situation. Beautiful kayaks that they could hardly get off their vehicle. Fancy life jackets, go pro’s etc. and they ended up out on the water for about 20 minutes. We have really inexpensive kayaks, I put my $35 phone in a ziplock bag for pictures and we can each handle our kayaks by ourselves because they are so light (and we spend hours on the water). Here’s a couple of things we have spent a little extra money on because we value what they do for us – 2 awesome travel coffee mugs (because we always make our own coffee and it stays hot for hours) and good quality goggles (for swimming). I love Jim’s idea above about starting the “hardest” way too – and then upgrading. We totally do that too. And yeah….the permafunk is real on those shirts.
Thank you for backing me up on the permafunk. ;-) Hahaha. (But seriously. It’s the worst. I wear very little technical clothing anymore because of it. Hooray for good old cotton!) I laughed at your description of the decked out couple with the kayaks — we have seen that type of thing SO MANY times. I seriously have no issue with people buying nice things, but if it doesn’t make the experience better, there is zero point at all — and it sounds like that completely played out with your recent kayaking couple.
I sweat like a mofo, so I do always wear those polyester shirts when working out (Target brand of course). They do smell a lot worse than Cotton after a work out, but they don’t look as disgusting with the sweat spots and they always smell fine after washing. I probably could get away with wearing cotton more than once after it dries out, I definitely can’t do that with the polyester thanks to the smell.
Any tips on a low budget inflatable (the only type that will fit inside my Civic coupe, I assume) kayak?
I’m sure if we used some industrial strength laundry detergent the technical stuff would come out smelling better (it seems to smell fine when it comes out, but then stinks as soon as it heats up), but we’re devoted to our nontoxic hippie soap. :-)
And can’t vouch for it because we don’t own it, but this is the inflatable kayak we were eyeing for a while: https://smile.amazon.com/Intex-Explorer-2-Person-Inflatable-Aluminum/dp/B00A7EXF4C. (They don’t make a lot of 1-person kayaks, but I think you could use it just fine solo.) But if you buy any inflatable, buy a GOOD patch kit before you go out! Unless you shell out bigger bucks, nothing inflatable will be indestructible.
Thank you for the tip! I was looking at this one which is almost twice as expensive for a single: https://www.seaeagle.com/SportKayaks/SE330
We have heard good things about the Sea Eagle brand (again, can’t vouch), so I’m sure that’s a good choice, too.
Just because you have a Civic coupe doesn’t mean you can’t put the kayak on top. I put my kayak on top off my Camaro all the time in LA. Granted I got some funny looks when I’d pass people on the interstate doing 80 with a kayak on my car, but it worked great for me. I have a 10′ sit inside fishing kayak similar to this one http://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/heritage-feather-lite-angler-96-sit-in-fishing-kayak#repChildCatid=1025554
Something to think about beyond the inflatable route. Also Pelicans are inexpensive and work well too.
Great point! Don’t discount roof storage! Ours is always filled with bikes and skis, but if that’s not an issue, then indeed — instant kayak rack! :-)
I forgot to mention, I just used those foam blocks and then tied it down. So, not even a roof rack was needed. :)
Money saving FTW.
Haha, that sounds so ridiculous I’d probably be most worried about theft with a set up like that, that’s definitely creative though! And less hassle with not needing to inflate/deflate…
That’s a good point, and it has actually stressed me out in the past to have our bikes on top of the car, even with sturdy locks on them. If it will stress you out, maybe don’t put stuff outside the car.
i know I’m years late to this convo, but a tip on stinky activewear, you can put some vinegar on it to help kill the stink before you wash (still fairly Eco) and it helps a lot, but also this assumes you are ok with the smell of vinegar (it tends to go away when it dries). Personally, I’ll take a mile vinegar smell over sporty sweat stank any day haha
You know the good thing? We’re happy to buy some of their “good stuff” sometimes when they realize they won’t ever use it again :)
Ha — indeed! Love that “barely used” secondhand market. ;-)
Back in the day I walked up wet Scottish mountains in a pair of jeans and an anorak, wearing a pair of boots inherited from an elderly relative and backpacked across Scotland for a fortnight wearing a home-made check shirt and thick cord breeches. Despite all the discomfort of this clothing I stuck with the hill walking but after spending days [weeks] trying to dry sodden gear in a tent or driving round in the car with the heater on to try and get rid of some moisture, I am so very happy to wear technical clothing … and there is some clever stuff out there. We love the folding kettle we have in the campervan http://www.wackypracticals.com/collapsible-kettle.html and the insulated cafetiere that keeps our coffee warm. When you reach your 50s the walking poles become important [essential] and almost all our clothes are from technical hiking / travel ranges as these are well made, take up little space, quick drying and require no ironing. I am always amazed at how much people are prepared to pay for stuff they hardly use but I like to think those people you met were taking their first foray in to the hills but enjoyed it so much they became hooked and having good gear might help with that experience … but if they don’t stick with it I will be the one buying their hardly worn walking gear on Ebay:)
There are definitely times when we are THRILLED to have technical gear, and you mention some important ones! (And truly — we have all the camping stuff. I’m not criticizing that at all. Just reminding all of us that you don’t NEED all of it to get started.) ;-) I think bad knees is an important reason to use the poles, and this group I got the picture of was likely in their 50s… but I don’t know that they NEEDED the top-of-the-line poles that they had. But as you said, let’s assume that they have been hiking every day since then, or maybe this was a training hike for their cross-continent trek that they are currently undertaking. Or if not some cheapskate is benefitting from a secondhand bargain. :-)
Someone gave us those packing cubes for Christmas and I thought they were silly. Then I tried them and THEY WERE AWESOME. Also, I am constantly going back and forth on the travel neck pillow. They make sleeping so much better on the plane, but they are so annoying to carry around the rest of the time. So I usually balance my need to sleep on the plane with the rest of the trip to see if they are worth it. :)
Aren’t the cubes the best?! I have such a system down now that I can’t imagine having to pack without them. And I definitely DO carry a travel pillow when I am on long flights, but it’s inflatable and takes up less space. I know it’s not as comfy as some of the big ones, but I just can’t devote that much space to a unitasker!
Everyone here seems to have $900 Canada Goose jackets and $125 Longchamp totes. It’s like there’s a guide to effective urban streetwear and I didn’t get the memo.
My fancy gizmo that gives me daily joy is my Vitamix. After burning through a number of other blenders in less than a year, it is nice to have a real workhorse on the counter.
When it comes to hiking, I will say I tend to be underequipped. In an ideal world I would like to find a light bag that is actually comfortable for long distances rather than relying on my company-logo-stamped free backpack.
I just cannot imagine spending $900 on a jacket! I spent less than that on my luxury queen sized mattress. :D
Haha — same here! We have several down jackets that are good quality, but we are ninja-level bargain shoppers for that stuff. ;-)
I remember when a $200 puffy North Face jacket was good enough! Ah, nostalgia… ;-) Yeah, and how many of those folks ever actually wear the down jacket in a situation when you’d need the benefits of down? We’re with you on the blender — we bought a refurbished Blendtec a few years ago, and completely love it. It was a splurge for sure (though refurbished saved us 50%!), but it will last for years. And on outdoor gear, if a new pack will make you happy, don’t hold off on buying one just to maintain frugal cred. :-) There are incredible discounts available on Sierra Trading Post and Campmor, and comfort is sooooo important!
I have to disagree. After 13 subzero days in the Midwest two years ago, I adopted and adapted Scarlett Ohara’s motto: I will never be cold again! I bought my Canada goose after a lot of shopping around, used 5% cash back on my credit card and another 7% through a click through website which brought the price down a bit. I wear this coat October to May and I adore it! I don’t even need a hat gloves or a scarf when I’m wearing it. It was worth every penny and I plan on wearing it for at least 10 years (that’s how long my 200$ north face lasted till that winter broke me)
In your case, it clearly adds value, which is a very different equation from people who buy those things and wear them in a temperate city. ;-) Glad you are getting good use from your splurge!
This is a good reminder about mindful spending, although it’s good to remember that one persons ‘want’ is another persons ‘need’. OK, no one actually needs any of that stuff really. I don’t ‘need’ ski boots because I don’t ‘need’ to ski. I want to ski. (and I want comfortable feet!)
But back to individual needs (wants). They are all very personal, and a personal decision has been made to purchase that want. Now, whether that’s a good money decision is yet another personal choice.
couple of examples; Bose headphones as the only way someone can get any sleep on a very long haul (Asia) business trip, and still be functional when they arrive. Travel pillows as the only way kids will get any sleep on a red eye to the UK, so that everyone can survive the next day. Technical hiking wear (including underwear!) to avoid painful skin issues from excessive sweat (OK, that’s enough detail right there!).
Cachet is everywhere, from cars to brands of hiking gear. My personal opinion is that EMS brand is great and I don’t understand Teslas!
Couldn’t agree more — I know plenty of people wouldn’t choose to spend on the things that I find essential, and vice versa. And we DO use a lot of the gear items that we said the folks in this photo don’t need — but we USE them, a lot. Like you and your comfortable ski boots! Are they a necessity? No. But are they still worth it? Absolutely! And if you need the Bose headphones to get through a trip like that, then go for it. I find that they still let plenty of noise through, and earphones combined with a scarf wrapped around the head work just as well. And we’re all for technical on longer outings — just don’t usually bother on little dayhikes. :-)
Let’s see. Maybe 6 years ago, I bought a kayak for $200 at Walmart (the only store within 30 miles or so of my parents’ cottage). It pained me to give Walmart my money, but I mostly got criticized by others for not buying something “nicer”. Here’s the thing. I never want to kayak where I could flip over. I never want to kayak purely for speed. For six summers, my little plastic kayak has brought me nothing but joy. I paddle past really fancy ones on the lakes all the time, but as near as I can tell, no one is having more fun, seeing better sights, or enjoying themselves more than me. An added bonus? I can actually carry this kayak by myself. Go noodle arms! Of course, there are times when it makes sense to pay more money or to buy better things. But you’ve got to consider your purpose, right?
I think you found exactly the right balance with your kayak — though I feel your Walmart pain! (Not because of who shops there, as one commenter suggested, but because of how they treat workers and how they’ve created a race to the bottom in terms of labor and environmental standards in their manufacturing). I’ve seen your pics in your kayak, so you clearly get a lot of use out of it. Would a “nicer” kayak bring you more joy? Doubtful! For my birthday a few years ago, Mr. ONL bought me a road bike that is PLENTY nice for my purposes, but is a cheap piece of crap compared to what people around here tend to ride. But would having a bike that weighs five pounds less suddenly make me a much better cycle? Hell no! Only training hard would do that — plus I can always lose five pounds off my body, and that’s a lot cheaper than paying to lose five pounds off a bike. ;-)
I feel like I’m the king of just trying to get by on the simple stuff and working in the extras later as Jim suggests. I will say that I like the wicking shirts better than normal T-shirts, but I’ve picked them up for under $7 at TJ Maxx or Old Navy.
I see a potential struggle on the horizon. We were able to get the boys into an exclusive Pre-k – 8 school due to a sizable discount for active duty families (thanks to my wife). It really hasn’t started yet, since it is just a month in, but I can imagine there being “talk” if a certain amount of cachet isn’t met. It might all be in my head, but it’s something that I’m on the look-out for.
That’s a pretty great thing to master! You can always gear up later, as you said, but so much better not to overspend at the beginning. And yeah, the social pressure in schools seems like it can be intense! I suspect that just standing firm in who you are and not apologizing for it will go a long way. Good luck!
While going thru my clothes recently, I was definitely reminded of the permafunk… Blech… This is the main reason my workout clothes get cycled thru qay quicker than my regular shirts, but even those guys get funky. Too much humidity and sweating going on around here. Unless it is cool, I just quit running in shirts, besides the permafunk, the friction caused its own issues even with tighter technical shirts.
When I did my first 9 mile run in cotton socks and got finished I found my heels were bloody (how did I not feel that?) from the chafing of the wet cotton socks. So, I swore off cotton socks for running. I’m still trying to find reliable ones as the more expensive Asics ones I got only have lasted umm, wait, maybe 600 miles, so maybe I expect too much from clothing? hahahaha
When I did 14’ers I used poles, but mainly as a nice handrail wherever I needed it. Same with kayaking, I just put my cell in a baggie and use it for pics. Although, I did get a little depth finder that I use with my kayak and it has been really handy helping me with fishing. To be fair, it fits on a fishing pole, so it doesn’t require any other acoutrements to work – I try to keep things simple. I also got a nice Mustang life vest though because I always wear it when kayaking and I was dying in the LA summers in a regular life vest.
Still debating the bike though, although others have mentioned I should use my hybrid to train on and then just use a road bike for races, so we’ll see.
You are pointing out PERFECTLY LEGITIMATE reasons to buy technical clothing. Yes, by all means, run in gear that won’t make you chafe or bleed. And for long distance hiking, same deal. It just cracks me up that people think a walk on a non-paved surface, even a short walk, requires a visit to REI. ;-) We’ve used trekking poles on 14ers, too, and I’m torn about whether I’d use them again in the future, or at least the near future while our knees are still functional (I fully expect them not to be at some point in the not-so-distant future). I think we’ll use ’em if our packs are heavy, but skip them otherwise. As for the bike, I think it’s a question of how much use you’ll get out of it. And there is generally a pretty booming used bike market in most places!
Cachet used in an early retirement blog. That was a first:) Well done.
Like you, books are my thing. I love holding them, writing all over them, folding down pages, etc. I pick up some fun fiction and biographies at the library, but for the ones I know I’ll love – I like to own it.
Books are one of the dilemmas I am facing with our 1-year trip to Ecuador. Which ones to bring? How many? Do I really need to just read them on Kindle? It’ll be one of the final decisions:)
I think a lot of the REI-day-hike-clothes phenomenon is marketing. Yes, those clothes do give many of us cachet. But where do we get that idea? From the images, the stories, the word of mouth from the marketing of those companies.
I recently read “Let My People Go Surfing” by Ivan Chouinard, and his thoughts on marketing and promotion at Patagonia were interesting. They still do market a lot, but there is a fine line playing of using emotions to sell people stuff they don’t need and selling quality, durable, valuable products. I think they do (or did) a pretty good job of walking that fine line at Patagonia. They’re at least far ahead of most of the other marketers out there.
Thanks for the fun topic!
I also enjoyed her use of the word “surreptitiously”. :)
Discombobulated. Ostentatious. Obsequiousness. Insouciance. ;-)
Haha — Busting out the 50 cent words today, I guess. ;-) And I don’t envy you the book decision for your trip! (How did we not talk about Ecuador at FinCon?! That sounds amazing!)
I have such mixed feelings about Patagonia and their marketing. On one hand, they are the only ones out there saying people should buy less, but they also obviously need to sell stuff. :-/ Though I definitely believe if everyone made high quality, durable products, we’d be in better environmental shape than we are!
Nice topic – I used to be one of these very types of people. I wasn’t a huge hiker in my earlier day, but I definitely dropped stupid money on things that I *needed to have* because I was doing such-and-such thing. I was in a grotto club a few years ago and went caving fairly often, so the gear…oh, the gear. The things that I thought I needed but, in reality, provided nothing of value.
For me, I notice other people’s cameras a lot. It’s *amazing* the choices of cameras that are out there, and when I see these tourists walking around with $1000 or $1500 cameras, I do two things:
1: Internally mock and ridicule because I know that 90% of those people aren’t using even half of the features that those cameras come with, and:
2: Hate myself because I used to be one of those people in a past life
Now, I use a $500 camera (a Sony A6000), which is half the size of your traditional DSLR, but fully capable of everything that those larger cameras are – including 1080p HD video that we use for the YouTube stuff we’re doing now. I’d put my photography up against the photos coming out of those expensive cameras any day of the week, because it’s not about the tool that you use. It’s about YOU.
We don’t need expensive stuff to get the most out of what we do. I can’t think of a single hobby or activity that I’ve ever done – in my life – where buying more expensive things would have increased my personal enjoyment from it. That’s not to say that I haven’t bought those things. Like I said, I used to “buy” into this stuff (pun intended) big time.
But eventually, I realized that the expensive gear doesn’t result in a better resulting product or increased fulfillment doing the activity. So, why am I buying all this stuff?
Cachet, with a silent “t”, baby!
A grotto club! Wow, I learned something new today. I had no idea that was a thing. I can only imagine how much gear that came with. Yikes! And YES, totally, re: cameras. Virtually every photo on this blog is from my iPhone camera, and while the photos may not be the most amazing ones ever, I still like ’em. ;-) But I have also studied photography and obsessively chase good light, which makes a big difference, even without a “real” camera. (Okay, today’s header is a bad example of that.) ;-)
You should read Break the Twitch’s article about false starts. I think you’d get a kick out of it. Very similar topics! I thought bout how a camelbak could have added value to my hikes just because every time I have to pull out water from my backpack it’s a pain in the ass. Or I have to hand carry it. But I’ll probably wait…and make sure…and probably buy used (not the bladder though) because I have fallen prey to this very same thing you are talking about. It can take several days/weeks/months now before I pull the trigger to make sure it’s something that is very important to me and add a lot of value. However that very same day I saw a cute candle that I totally didn’t need and bought it. Baby steps.
I did read that! And it made me almost not publish this, but then I did anyway. :-) I think you should go ahead and get the camelbak, but most people don’t realize you can also just put a bladder in a regular backpack — you don’t need the Camelbak or Platypus brand pack at all. I think that’s something low cost you’d get a lot of use out of, and doesn’t feel at all to me like an unnecessary “want.” And hey, sometimes you just buy a candle — don’t beat yourself up about it! ;-)
I’m going to argue with you on the wide brim sun hats. I ordered one (for $20 on Amazon) and it has been a game changer in keeping the back of my Norwegian/German neck a reasonable skin-color! I also bought some lightweight UV “nylon pants” for the same reason. Just yesterday I bought a “sun sleeve” on half price sale for the road trip. I lobster up easily and I always seem to miss a spot when re-applying, and using these items eliminates the need for sunscreen in certain areas. :)
I also laughed when you equated a “7 mile trail” to “going for a walk outside”. :D I’m not sure I’ve ever walked more than that distance on natural terrain in a day. :)
In a big, open, sunny setting, I’ll agree with you 100% on the wide-brimmed hat! But maybe you don’t need the top-of-the-line one that this guy was wearing. ;-) (And this hike was all in the shade of the forest, so the big hat was just a sweat-inducer.) It sounds like you bought all that stuff because you actually intend to use it, and that’s fine! That aligns to what you value. Just make sure you actually DO use it all. I’m a big fan of long sleeve t-shirts for blocking the sun, but that’s just my preference. And dude, you need to get out more. 7 miles is not long. ;-)
Agreed that wide brimmed hat makes zero sense in the shade! I picked up the sleeve for long car rides with the sun beating through the left window. I did also order a couple of long sleeve work out shirts but i would worry about getting hot. I guess I should investigate some long sleeve cotton as well. :)
Cotton is GREAT in hot weather. Truly nothing better. :-)
I’m loving the surreptitiously snapped photo; I’ve been tempted to do that a few times myself! I’ll echo the sentiments about starting the cheapest, most “painful” way with any new hobby and moving up as you discover your actual interest in said hobby. A friend was agonizing over paying $100 a month to RENT a flute for her kid to play in band, so I gave her my old one. Twenty years old, but only needed minor repairs, and she didn’t have to shell out all that cash only to find her daughter hated band. I was glad to make that happen for them. I bought my first kayak for around $200 six years ago and it’s been perfect. Mr. COD had a kayak and I wanted to join him. My craft is nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. We only use them a few times a year, so anything super high-end wouldn’t make sense for us. As the kids get older and can go along, maybe we’ll upgrade!
How great that you handed over your flute for your friend’s kid. And I think your approach on the kayak makes total sense! You can certainly spend a small fortune on one, but as you said, you wouldn’t get that much use out of it, so it wouldn’t be money well spent. Would spending $1000 on a kayak really make the activity five times more fun for you? Doubtful!
I used to be a big fan of gizmos when I was younger. Then I realized they don’t really bring my happiness or are not needed. I use my work provided laptop all the time now and haven’t touched my iPad in a year probably. I use the iPhone provided headphones, not expensive Bose ones.
I did drop $400 on a bike in the Spring. But I ride it 4 or 5 times a week so I don’t really feel bad about that purchase at all. I love it.
Same here! I am all about the work laptop, work iPhone, work iPhone headphones, etc. Though I’ll lose all that stuff when we quit and will have to decide what to replace them with — eek! And I think $400 on a bike you use often is money well spent!
I’m one for the absolute best gear you can afford, that’s appropriate for the task and that you will get year’s of use out of. We should at least let the inexperienced readers know “cotton kills” is the term those of us that live in the mountains use and stick too. That still doesn’t mean it has to be expensive, I’ve climbed in the same pair of technical quick dry dwr pants for the last 2 years and they were like $65. Any dri-fit (polyester) t-shirt will do and like you said those can often be found for free entering in local events races etc… I think people should go out, try something out and see if they actually like it and then slowly build their kit with only items they really need as they need them.
Like you my house is as minimal as I can get it , I don’t buy anything excessively and the only place in my house full is my gear room. It’s a bit over the top but it is my gym, my leisure, my therapy, my vacation, my life and my happiness….I don’t spend a dime on anything else.
Okay, you’re right. Bad blogger! Here is my PSA: EVERYONE, COTTON KILLS. DON’T GET HYPOTHERMIA OUT THERE!
I do think it matters what you’re doing, though, and in what conditions. In the summer, when there are no storms coming, you don’t need all that technical stuff just to go for a day hike. That turns hiking (walking) into an elitist activity that only a few people can afford to do, and that’s crazy. Hiking is something we should be encouraging everyone to do! And then, just as you said, if you love it, you can slowly build up the gear you need.
And yeah, I totally relate on the gear room being the happy place. I used to have a wardrobe that I called the quartermaster. Now it’s basically our whole garage. And I do love that stuff. But I also know there’s plenty of it that we don’t NEED. :-)
as long as we have the basics or a touch of the 10Essentials we should be set for anything from 2 miles to 20 miles in a day.
I’ll confess that we don’t always bring the 10 essentials out on day hikes, and make that choice dependent on the terrain, how many people are likely to be around, and what the forecast is. But it’s good to start from the default of bringing them, and make it an intentional choice to leave something behind, not a capricious one. :-)
I as well , my simple go to hikes have just a whistle , knife, water, snack and extra layer. (I of course always let someone know where I am)
That sounds like a perfect list for that — though I always bring my phone, too, mostly as a camera. :-)
Lol that was a given hahaha
I go with the “cotton is rotten” rule whenever we have a multi-night camping trip, but for day hikes, I’ll wear whatever.
Just never let your guard down though, thats when accidents happen.
Good reminder. And always pack your most important piece of gear: common sense. ;-)
I like to go for an easy bike ride on flat ground. I started with a $80 Walmart coaster bike. I did eventually move up to a 15 gear $250 Walmart bike. Better to have gears because even own flat ground you can get stuff like wind. Speaking of cachet, Walmart doesn’t have any cachet unless it is the cachet provided by deliberately avoiding it while looking down your nose at those who shop there. I also shop a lot in second hand and thrift stores as well. You can get a really good idea about useless fads and cachet in there by what is available to buy.
I think buying a bike with gears is a completely worthwhile expense! Even beach cruisers seem to come with a few gears these days. And on the Walmart point, I would say it’s totally possible to avoid Walmart without looking down your nose at folks who shop there. We avoid Walmart because of their inexcusable labor practices and environmental degradation, but completely understand why many people shop there — you really can stretch your money so much farther. We know it’s a privilege to be able to afford to avoid it! And great point about sussing out the fads based on what’s on offer second-hand!
When I go to Walmart I see a disproportionate number of older workers, especially older women, workers with one arm, or missing a leg, or little people (lots of them), or people in wheelchairs working, or new immigrants with poor English or people who are just plain really ugly because of birth marks and deformations due to something they were born with, or cursed with really bad teeth. Why do these disadvantaged types end up working at Walmart? Because other stores won’t hire them. Where do the poor go to get fresh fruits and vegetables in the inner cities and poorest rural areas? There’s not Publix stores there. Personally I think the main reason Walmart is so hated is it caters to the poor, ugly, disabled and minority groups. It also takes open pride in being a conservative operation. Bashing conservatives is also very fashionable and trendy these days. A lot, not all, but a lot, of the criticism aimed at Walmart is either by people who have a vested interest in promoting unions or other things so that they are in a conflict of interest position when they criticize or they apply standards to Walmart that they do not require from other employers. Three of my kids are in retail as managers and they tell me all kinds of hair raising stories about even the very best and socially responsibly approved retail stores. I would rather buy at a store providing employment to the people I used to see in clinic who were subjected to extreme discrimination and talked to me about that, than buy at a store that promotes paper bags where all the employees are physically perfect. I have no qualms of my social conscience about shopping at Walmart providing I can find the correct quality.
It makes me sad that you make so many negative assumptions about people who have a different view than you do on this. It’s pretty simple for us: we refuse to support a company that pays its employees so little that most of them have to rely on government assistance, even though it’s been proven that paying employees a living wage — which they clearly deserve — would only raise their prices a single digit percentage. http://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/15/report-walmart-workers-cost-taxpayers-6-2-billion-in-public-assistance/#2f5c27697cd8 (cost to taxpayers of Walmart employees on welfare)
I am not making negative assumptions. Your article even proves my point. A progressive group did the study using a small starting dataset. They then used improper statistical extrapolation, assuming the same thing applied nationwide (dataset analysis was my field before retirement BTW) and they did not look at any other stores for comparison. Nor did they take into account any confounding factors like Walmart is often located in the poorest areas which would skew measures for poverty. The assumption the group started with was that if a Walmart employee is also having income topped up by government, then it is government being ripped off. This ignores factors like the fact that disabled people, who in my observation are disproportionately employed by Walmart, often can’t work full-time and seek part time work to top up inadequate government assistance. So Walmart could as easily be seen as letting the government off the hook in their responsibility to care for the disabled. Also government has regulated what the minimum wage should be. 99% of Walmart employees make more than minimum wage. It is government’s responsibility to raise the minimum wage and since 99% of Walmart employees are already making above minimum wage, Walmart is already exceeding the minimum wage government mandates. Why did a progressive group go after Walmart like that and not any other store chain? Because Walmart is a conservative outfit and it is fashionable to go after conservative businesses these days.
We actually agree on a lot here, mainly that people should be treated fairly, and that that shouldn’t just be a privilege for some lucky few. I respect your views on this, and I appreciate where you’re coming from. What I take issue with is your use of the words “fashionable” and “trendy,” which denigrate our views as mere fad, instead of coming from deeply held principles that we live every day. Intelligent, principled people can disagree on things without insults. But more importantly, this is not a public political forum. This is a place of encouragement and respect as we all find our own paths to financial independence and greater happiness. Comments focused on that are welcome, and other comments should find another outlet.
All right I apologize for using the terms fashionable and trendy because they offended you.
Thank you. :-)
BTW way, I was also offended by your assumption people who shop at Walmart do so because a) they can’t afford to shop anywhere else b) are ignorant of what evil Walmart is or c) are socially irresponsible and just don’t care. Your assumption is wrong. You don’t need to approve this comment for public posting. I just needed to say it.
I appreciate you letting me know that it came across that way, because that was not my intention, and I’m sorry. That is not our assumption at all.
Apple watch. I can’t even tell you how many people have explained to me how useful their apple watch is. How great it is. How many functions and uses. Stop, people! Your iphone is ridiculous enough! (I do own an iphone, and love it. But mine is 4 years old and going strong. I’ll upgrade when it dies, thank you very much.)
But I also get the desire for cachet. The desire to fit in, and the feeling that it generates when you know you “look the part.” Its a battle I am constantly fighting, because I grew up with hand-me-down clothes and always felt “poor.” Now I have the ability to buy all the clothes the cool kids are wearing, and it is very tempting. Still working on it!
Oh, amen! I love my iPhone to an unhealthy level, but I don’t know why I’d need a second one on my wrist when I have one in my pocket. :-) I get wanting to look the part — I’ve been experiencing that in a big way with work clothes in my home stretch. Same here — I never had cool clothes growing up, so there is definitely a part of me that wants to look a certain way as much for the novelty as anything!
This is actually relatable to me as I planned on a pretty big backpacking trip a month ago… which unfortunately fell through for this year. However, although I’ve done a lot of weekend camping with the family, a backpacking trip is a whole different ballgame. For instance, you can’t just run to the car to grab your tent – what you carry is what you get.
So as I was doing my research, everything pointed to getting the latest and the greatest to make sure everything was light. As I started looking up the recommendations on things to buy, I was in awe! What a waste of money – this $%^& is expensive!!
I think you guys know that I’m not a big spender on crap though. In the long run, I did by a few things that would make my hike a little better (or safer) like bear spray and a small tent (but not the feather-weight ones they sell for $$$$$). I figured I would just cut down on the extra junk I would bring to make up for the weight.
Sucks that it didn’t happen, but it’s on my bucket list and it should happen next year!
Where were you planning to camp that you need the bear spray? I think of that stuff as mostly a gimmick — there are few places in the lower 48 where grizzly bears are really a threat, and you definitely do NOT need bear spray for black bears! But I’ll assume you were planning to go to Yellowstone or Alaska or somewhere where there’s good reason to carry it. :-) And yeah, cutting down on what you bring is a great strategy for reducing weight instead of buying all the top-of-the-line stuff!
It was going to be in the National Allegheny Forest in Pennsylvania – only black bear, but any bears scare the poop out of me, so at least the bear spray might give me a little feeling of comfort (even if it doesn’t work!). :-)
Then consider this: Black bears are VASTLY safer to be around than humans. They’ve only killed 61 people in all of North America since 1900, fewer than 1 per year. You are 60,000 times more likely to be murdered by a human! No joke. More info to quell your fears: http://www.bear.org/website/bear-pages/black-bear/bears-a-humans/119-how-dangerous-are-black-bears.html
So we’re generally safe from grizzlies. How does one protect oneself from the mountain lions? ;-)
Just don’t think about mountain lions. ;-) Only 3 fatal attacks since 2000: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_cougar_attacks_in_North_America.
Sounds like the crazy ex was trying to scare me. She told me she heard about people who had been mauled by a mountain lion weeks ago! Tons of mountain lion warning signs around SoCal when you get away from the city and burbs..
I’d like to respectfully request that we all stop calling women crazy. :-) Thanks! There are mountain lion warnings all over the west, but most people never even see them. I’ve seen one ever, hightailing it away me. Don’t give it another thought. You have a better chance of dying of a snake bite WHILE getting struck by lightning. Hahaha.
As I’ve grown my frugality muscles I have gotten pretty good at starting new hobbies/adventures with what I have. For example when I wanted to start commuting to work on my bike (12 mile round trip) I used my $50 beach cruiser from walmart that I already had. After 3 months of consistently riding 2-3 a week I spent $600 on a trek Hybrid. It was awesome, felt like I was riding a deluxe model Harley after the beach cruiser. I loved it so much that after another 4 months of riding most days I gave away my car so I was 100% on my bike. After 3 months of being car-less the riding everyday proved to be too much so I bought a used scooter for $1,500 unfortunately this turned out to be a bust as I couldn’t keep the scooter running consistently. Back to the bike it was for a few months until I purchased my electric bike. I have now found the perfect form of transportation for my current lifestyle.
It was hard though to not want to buy a brand new scooter or drop several thousand dollars on a motorcycle.
What a great approach! You made sure you really were going to bike to work before shelling out the money. Perfect! And then the whole progression is awesome. Bummer that the scooter didn’t work out, but high five for going carless and finding the best set-up for you. :-)
My $12 headphones broke right before my flight to the UK. I bought the $300 Bose noise cancelling headphones before leaving and they were fabulous! I don’t know how well they’re going to function at work though. I like being able to hear what my coworkers are whispering about.
I bet you’ll still hear the whispers through the headphones! I find that the noise cancelling headphones tune out the airplane engine noise really well but work less well on conversation. OR you could wear the headphones at work but not turn them on to encourage your coworkers to whisper around you while you can still hear them. Hahaha.
More than just adding cache, people buy this stuff to make up for insecurities. I WANT to be a hiker… but I’m just not confident I won’t die on the mountain… that kind of thinking. We see this a lot at the glacier we hike on. It costs $25 to get onto the glacier. It costs $100 to go with a glacier guide with the helmets, poles, and spiky ice walking shoes… TOURISTS. I mean, yeah, we could all die on the glacier since it’s slippery, has cliffs, and vent holes that never end… but if you’re not an idiot and you’re careful, you don’t need that stuff… but people just don’t know that because they’ve never hiked on a glacier. The glacier guides are slowly walking their single-filed lines of helmeted people and my kids are jumping off ice chunks and yelling “Don’t go this way, there’s a CLIFF!” (my kids also have no idea how strange and awesome their childhoods are!)
I can see why people would shell out all that money for a guide and extra gear on the glacier — a glacier feels SO foreign and scary if you don’t know better. But yeah, like you said, it’s just walking but while paying closer attention. :-) And I’m so jealous of your kids for their super amazing awesome upbringing!
Some day they’ll appreciate us for it. :)
I know they will. :-) Let’s just hope it’s sooner rather than later!
I love this post. The lesson here can be applied to soooo many things like the cars we buy, the bikes we ride, the appliances we put in our homes…most of these things have features and benefits that are kinda cool, but pretty ridiculous really.
* A cup cooler in you car? Cool, not necessary.
* A camera in my fridge that I can check while at the grocery store? Cool, not necessary.
Thanks for the reminder!
Wait, there are cars with cup coolers?! That’s a thing?! I had no idea. I had heard about the camera in the fridge, and while I love that idea if you could get it in an $800 fridge, I’m sure that’s only something you get if you spend $2000+. Yeah, some of that stuff sounds pretty cool, but it definitely doesn’t return equal value to what it costs!
Someyimes you fall for the “safety” marketing. Hiking pants or bug repellent shirt to prevent tick bites to avoid Lyme disease or whatever the bugs in your area carry? Poles to fight off coyotes? An avalanche pack because who wants to go out like that? Or maybe this picture is “vacation spending” because dollars spent getting ready to go or while on vacation seem like this alternate budget universe where I try to justify buying stuff I would never do at home…
Oh that safety marketing is real! I see ads in outdoorsy things all the time telling you how much you need bear spray, when in fact you’ve vastly more likely to get murdered, struck by lightning, etc., than to have a run-in with a bear. I get the need to feel “safe” in the outdoors, which most people these days regard as a foreign place. What’s wonderful about actually spending time outside, though, is that you realize that the woods are actually much, much safer than any city! I think having that click is powerful for stopping the purchasing of all the safety stuff — along with just developing some good common sense. ;-) And I love how you put it with vacation spending and the alternate budget universe — so true!
Your deconstructed hiking photo gave me a nice giggle for the day!
It does cut both ways. While we may find certain items ridiculous for others to buy, they may find other items ridiculous for us to buy. Nice reminder though to question the true efficacy of an item before blindly purchasing it. Do I really need this? How many times am I going to actually use this item? Do I already own something that can do this same purpose?
Glad you enjoyed the photo! I bet that guy had even more pricey objects on the front of him, and would easily have topped $1000! ;-)
It’s definitely all personal, and I fully acknowledge that stuff that I find indispensable probably seems crazy to some other people and vice versa.
A friend of mine purchased new Merrill’s and Nike’s and $60 “no foundation foundation” makeup for a 10-day missions trip where she spoke at a women’s conference. I understand from my own trip how you really want to be prepared and comfortable in the heat, but we were sitting for 95% of the trip. And it seemed a bit ironic for a trip to serve the poor.
I do find it very worthwhile to have decent knives, a food processor, and a nice stand mixer (mine was hand-me-down) as I cook a lot of homemade meals. I’m also very glad we have a used bike trailer for our toddler so we can bike as a family.
I totally support having good knives and food processor and a good mixer if you bake — that’s for the cutting and stirring! And I understand wanting comfortable things for trips — it’s just worth questioning how much value it will truly add vs. just give you a certain “look.” And you raise an extra good point about the weirdness of buying new things for a trip to help the poor!
If you are looking for gear for more rugged hikes or have testy knees (guilty!), Costco usually has fabulous carbon poles in the spring for $30, and Solomon speedcross shoes have traction like nobody’s business. I got mine slightly used on eBay for 65% off, and you can even get last year’s model new on Amazon for at least 30% off.
You’re right, though, and while I do love backpacking, day hiking is so much easier because of the laundry situation. Clothes don’t have to be as rugged and quick-drying, and even if I make a bad choice I don’t have to live with it for a week.
Those are great suggestions for finding deals. We are also big fans of Campmor and Sierra Trading Post for past season discounted items. Though, we are often reminded when we buy new stuff that we don’t really need it. ;-) Except for shoes to walk and hike in… It feels like we always go through those quickly.
So first – I just want to share that I ABSOLUTELY agree with you. Second, thanks for the laugh as the noise cancelling earphones are an absolute MUST for my husband who travels 150-200K miles a year! Not only that, just had a group conversation last weekend where all of the serious travelers (million milers plus) at the table swore noise cancelling makes traveling bearable. I was with you and don’t see it but there you have it!
Love the blog – keep it up and again, thanks for the smile.
That’s funny, and makes me wonder if this is an airline-by-airline cultural thing. I fly United almost every week, get upgraded regularly, and see almost no one actually wearing the Bose anymore. I had some for a while, but found that they made the conversation around me louder because they cancelled out the engine noise — so now I just do earplugs and am way happier. Thanks for the nice note! :-)
The best ‘unnecessary, but totally worth it to me’ purchase has been our Breville double boiler espresso machine. We use it every single day (over a year now) and it has completely changed our morning routine for the better. My sister bought the single boiler version and said that it changed her family’s morning routine for the better too. Instead of rushing around the house before work or driving through fast-food in the morning, we’ve slowed down, enjoy our coffee, and often make oatmeal. We use it with Counter Culture coffee and local, cream lined milk when we can get it.
Ooh, that sounds lovely! We make our coffee with a Chemex, and that’s a nice ritual, too, though I’d love to have espresso at home. Mmm…
Really liked this post. I remember alot of folks doing the same thing when we started our golf phase. Constantly buying new clubs each year, the fanciest drivers, putters, etc. I’ve got decent clubs, but I worked my way up to them and likely will never change them unless I start playing more.
There are some people who might need the fanciest things. If your doing some trek on the Appalachian trail, you might need all that stuff. But a day hike where you just walked from your car to a well trafficked trail, probably don’t need that stuff.
Reminds me a lot of that portlandia sketch – “get the gear” (available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/R3SFqV0hMy).
Although, I would say you don’t want to go unprepared either, so I’d always say bring water and plenty of it. Don’t think anyone can judge that. I recall last year the family that died in a national park in Arizona or New Mexico because they went on a day hike with no equipment and a single bottle of water…
Thanks, FP! I have to watch that Portlandia piece! And we could write a whole different post about going out unprepared — we see that a fair amount too, though more so at national parks than on our local trails. People seem to have this crazy idea that, because it has the word “park” in the name, it’s somehow a bubble-wrapped, sanitized place. Nope, it’s still nature! You still need to go into it with healthy respect. It’s sad, but also super common, to see people with that mindset!
I am a fan of sun protective shirts, but I am also a fan of coupons, discount weekends and end of season sales (Hello $13 neon green shirt!). My wide brim hat I got at Wegman’s for $9.99 3ish years ago, and it’s a flexible straw, meaning it travels with me.
My dad is a casual bike racer and has gotten one of the fancy shirts for participating in a ride. I got my ‘buy on sale habits’ from him, so any others he has were not bought at full price. He asks for biking & running gear from us kids for Christmas/Fathers day as well. You should see how bright the shorts are I found in the clearance section, plus Kohls cash. :)
Our favorite hats are cheap ones, too! I’ve tried some fancy pants technical hats, and I never like those as much as simple, inexpensive ones. If you like outdoor deals, I’m a big fan of Sierra Trading Post (sign up for email coupons, which further reduce the prices) and Campmor. :-)
I’d like to share some thoughts from my perspective as the Ms. in a 60+ year-old active outdoorsy couple. We love technical clothing for skiing, cycling, hiking, canoeing, and fly fishing, but don’t buy much of it because we can’t find it in sizes that fit our older bodies. We are both short in stature and do not have slender arms, legs, or stomachs. Also (voice of experience), certain kinds of equipment are definitely worth spending money on. I did not replace my skis in a timely way for a couple of decades (money was tight, and I had 3 kids to equip and buy season’s passes for) and I ended up wrecking my knees skiing on heavy, worn out, old fashioned skis. Similarly, my brother, an excellent skier, developed nerve damage in his feet from wearing poorly fitting ski boots that tortured his feet. The lesson I learned is to buy good quality, well-fitting, well-designed footwear, skis, sunglasses, and so forth. Sometimes a frugal choice is not the best choice over time. As you pointed out, common sense is the best guide!
Hi Dr. Sock! We’re totally with you on gear for occasions when it’s important — in a recent post, we confessed to owning 8 pairs of skis. :-) Though we’d equally argue that you don’t need $1000 of gear just to see if you like day hiking. You can start out with a lot less and see if you like it, and then invest judiciously. We’re COMPLETELY on board with spending on gear that improves comfort and safety for activities you do regularly! To your point — please don’t wear uncomfortable ski boots! That’s advice we want everyone out there to read! :-)
I love running and my first girlfriend was INTO gear. I did not have the money for that stuff at the time, and she wanted to convert me to a gearhead via present. Since I do marathons, once I tried the nicer gear it made an incredible difference. But I was fortunate to be gifted an entire outfit (bra through shoes) when a friend won a contest from a big running store. She had everything she needed and knew I had begun training for my first marathon. It is still the nicest stuff I own, but has lasted many years.
Most other things I’m just not into. I’m grateful for that. Saves me money and the time to clean it.
If you’re running marathons, having a few pieces of good gear can make an incredible difference in your comfort! I’ve only run one, but I am SUPER glad that I had good shoes and a good pair of seamless pants. I definitely didn’t NEED the GPS watch I bought while training, but it helped me pass some of the miles on those longer training runs. What’s important is that you didn’t go out and gear up when you first contemplated starting to run — but once you were clearly training, it’s a very different story. And even better that you got that good stuff gifted to you!
I think I need to show my hubby this article…whenever he finds a new hobby, he thinks he needs to buy all kinds of things for it. He bought a fat tire bike earlier this year, and then decided that he also needed snow pants, a ski mask, eye goggles, a warmer pair of gloves, and new boots so that he could ride in the winter. Probably only a couple of those things are needed to bike in the winter…or he could just bike during the rest of the year (and not in the winter) and avoid ALL of those expenses.
We understand your husband’s enthusiasm for new fun activities! And we’ve been there lots of times. But yeah, maybe make sure you completely love doing it before you buy every possible accessory, or figure out what you can do at low cost before you really invest. :-)
I’ve thought about this idea a lot. I’m an immigrant to this country, and one of the early differences I noticed between here and my country of origin is the amount of hobby specific stuff there is here! Take cycling for instance. Back home you get yourself a bike (off the shelf, no additions, no accessories). If you’re feeling especially fancy, you get yourself a helmet. End of story.
And you know what the worst part is? I hadn’t been here two years before I was doing it too! It is all too easy to do.
And for me, I’ve found that buying stuff actually reduces the chance that I will do stuff. Lets say for instance that I set myself a goal to do more yoga. I would first go and buy myself a whole bunch of fancy yoga outfits. Because obviously the outfit is what helps you knot yourself into a pretzel and balance on your head. I would then buy all the equipment I could get my hands on – a mat, blocks, stretch bands. And then I would actually do yoga _maybe_ twice. It was as if just acquiring the stuff scratched the itch.
I’d like to think that self awareness is more than half the battle, but I do keep a strict eye on myself, just in case.
Wow, that’s so interesting that you noticed the change in yourself so quickly! I think it used to be different here, too — I think most of us who grew up in the States remember having *a* bike and it never crossing our minds that we might need more than one. Same with workout stuff — there did not used to be so many different types of clothes for different activities. It’s a pretty recent phenomenon to have such extreme segmentation by activity. But yeah, I think we’ve all fallen into that “yoga stuff” trap at one time or another, so you’re not alone! Totally agree with you that self-awareness is the key to beating this habit!
Good question. One comes to my mind as discussed during the Belgian dutch meetup: our second car.
At first, I wanted to get rid as soon as possible. Now, we will keep it for the flexibility and piece of mi d that it brings. Why?
It once saved a day trip to a theme park because the other car broke down.
Last Sunday, I got to go to the zoo with the kids when my wife needed the main car. Yes, we could have stayed local. I was happy to accommodate the wish of the oldest to go to the zoo again.
This is a little splurge we allow ourselves.
I like the mention intentional…. Our vision of life!
If it gives you great peace of mind to have a second car, then great! I think there’s nothing wrong with having two cars so long as you’re making that choice deliberately and not just defaulting into it because everyone has two cars. Or buying two cars before you even know if you’ll use one of them! (An analogy to the over-equipped hikers.) ;-)
When we bought it, it was really needed for both our jobs. I now commute by bike and car. After discussing with my wife, we keep it. The car has no special word in it, so, we are good!
I fully support your decision. :-)
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We are avid hikers and campers, but were slow to gear up. Now most of our stuff is well worn (some of it 30 years old!), but we know what works best for us. In the Pacific northWET, technical pants are a must for me… I always drag mud up my lower legs for some reason. I like mudder boots with rubber extending up to the laces, and a “sun” hat to block rain. My personal must haves include a sock change at mile 8 to prevent blisters and poles. I find the poles help me feel more secure and balanced on the trail. One pole was also useful as an improvised tool to unblock the toilet on our travel trailer!
I do find it sad that you can hear two people discussing their hobby/recreation activity and only discuss the gear they own and not the activity itself!
It seems like you have all your gear for the right reason: because you actually need it! If poles and rain pants are helpful to you, then by all means use them! And I laughed out loud about the conversations where people just discuss the gear, not the activity. I’ve overheard MANY of those! :-D