Buy less, Do More with Good Enough Gear

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Buy less, Do More with Good Enough Gear

Viewing 21 posts - 1 through 21 (of 21 total)
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    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    Companion forum thread to: Buy Less, Do More with Good Enough Gear

    What you’re really hooked on is the dopamine rush from buying and trying new gear – which doesn’t last very long.

    Dondo .
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Rockies

    Bravo, Rex!  Nicely done. I never though I’d read something like this here on BPL.  The next time I’m hankering for yet another piece of gear that I just have to have, I’ll come back here and reread this article

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    I can certainly attest to this.  Before kids I used to backpack a couple of times a month and I had a 7lb baseweight and I had one shelter (Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter), one backpack (Gossamer Gear Mariposia Plus), and one sleeping pad (Thermarest Ridgerest).  As I look back nearly 15 years later, I have multiple shelters and multiple backpacks.  I still have one sleeping pad but I’ve moved on to the more comfortable Thermarest X-Therm.   I’m not able to do nearly as much backpacking – This year for example I have a 5 day trip and a 3 day trip in the Southern Appalachians planned, as well as a 7 day trip in the Sierra’s.   That’s 15 bag nights when I used to get 60 annually.

    I’ve found that the more I backpack, the less I think (and drool over) gear, it’s when I’m not backpacking that I tend to get sucked into the trap of looking at and buying gear.  I assume that is because I WANT to be backpacking, but I can’t because of family and work commitments, so I inevitably spend more time reading trip reports, looking on BPL, checking out REI and other gear stores, and the more you read about, see, and touch new fancy gear, the more you want those items.

    Prime example – I’d been using a MLD Doumid and Solomid inner net for about five years and had always been happy with the performance of the Mid.  However, then I notice something called the X-Mid, and it can be had for the low price of $199 (it really is a deal).  I break down and buy an X-Mid even though I have a perfectly good solo shelter already, and now I have two solo shelters that are for simplicity’s sake the same arrow in my quiver. I find myself trying to decide which I like better and which one I’d like to sell and I’m having a hard time doing so.

    I will say that I have tried to make a conscious effort to go for good but not great items when they are significantly less expensive.  Before Golite went out of business I bought a Shang-ri-la 5 pyramid for trips with my wife or with the family.  A few years later, I ran across a sale on HMG’s Ultamid 4 and purchased one (again duplicating arrows in my quiver).  The HMG was lighter, and probably overall better than the Golite, but not significantly so.  I decided that we used it so infrequently that it wasn’t getting enough use to justify owning a (staggering) $600 shelter, and that on trips where I wanted to take a large pyramid, the 4oz weight difference wasn’t that big of deal so I sold it and still have the Golite.

    Right now I desperately want a Mont-Bell Plasma 1000 Parka – something to go between my 12 year old Mont-Bell UL Down Inner Jacket and my 8-10 year old Rab Microlight Alpine Parka but I just can’t justify spending $400 on a down jacket that get’s used ten nights a year.

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    Well done, Rex

    Todd T
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest


    Monte Masterson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern Indiana

    Well written.

    Back when I made good money I was caught up in the mindset you describe. I worked a lot more therefore I had less time to actually be outdoors, so the gear became a substitute. I’d sit up all night on the computer browsing cottage gear sites, as well as all the mainstream ones like Camsaver,Backcountry. etc. I became completely obsessed with gear like some people do with pornography, I’d check the weight, dimensions, materials of items for hours on end. Looking back it was sick really.



    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    I agree it can be an addiction.  Like my trip is going to be that much more enjoyable with this pack or that pack or this shelter or that shelter.

    I’m not saying you don’t need quality gear, but quality gear lasts a long time and just because there is some new shiny DCF shelter out there doesn’t mean I need it, or that it will make me enjoy trips more.

    Monte Masterson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern Indiana

    Ever notice all of the new, or almost new ultralight cottage gear that makes its way onto Gearswap? Often it’s things like supreme DCF shelters, custom packs , or 900 fill EE quits. I’ve seen literally thousands of such items over the years. More times than not it’s because of buyers remorse. Someone says to themselves “the Lunar Solo was fine, but I went out and spent $800 on a DCF mid, when in fact my money was already tight.”

    Ken Larson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Michigan

    When life is stripped down to the bare necessities, you gain a new awareness of what really matters. I’ve been on a journey towards minimalism and simplicity for over a year now. I had no idea that I would emerge with a new perspective on how I could further pare down my life and live so much more simply. Family and friends matter. Relationships matter. Health matters and dealing with Multiple Myeloma cancer exemplifies that. Daily sustenance matters. Using our lives to positively impact others matters. All else is mere fluff.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    Nice counterpoint to the usual pro-gear articles. But, bringing up Grandma Gatewood isn’t really fair. She borrowed from everyone, knocked on doors and begged for food and lodging, and relied on many kind helpers. I suppose you can still do that on major trails with trail angels ready to help, but it wouldn’t work very well if you’re out in the styx and won’t see anyone for a week; you’d better be self-sufficient. She was Ul but part of her UL strategy was getting help.

    One small critique but otherwise you’re spot on. We shop when we’re not out there enjoying the experiences and should do more of the latter and less of the former. Now the question is, how.

    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    For years I’ve stuck to “good enough gear,” but maybe I had an advantage.  I was outfitting for five of us (wife, three teenage kids), and this meant lots of MYOG and eBay bargains (good stuff, but used).

    More recently, with the kids on their own, I face two problems.  First is “gear envy” after reading here about all the great stuff that is better than all the old stuff I have.  Second is that I have so much stuff now that it’s hard to purchase something new when I have three or four perfectly good older items that perform the same task.  This helps protect me from dopamine rush purchases, but sometimes stops me from replacing stuff that really is out of date.

    So I purchase new items on occasion (e.g two Neoair Xtherms, previously I either used closed-cell foam or Neoair Original plus closed-cell foam), but generally make do with my once UL gear (Silnylon tarps, Golite packs, GG Vapor Trail) which still are perfectly usable if not somewhat heavier than I’d like.

    Note that I’m only talking about my relatively modern gear, not my horde of old, heavy, but again perfectly usable Lowe, Gregory, and other internal frame packs; REI and other external frame packs;  SD dome, REI Crestline, and other tents; Svea, Optimus, Primus, and Coleman liquid fuel stoves;  coated nylon ponchos, rain pants, and pack covers;  heavy GTX rain suits;  heavy boots;  many,many Thermarest pads; etc.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    Time for a yard sale, Elliott!

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    I’ve invoked the “Beware the man with one gun” concept before (the idea being that he’s REALLY good with that one weapon) because it also applies to gear, especially packs and extra especially to shelters.

    When there’s but one arrow in your quiver, you learn how to use it in multiple settings, you’re quicker and more adept with it and, say, setting up your shelter in the dark or in a swarm of mosquitos is easier for you because of all your practice.

    But even minor things, like “Which pack pocket did I put the sunscreen in on this trip?” (cause you keep switching between packs) reduce the competence and grace we execute a trip with.

    In college, I’d keep my pack packed, by the front door.  It was comforting to know I could just grab it and go, with my single sleeping bag, 2-person tent, go-to pad, and only stove already in it (and all the fiddly bits like lighter and tent stakes still there from the last trip).  Now, preparing for a trip involves going through a box of stoves, a closet of clothes, a shelf of tents and a wall of packs.  It’s an annoying hurdle in between being a keyboard warrior and getting out on the trail.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    My Mantra -> “I can quit buying backpacking gear any time I want. I’ve done it hundreds of times.!”

    Well… I may have too much gear. Is 250 pounds of UL gear too much? How about 4 stoves? Or 3 sleeping bags?

    Maybe I don’t use all this gear all the time but I often fondle it out of “pride of ownership”.

    So yeah, I’m in the process of whittling things down. Since I recently bought two REI FLASH insulated air mattresses (3 season & winter) I’ve given my grandson’s each a Thermarest self-inflating mattress. Also they’re each getting a “pre-owned” cookset  and I already have gifted them with an older TNF  Tadpole 2 person tent.

    Plus in the past I’ve sold two tents and one winter sleeping bag and two UL packs. Having done that it makes me feel better about lightening my “gear load” but also makes me feel worse knowing I’ve been a model consumer.

    But there are worse hobbies. Take my long range shooting hobby – please!

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    tent #1 saves 12 ounces

    maybe it’s worth it for twice the price, especially if you’re going to use it for a long time

    but the point is good, a lot of times people spend a lot for not much extra utility just because it’s new and shiny

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    David – “Beware the man …” – excellent point. Just used that new tent for the first time, and felt like I was flailing.

    But at the risk of undercutting the argument – don’t be foolish and insist that your 30° F bag and “three-season” (hate that phrase) tent will be good enough with 10° F and blowing snow in the forecast.

    You should take equipment appropriate to the conditions. Maybe you can supplement your gear (e.g. overquilt), or hike high and sleep low, or rent / borrow gear, or manage risks in other ways. Or don’t go.

    YouTube video

    — Rex

    Tjaard Breeuwer
    BPL Member


    Locale: Minnesota, USA

    @Brad Rogers, exactly the same here, the time I go out, the more time I spend researching and shopping for new gear.

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    I spend a fair bit of time looking for gear that was “perfect” for me and for several years I was buying and testing something new almost every week. Eventually I discovered that there are very few items that I found to be “perfect” because I had conflicting requirements which ended up requiring some sort of compromise. I also realized that I was spending hours each week trying to keep up with options and being an expert consumer… time I would rather spend on more important activities.

    I switched to a  “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. If it broken, is there a simple repair?”  I found that if I do need to replace something, and I have the money (I generally do), purchase what I really think would be best for me, even if it is expensive.  This removes regret, the temptation to be on the forever upgrade treadmill, and allows me to enjoy items as I use them.  I also found I needed to stay out of stores and not follow “gear” news very closely otherwise I am tempted to buy things I really don’t need.

    Some examples of “expensive”, but worth it to me: DCF is expensive, but the combination of the lack of sagging which removes the hassle of constant adjustments in camp, and the weight/volume savings which lets me use a lighter/smaller pack has been worth the extra cost. Likewise, I purchased a NunatakUSA Ghost blanket in 2003. At the time it seemed expensive… but I am still using on nearly every trip that my wife isn’t one (we use a double quilt).  Today, the average age of my gear is 11 years.




    Christopher R
    BPL Member


    So, should I buy the tarptent stratospire li, or just stick to my xmid 1p as my solo shelter?

    Michael B
    BPL Member


    It is good to remind ourselves to be responsible consumers. For me, it had been all about making sure my equipment is in good condition. I use stuff until it dies, typically, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy researching what the latest and greatest is. I almost always buy used (except socks and underwear), so I usually expect to not have the latest and greatest, and that is ok. Part of my research is is listening to others’ experience, since I might not have run into a situation yet, and seeing how things do or don’t perform well informs me about products I might have or be looking to fill a need. More and more my buying choices have started to involve origins of products as well.

    Geoff Caplan
    BPL Member


    Locale: Lake District, Cumbria

    Three cheers Rex – this is an important issue both for the planet and for helping us get our priorities right (and the principles extend beyond hiking gear to life in general, I feel).

    I would add one item to your checklist – and that is that we should look for gear that’s adaptable.

    This is the focus of my MYOG efforts. Instead of a “quiver” of shelters and packs and rain shells etc, the challenge is to design solutions that can be adapted to be “good enough” in every scenario I’m likely to encounter.

    Sadly, this is rarely the focus of commercial products, because it’s a more complex concept to sell in a retail setting.

    A focus on adaptability offers multiple advantages:

    • Lower impact on the planet
    • No need to dither about what gear to pack for each trip – it’s always the same routine
    • As David says – you’re the guy with one gun – you know your gear inside-out
    • On long trips with variable conditions you don’t need to worry so much about bounce-boxes and swapping gear in and out. With the same gear I can be comfortable on a freezing top or a sweltering valley, for example
    • Easer to store in a small cottage like mine!

    I find that the simplicity of a small selection of gear lowers cognitive load and increases my enjoyment of my trips. No regrets that I chose the wrong gear – I just make the best of whatever I’ve got. And the cost in terms of weight makes no significant difference, even on longer projects.

    I know that this is a forum for backpacking light, but light can mean light enough not to impinge on the enjoyment of the trip. It doesn’t have to mean as light as humanly possible, whatever the cost to the wallet and the environment.

    Dropping the gram-weeniness allows us to use gear that is adaptable and robust enough to last.



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