One of the most intriguing dichotomies that outdoor athletes must address is gear. Great gear is awesome, don’t get me wrong. A wetsuit that keeps us toasty in 50 degree water is amazing. Mountain bikes that allow us to climb and descend with formerly unknown speed and control are breathtaking. Skis that excel in poor snow only make us crave our mountain time more. There are few arguments that the new gear is inferior to the older stuff. If we were to ask Shackleton if he’d like to trade up from the seal skin jacket and meal to a gore tex shell and some dehydrated beef stroganoff I reckon we know how he’d go. But the gear can also create a greater divide between us and the environment we love.
But why wouldn’t we jump in line at the register at the outdoor shop or fill the online cart at the website of our choice and have the latest and greatest delivered to our front door? Perhaps because we all love the planet. Some love the city and it’s trappings, some the wilderness, and most of us a blend of the two. And for the fortunate few of us getting folks out into the wilderness is our calling. My job is to get people to fall in love with the wilderness so they’ll develop a connection to it and want to defend it. Ya know, vote for it (come on people!), pay for it, or put in some old fashioned elbow grease for it. So try these on for you and the planet, three reasons to consider before buying the latest kit for your outdoor adventures.
Reason one – New stuff needs to be built from raw material that is part of the planet. A good reason to love wooden boats and clay pottery eh? I recollect a statistic that stated that on average the new product that you hold in your hand represents only 10 percent of the raw material that went into creating it. Ow. My new bike tires left 10 times their weight in resources in a landfill, tailings pond, forest floor, or in the atmosphere. That’s a lot of bulldozer and co2 for my schralping.
Two – Maintaining and repairing gear is good work and keeps your old stuff out of the landfill. Yup, the ding dude, sewing bro, and mechanic chick are saving your stuff and our planet. Right in your neighborhood. And probably getting more trail and water time than you. Support your local community and keep your gear alive.
Three – Money is time. No, not the other way around. Buying the latest requires money, and that predicates office time. Productivity is what makes the world go ‘round, but that money/time equation reduces your outdoor time. And more importantly interpersonal time. Family time, road trips with the girls, sessions with the bros. You know, the best of times.
Please don’t think I don’t buy new though, there are bits I recognize as critical new parts. On my bikes it is new tires and drive trains. Second hand windsurf masts and wetsuits aren’t my preference. And nothing beats a fresh bar of wax. I’ll take mine in a cardboard box over the plastic wrap, thank you very much. We don’t need to get monastic about this stuff, sometimes we just need to resist the marketing hype for another season. I can’t wait for my favorite new bike to be turned out of the rental fleet and secretly hope my buddies are upgrading their boards so I can score their hand-me-downs. A day or two of ding repair and they’ll ride as good as new. Is it really a clearer conscience if I buy their cast-off? At least I didn’t miss the last session because I was at the office working so I could afford the latest. We’ve all got our own challenges that we face but I hope you’ll take pause before going all in on the next big buy. I’ll take my queue from the happiest kid at the pumptrack!