I love gear. I’d rather have more gear than a fancy shirt or dress up shoes. But gear is expensive and with a family to support my gear budget is pretty minimal. To make the most of it, here’s my Gear Philosophy.
I. Repair Gear
Good gear (the only kind I want to purchase) has a long shelf life – if you take care of it. Before exploring other ways to get gear, my first step is to repair gear I already own. I have an old pair of Scot Schmidt The North Face Steep Tech ski pants that one might proclaim ready for retirement. They may have been the holy grail of ski wear back in the 90’s, but by now they must be out of fashion and the pair I have is littered with scars from years of duct tape band aids and missing critical components that I’ve replaced with some MacGyver ingenuity to maintain the structural integrity.
The cost to buy comparable pants is several hundred dollars. This summer, I plan to ship the pants back to The North Face and see if they can make some more professional repairs in time for next season.
Getting handy with glue, duct tape, rope, wood/metal tools, and my local (sewing) alterations shop saves me lot of money. Knowing that I’m likely to want to repair gear before buying new helps guide my purchasing decisions
II. Borrow Gear
If I don’t have the gear I need, the next step I take is to try to borrow gear from someone who does have it. For example, when I needed a life jacket for my daughter for her first canoe trip, I checked with all my adventuresome friends. Everyone was eager to help, though of those who had a child-size life jacket they kept them at the coast.
Getting mountain bikes for my whole family would have been cost prohibitive to buy outright – I would have had to save up, perhaps for months. I had an old mountain bike and so I started with trying to rapair it. After finding out that it was too small for me, I decided to sell it and use the money in getting a new bike. Then I started telling everyone I knew that we were hoping to get some bikes. I received offers from coworkers and neighbors to buy used bikes or parts of bikes. Soon thereafter I discovered my step-brother and step-mom both had mountain bikes they never used. Never in four years. They said we could borrow their bikes for an indefinite period of time.
While the bike isn’t my ‘dream bike’, it works perfectly well and we’re able to go on adventures with our daughter.
When we went on our first car camping trip last year up in Rocky Mountain National Park, we had very little camping gear. Poppy let us borrow stoves, tables, chairs, etc. which made the trip instantly doable.
III. Rent Gear
When I can’t seem to drum up any gear by repairing old gear or borrowing from family and friends, I start exploring options to rent the gear. This is especially useful if the gear is something that will be used infrequently, like a child-size life jacket. I found out the cost to rent the life jacket was $6 for the day, the cost to purchase is $30, if not more. I’d have to use the life jacket five times before it was work purchasing. With my daughter growing quickly and water sports being just one of our adventures, it doesn’t seem like the best place to put my money. Once we get into multi-day river trips, then it will time to buy one.
IV. Earn Gear
The dream is to earn gear by doing something I already do. A couple ways to do this include moving to a cash back credit card (if you use credit cards, and haven’t already made the switch) or to get sponsored.
Last year I decided to stop using my United Airlines credit card. I’ve found the rewards program suffers from too many blackout dates and I’m just not a good enough planner to book trips far enough in advance. Plus, REI has a phenominal deal – if you like outdoor gear. With their card, you get 1% back on all purchases and 5% back on purchases at REI. You get the cash back annually, which works a little like forced savings plan. They offer you a chance to use your cash back in their store months in advance of getting the actual cash and of course we were delighted to have a shopping spree at REI! This year we got the the retro Coleman Stainless-Steel Cooler – 54 qt. That should last a long, long time. We also got a stove, fuel, and some emergency water-proof matches.
Professional athletes are sponsored by gear manufacturers. I’m just learning about this one – perhaps a viable option for The Adventure Dad?
V. Buy Gear
I have never considered myself a collector. Until I started gearing back up for adventures with my daughter. After a boys camping trip with Poppy and my brother, where we didn’t bring a dozen plus essentials (still survived, but it was funny cutting carrots with a hand-made sailing knife and no cutting board), I made a car camping gear list. Then I did an inventory of all my gear, organizing it by type and taking over our family room. My plan was to purchase everything on the list that I didn’t already own. Some stuff, like camp tools, is really fun to collect. I tried finding classic/antique gear that is made so well it is still around. For example, I researched and found an authentic Tri-Fold Entrenching Tool (issued for all armed forces, learn more here) for $26.
Of course, once I started pricing out the gear I quickly discovered it would be thousands of dollars to gear up instantly. And from there sprang the Gear Philosophy.
Buying gear has become my last resort.
When do I decide to buy gear, I try to make sure it meets this criteria:
- We will use a frequently year-after-year
- It will last for a very long time
- It is possible to repair it yourself
- The company supports the product