Must we compromise?


Most people can barely afford one pack and jacket, if that.

Even those I know who have good jobs struggle to afford all the gear, clothing and detritus that one supposedly ‘needs’. I don’t know how Aussie college students or those just starting out even manage it. Travel gear costs a heck of a lot of money.

Chances are that you will make your gear selection after much deliberation, research, paycheck saving and packaged Ramen noodle eating.

That item, be it a Gore-Tex jacket, a sleeping bag, a pack, will then need to do it all. It must be suitable for all your adventures. You will also need to compromise a bit. And in this case, compromising is a good thing.

Your gear must compromise.

Your gear should be just as useful when traveling by Eurail in Europe, rafting the Mekong or for going on a surfing trip to Bali as it is for visiting Minneapolis for their annual rodent festival. It must stand up to the abuse of grumpy Belgian baggage handlers and dusty Peruvian busses, yet be light enough to carry or wear.

You want it to be a compromise, not so “sport-specific” that it works only when climbing at Castle Crags or while windsailing in Chad.

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So we end up compromising with a backpack that travels well, a jacket that packs well, pants that become shorts, and so on. The alternative is to buy several different items from each category, and normal people just cannot afford that expense.

The media knows that we are obsessed by extreme sports.

Outside magazine wouldn’t fly off the newsstands if the cover stories showed what we really do when out on the road. Articles about napping, eating and drinking don’t sell magazines, but articles about ice climbing do. Trekking in Borneo does. Parasailing in Pakistan does.

Articles about reading trashy novels while sipping rum and pineapple juice in the shade do not sell magazines.

The outdoor gear manufacturers also know that we are obsessed with extreme sports and have fine-tuned their products to target specific audiences such as the extreme snowboarder, the technical climber and the extreme trail runner.

Eschew those ‘target-specific’ products. Sneer at them in derision!
You want more ‘all-around’ stuff.

When selecting the item, think not only how useable it will be for this trip, but for your trip next spring, next fall, and in the next decade.

Buy the best and buy it once.