Exploring the Adirondack backcountry requires tenacity, perseverance and great deal of fortitude, as climbing over blowdowns, crossing beaver dams and struggling through hobblebush is an arduous way to spend the day. These personal qualities are not the only necessities for enjoying the backcountry however, having the proper gear is equally important. Backpacks, shelters, sleeping bags and numerous other items are tools of the trade for any intrepid soul that leaves societal comforts behind to enjoy some time surrounded by trees, furry animals and all the other creepy-crawlies in the great outdoors.
Sometimes the need for the proper gear quickly becomes a compulsion for owning the latest and greatest equipment on the market. For these people, the satisfaction of owning adequate gear is not enough; instead, the desire for the lightest or flashiest item becomes overwhelming. Whenever a new “superior” piece of equipment comes to their attention, whether it is lighter-weight or just a better way of fulfilling some backcountry need, the desire to own it gnaws at them. They want it. They need it. They must have it.
These people cannot help themselves; they are addicted to outdoor gear. I am one of them. My name is Dan Crane, and I have a problem. I am a gearoholic.
Over the past twenty-some years, I accumulated a great deal of outdoor gear. Backpacks, shelters, sleeping bags, pads, stoves, water filters, the list of gear goes on and on. I have gear for all different types of occasions, be it seasonal (summer vs. winter), weather-related (dry vs. wet) or based entirely on the type of adventure (trail vs. bushwhack). The downside to all this gear is finding a place to store it, as mine has taken over every nook and cranny of my home, not to mention most of the closets.
There are some good reasons for acquiring a prodigious amount of gear. Newer technology is always innovating, producing more effective equipment, typically at a lighter weight, thus placing less of a burden on my aging back. In addition, backpacking, and especially bushwhacking, takes its toll on even the most durable equipment, with scrapes, tears and rips accumulating over time.
In addition to the practical aspects for owning all this gear, there are social ones as well. Hiking companions are continually upping the ante, producing better equipment than your own old and beat-up stuff, thus compelling the acquisition of new gear to maintain your place within the hiking group’s hierarchy, just like the social structure of a baboon troop. No one likes to witness a companions’ show-and-tell without being able to pull some new toy out of their own backpack, to the ooos and aahhs of all assembled.
Ultimately, much of this reasoning is just another form of denial.
Signs of my addiction are obvious. My gear collection currently includes at least five shelters, five sleeping bags, seven backpacks, six sleeping pads, seven stoves and many water filters, rain gear, hiking boots, etc. Just trying to count them all is exhausting. Although many are either retired or damaged in some way, there is more than enough gear to equip a small army, if the need ever arises.
The fact that others have a worse case of this affliction is of small consolation. One of my hiking friends is so afflicted. Almost every year for the past twenty, we have gotten together for a backpacking trip in the early spring, and almost every year, he pulls out numerous new pieces of gear, typically the latest and greatest in outdoor technology. Having many years of backpacking on me, and enjoying less of a sense of buyer’s guilt than I do, I gave up trying to outdo him long ago.
One aspect of my personality has tempered my affliction to a great degree. My frugality, what others might call cheapness, has long prevented me from going too crazy when it came to acquiring outdoor gear. It scares me a great deal to think of how much gear I might have otherwise.
This frugality has been effective in holding my addiction in check these last few years. Most years I would only add one or two pieces of equipment, not counting a replacement for something that wore out or broke. Last year, I bought the smallest personal locator beacon, the year before I failed to buy anything, mostly due to sitting out most of the fair-weather hiking season with an injured knee.
This year, I felt the monkey on my back return, but luckily, I beat it back before it did any serious damage. So far, anyways.
Having heard about a lightweight, freestanding tent, I felt that urge begin to stir inside me again. I had been thinking about replacing my tarp system, which is now over a decade old, with something that has a smaller footprint, is easier to set-up and does not require crawling on my hands and knees to entry or exit. Luckily, I held off the urge and decided against buying the tent, in part because I have been planning on buying a GoPro video camera for the last couple years.
Just what I need, another piece of gear.
Photos: My summer bushwhacking equipment laid out near Sunshine Pond in the Pepperbox Wilderness by Dan Crane.