First published in 1884 Camping and Woodcraft was the first widely read “how-to” book on on the subject . It’s author Nessmuk wrote ’‘ The temptation is to buy this or that bit of indispensable camp kit has been too strong and we have gone to the blessed woods handicapped with a load fit for a pack mule. That is not how to do it. Go light, and the lighter the better so that you have the simplest material for health comfort and enjoyment.’
My friend Louis was an Assistant Scoutmaster for a few years when his son was a Scout. Lou liked to go camping but was totally uninterested in cool camping gear. He often packed his camping stuff in an old lime green Samsonite suitcase and slept in a tatty old quilted rectangular sleeping bag. Lou had as much fun and was as comfortable in the outdoors as any of us.
I am as much (or perhaps a little bit more) of a gear head than my fellow Scouters. Researching, testing and writing about gear is a fringe benefit of Scouting and maintaining this blog. I like to think my interests as practical and not just chasing the newest, lightest and most ingenious new glitzy piece of kit. The gear industry is, at least in part, based on making us dissatisfied with the perfectly adequate gear we own and use.
Two recent articles came to my attention that help put things in perspective:
“I don’t know any hikers that talk about gear less than me,” Ed says, and quickly loses interest in the conversation. He doesn’t necessarily disagree, and sometimes talks about getting newer gear, but for Ed, it’s all about the journey… I can’t deny that, despite his lack of interest in gear, he’s hiked roughly 3,800 more miles than me this year.
… we are likely in the height of the Age of Vicarious Living Through Gear, made possible on this scale by the internet and the plethora of shiny new offerings and site after site of reviews and teaser photos of a new toy in action.
I propose a challenge, a personal experiment, perhaps an antidote to the gear-centric, consumer-driven outdoor world we can all become mired in: No New Gear in 2012.
I cannot foresee being able to wear anything out that cannot be fixed, borrowed, or simply replaced by another piece of gear I already own.
Here’s to starting 2013 with a tattered kit full of tears, duct tape patches, burns, grease stains, and amazing memories.
Ellsworth Jaeger warned against ’ the myriad of jingle jangle gadgets of modern outdoorsmen ‘ in 1945. Does expensive, precious new gear will significantly enhance my enjoyment of the outdoors? I am not going to pay $50.00 for a titanium coffee cup that saves me an ounce or two or replace my backpack every year because the new ones are incrementally better. I will upgrade when it promises to makes things significantly better, not when it just looks cool. Hopefully I’ve been evaluating and buying gear long enough to know the difference.
I don’t think anyone has significantly improved on the Nessmuk camping gear test;
“Go light, and the lighter the better so that you have the simplest material for health comfort and enjoyment.”