Try not buying new gear for a while.
This may sound counterintuitive. After all, we are told that new gear will help us backpack more, and make our experience more comfortable, better, new and improved.
But researching new gear, shopping for deals, and testing out new gear— all of that takes time and energy. What if instead all that time was spent on more important things like actually going hiking or backpacking?
|Same outfit for the last 2000 miles.|
There is a myth that you need new stuff to improve your backpacking experience. But things aren’t, in themselves, a source of joy. Sure some basics are required and granted I already have quality gear that I bought back when I made more money. But I used to waste time thinking up material solutions to my backpacking discomforts. I wasted even more time getting sucked into the vortex of gear reviews and online forums, and even more time shopping online, trying out new gear, and returning gear. The whole consumerist cycle added up to a huge time and energy sink that wasn’t necessary.
|Cold feet get frustrating when you don't automatically go buy winter boots and instead try to make do.|
For example, there is always going to be some lighter gear replacement. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars lightening my pack, which improved my backpacking to a point. But now, I just try to find out what I can go without, rather than replace the items I already have.
Another case— over the years, I’ve spent countless hours on the quest for trail shoes. And at the end of the day, I’ve got a closet full of shoes none of which keep my feet consistently happy. Is there some miracle shoe out there that if I just kept looking would bring me ultimate comfort? I’ve ceased believing in that. Instead, I make do with what I have, and use techniques to keep myself safe and healthy.
|Taping my feet makes slightly poor fitting shoes acceptable.|
|Don't skimp on the important things like maps.|
-Make a list of your desired purchases, and give yourself 1-3 months waiting time before pulling the trigger.
-Do an experiment to see if you can go without the item you want. Maybe you’ll find you don’t need it after all.
-Stop reading articles or blogs about gear for a while. See if you are happier with what you already have if you aren’t comparing your gear to other people’s.
-Repair or patch your gear to get more use out of it.
|Just need more glue.|
|Holes are just a feature to promote air flow.|
-Replace broken items with things you already have. While I loved my platypus, when the hose went bad, I started using gatorade bottles instead.
-Borrow, freecycle, and ask around for a gear loan. Get books at your library.
-Skip the trip to REI and instead go take a hike.
- Take a step back to examine what you really value in life. The biggest costs are in a life not fully lived, in days spent at home rather than on the trail.
The payoff for the No New Gear experiment went beyond just saving time and money. Ultimately, I was able to afford taking the pay cut to do something of value: serving in AmeriCorps last summer and fall, and then being a Volunteer In Park at a National Monument this winter. Both richly rewarding experiences that brought me joy and fulfillment. Not having new gear was a small price for being able to realize my dreams.