By Stephanie Nitsch
The change of seasons has me gearing up for another summer of warm weather journeys in the most literal way. As I take inventory of what I can roll over from last year’s foray into roadie life, I find myself analyzing the philosophical importance of gear. Specifically concerning the higher-quality toys and tools that are better suited for someone who has a little more experience and knowledge with the sport at hand.
The one-sided debate began as I was prepping for a recent splitboard mountaineering trip that required a major shopping spree for new gear. I quickly amassed a list of intimidating equipment and sharp, pointy things that served some yet-to-be-understood purpose. The user manuals, those pocket-sized flipbooks of technical jargon and pictogram puzzles, were no help. With every new object that went into my pack, I was equally unsure of how to tie it, clip it, switch it, or hold it.
I realized that’s a common scenario when it comes to breaking in most new gear. To the amusement of many, I spend quite a bit of time flopping around in pieces that are a little baggier and saggier than what my immediate needs require. That’s not to say that I intentionally opt for a size large climbing harness when I really need a medium. (As it turns out, there’s nothing comfortable about dangling from a bunch of ropes in a harness that’s too big.) Rather, I’m referring to an imaginary metaphysical label, where a little extra wiggle room can accommodate a growing appetite for adventure. Call it a source of inspiration.
Of course, when you employ this tactic, your gear comes built in with a certain level of user stupidity, but it’s a small price to pay when you can’t afford the price of gear in the first place.
Outdoor fascists might bemoan my frivolous equipment conundrum and claim that gear has nothing to do with how good of a cyclist, climber, or bullfighter you are. It’s all about the talent of the cyclist, climber, or bullfighter him/herself. But if you’re always buying equipment that’s true to your current size and skill, then you’re constantly exceeding the threshold of what your gear is capable of doing and turning down trips because you don’t have the right tools. And when you start turning down an adventure, you’re also turning down that extra beer that you were saving for your post-summit victory. It’s a bleak future from there.
So you see, acquiring gear that exceeds your ability level is an important catalyst for future adventures. I’d rather spend my time charging up a hill than perpetually chasing down gear. Because at the very heart of any adventure is the motivation to conquer an obstacle, be it a peak or a prusik knot.