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Outdoor Gear, Backpacking Consumerism, and the Marketplace

2020 Camino Guides

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Portuguese(2020)
A friend of mine who hosts his own blog posted this latest entry I've posted below.

Given discussions about gear and clothing we've had on the Forum, I thought this might be of interest as a commentary on the increasingly sad state of backpacking consumerism as it has now evolved. Now, I am all for the free market and I love capitalistic success stories, but I also cringe at marketing products at the expense of true innovation.

This is a separate issue from that of gear and clothing costs which, for specialized backpacking gear, can become quite pricey - despite the ultralight advantage in many instances - for singular Camino use.

This is of special concern to me as one who may be hired to gear test products. . . am I contributing to snake oil and hype by what I do? Would my concerns even matter to those who hire me? After all, quality control and gear testing is a bit removed from the folks who market the stuff. For me, this smacks of an ethical dilemma that I may need to deal with; so far this has not been an issue.

If it ever does, just shoot me. . . please :)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
<Begin Quote>

Joan and I hosted a well-known person in the backpacking community who designed gear in the past. He stayed the night with us, and we had some great talks about various outdoor topics, and then I shuttled him to the start of his multi-day trip the following morning.

One topic we discussed over our kitchen table that evening? How much consumerism drives the outdoor marketplace.

It’s nothing new, of course; people always want the latest article of clothing for various reasons. You buy another 3oz fill puffy to replace yet another 3oz fill puffy. And the cycle continues.

But what our guest brought up is how this consumerism is now taking hold in the hard goods category as well. A standard idea is purchasing another expensive tent to replace a few grams heavier shelter. Or to get “the latest and greatest” piece of gear, or how manufacturers are always “updating” their packs seems somewhat newer in our small niche community of long-distance hikes and lightweight backpacking gear.

In short, manufacturers are typically coming out with “new” gear for the same reason Gatorade has so many flavors of their sugary beverage: Shelf space in a grocery store.

Except for the gear and clothing shelf space is room in our closest, or more appropriately, our credit card limit.

Mind you; gear does get updated and innovated. And we all get new equipment on some level. Myself included. You wear out clothing or tools, or you want to try new techniques and ideas. But buying for the sake of buying? That’s a whole ‘nother ball o’ wax.

In short, gear and clothing as fashion.

Something to discard when you are bored and need a dopamine fix. And not something to replace when worn or needs updating.

I made a note to write about this topic on an electronic sticky note, and kind of forget about it over the months.

Then I see a three-hundred (!) response thread about a new grid fleece on Reddit that closely mimics the storied Melly fleece Note by me: (Melanzana - a cottage manufacturer out of Leadville, Colorado).

An earlier thread about a similar piece of clothing has merely (ha!) seventy-one comments.

I remembered the sticky note buried in Google Keep.

For those not familiar with this piece of clothing, the Melly fleece ends up being a well-made, reasonably priced piece of clothing made in the USA that has a cult following. Assuming you can get one as you can’t buy it online, Melzana has limited stock, and people scalp this item for up to three times the price on eBay.

All for a modest grid fleece.

I saw the thread on this topic and went, “Holy ****!”

I wrote my nickel’s worth of thoughts on a separate thread and remembered my conversation with a friend a few months ago.

I find the whole marketing and consumerism aspect interesting: How a simple, if well-made, grid fleed fleece hoodie became an icon.

Not just in ultralight and thru-hiking circles, but also among climbers and #vanlifers (among others). When I took my WFR course this past November, many Melly fleece hoodies abounded.

It’s just a fleece at the end.

However, as with many consumerist items, the purchase and wearing of the piece became a statement in itself. Rather than what you do with the said item in many ways.

<Snip of stuff about living in vans>


But aspirational things sell. You can purchase something and become part of a lifestyle. Practical reality? Not-so-much.

A Melly fleece, at one point, found a niche as mainly a comfy piece of clothing to ward off the chill while camped out or walking in a mountain town, getting your next batch of supplies between climbs. Now, it is an item that costs twice the price or more, on eBay vs. its retail price.

For many people, not all, purchasing a Melly sends a specific statement about your lifestyle, aspirations, or “being in the know.”

A Melly Fleece is the tulip craze of the outdoor world in many ways. And the tool itself has become more important than the experience where you use the tool for many. 🙂


Though Guy Waterman wrote the following text about mobile devices, I feel the last sentence can easily apply to fetishizing gear:

When a new technology is applied to the backcountry, we tend to focus on its practical uses. When someone later points out a gadget’s impact on the quality of the wilderness experience, we tend to classify such ramifications “secondary” or “side effects” of the technology’s application. By taking this view, we preclude questioning the original, intended use of this technology. But in fact the changes that a new technology makes on the wilderness experience are not all secondary, but are intrinsic to the very nature of that technology. The medium is the message. The tool becomes the experience.”
(Emphasis is the author's)

<snip of Harley Davidson analogies>

So we buy the clothing or gear often because we want to be in the know, live a lifestyle, and aspire to do things when time is scarce, but disposable income might be more abundant.

And by making gear and clothing the equivalent of Gatorade with marginally different sugary water flavors at times, manufacturers are happy to help with this goal.

<End Quote>

https://pmags.com/the-quiver-a-plethora-of-puffies
 
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Dani7

Stop wishing, start doing.
Camino(s) past & future
(2020) Camino Frances
Having never backpacked in my life and now planning my first Camino I have to admit that ´gearing up’ has been a challenge to NOT fall prey to the latest and greatest. Some choices I realize now were not the right ones and customer reviews and popularity swayed me when something else would have done the trick as well or perhaps better at a lesser price. I’ve learned a lot and continue to learn. It’s not easy but thankfully this wonderful Camino forum community has helped a great deal. Excellent article Dave. Thanks for posting 😀
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
You are not contributing to the snake oil and hype IMO, its always good to get an opinion on new gear by someone who has trialed it, whether you get the gear for free or not does not matter as long as you give an honest opinion as a long distance hiker. After that its up to everyone to make their own choices. The gear I bought for my 2012 Camino was the first I bought since my 1976 tour around Europe and I'm still using that (2012) for the most part. Its all down to the individual whether they get caught up in consumerism or not.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF-13, CP-16, CFin-16,
CNrt-18,CMux 18,
Olvi &Salv&Prim(2020?)
Interesting topic. I follow a few thru hikers on youtube and have watched a ton of other youtube backpacker videos testing gear. The marketing towards ultralight is non stop leading a lot of people to spend large sums on gear that may not be appropriate for their level of experience and conditioning. A lot of these social media hikers make it sound like if you don't have an $800 one person tent or a $600 windbreaker or a least a few items made out of cuban fibre you can't hike. To me I think the danger is too many people thinking going ultralight is a substitute for being in the proper condition and having the requisite training and experience. I follow reviews on outdoor gear lab. I like their advice that ultralight gear should be used by hikers with a good level of experience and training and that even then it can get dicey as some of their own very experienced testers have learned. Personally I like comfort so I have a backpack that is larger than I really need for any camino, it was on sale after all, but it fits great and carries weight very well where it should be and I am now disciplined enought to carry only what is necessary. I do have a fleece of course. I bought it in a touristy store for $16 bucks figuring I'd throw it way after one use but the bloody embarrassing thing just won't wear out and now I've grown attached to it.
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Portuguese(2020)
You are not contributing to the snake oil and hype IMO, its always good to get an opinion on new gear by someone who has trialed it, whether you get the gear for free or not does not matter as long as you give an honest opinion as a long distance hiker. After that its up to everyone to make their own choices. The gear I bought for my 2012 Camino was the first I bought since my 1976 tour around Europe and I'm still using that (2012) for the most part. Its all down to the individual whether they get caught up in consumerism or not.
Thanks. :)

The thing I'll add is that the gear I test is not for consumer review purposes, but only as feedback to the manufacturer as they are looking at quality control issues and areas to improve a product's usability. I do not post consumer-style reviews.

Now, that is not to say that I haven't been exposed to great stuff that I wouldn't recommend for folks to try out. :)
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
Thanks. :)

The thing I'll add is that the gear I test is not for consumer review purposes, but only as feedback to the manufacturer as they are looking at quality control issues and areas to improve a product's usability. I do not post consumer-style reviews.

Now, that is not to say that I haven't been exposed to great stuff that I wouldn't recommend for folks to try out. :)
Exactly, you tell us don't you. ;)
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
So we buy the clothing or gear often because we want to be in the know, live a lifestyle, and aspire to do things when time is scarce, but disposable income might be more abundant.
True - but the smartest of gear by itself doesn't always help :cool: I have told this story before but here goes anyway. My second Camino Frances. Out on the meseta somewhere. I came across a picnic bench in some shade where a young man was bandaging some very badly blistered feet. A real mess. He looked me up and down and then went on to criticise everything I was carrying or wearing with the exception of my underpants which he inexplicably failed to mention. Every item of gear he possessed was brand new and state of the art. He told me so in great detail and at some length. He managed to suggest that with the ancient and worn-out junk I was using I was lucky to still be alive. When he eventually paused for breath I pointed out as tactfully as I could still manage that I was walking about 10km further than him each day and yet my feet didn't look the bottom of a butcher's scrap bin....
 

davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Portuguese(2020)
Interesting topic. I follow a few thru hikers on youtube and have watched a ton of other youtube backpacker videos testing gear. The marketing towards ultralight is non stop leading a lot of people to spend large sums on gear that may not be appropriate for their level of experience and conditioning. A lot of these social media hikers make it sound like if you don't have an $800 one person tent or a $600 windbreaker or a least a few items made out of cuban fibre you can't hike. To me I think the danger is too many people thinking going ultralight is a substitute for being in the proper condition and having the requisite training and experience. I follow reviews on outdoor gear lab. I like their advice that ultralight gear should be used by hikers with a good level of experience and training and that even then it can get dicey as some of their own very experienced testers have learned. Personally I like comfort so I have a backpack that is larger than I really need for any camino, it was on sale after all, but it fits great and carries weight very well where it should be and I am now disciplined enought to carry only what is necessary. I do have a fleece of course. I bought it in a touristy store for $16 bucks figuring I'd throw it way after one use but the bloody embarrassing thing just won't wear out and now I've grown attached to it.
You make some terrific points. 👍

In my mind, ultralight gear is not really the issue in its broadest sense. There is little doubt that having the lightest load makes it easier to enjoy carrying your backpack, which in turn allows you to better enjoy WHY one backpacks. . I have a far better time enjoying my surroundings, communing with my navel, enjoying birdsong, etc, when carrying 8 pounds than when carrying 18 pounds. Or 24 pounds.

It isn't about IF one can carry a heavier load, it is whether one can better enjoy the 'WHY' of what they are doing if they can carry a lighter load. :)

Cuban Fiber is one of the more durable, yet lightest fabrics on the market. . . and it IS expensive. Not only expensive to make, but expensive in how it must be handled and crafted when making something like a tent or backpack.

But dyneema and cuben fiber-based products were a genuine innovation for backpacking.

So the issue is NOT if they are snake oil, but if their purchase meets a cost/benefit ratio. Cost/benefit is of no consequence if one has money to burn, but for most of us we want the best bang for our buck. Whcih leads up to what you and I both agree on.

My criteria is based on Cost Per Mile (kilometer).

If I am needing gear to walk a 500 mile Camino, and I doubt I'll use it much beyond that, clothing and gear become much more expensive than if I need something that I'll use for 5,000 miles. Suddenly, that $125.00, two ounce cuben fiber poncho not only contributes to an ultralight load, but it goes from costing about 0.25 cents per mile, to costing only 0.025 cents per mile.

The Snake Oil consumerism that I am referring to is seen in a recent example with a tent manufactured by Big Agnes. I know tents aren't a Camino issue for most, but it provides a stark example.

It is about 4 ounces lighter than my much roomier Zpacks 2 person, cuben fiber tent (which weighs 20 ounces). BUT, Agnes wanted the "I've got the lightest" trophy by producing something that is flimsy, cramped, and costs $1,000.

Yes, my superior and still ultralight tent is expensive, but it cost me $450.00 4200 miles ago. Today it would cost about $600.00

Was the tent Big Agnes produced REALLY an innovative change? Not in my mind. After my first night of testing it, I terminated my contract to test it, and sent it back with a note which in effect stated. . .Nope, it DID state. . "...do not EVER contact me again if you need to test a piece of crap."

Is the product selling? Yup. Is it worth buying? Nope. Should BA be allowed to make and sell it? Sure. In a free market, manufacturers wont lose profits making things that people won't buy. Do novice backpackers need better education and guidance about gear and clothing? Yes.. . . but social media, by its very nature, makes GOOD guidance difficult.

In fact, there are good quality SilNylon tents by cottage manufacturers that are quite lightweight that will give both quality and space. The weight penalty is about 12 ounces, but the cost is $800. less.

You know what. . .your post and this reply has me thinking that time might be well spent by developing a Budget Friendly Gear List. I have been thinking of doing this for a while, and maybe the time is right. A list of different categories of stuff that is both lightweight but conducive to a 500 mile Camino budget rather than a 5000 mile backpacking need.
 
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davebugg

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2017)
Frances(2018)
Ingles(2019)
Portuguese(2020)
True - but the smartest of gear by itself doesn't always help :cool: I have told this story before but here goes anyway. My second Camino Frances. Out on the meseta somewhere. I came across a picnic bench in some shade where a young man was bandaging some very badly blistered feet. A real mess. He looked me up and down and then went on to criticise everything I was carrying or wearing with the exception of my underpants which he inexplicably failed to mention. Every item of gear he possessed was brand new and state of the art. He told me so in great detail and at some length. He managed to suggest that with the ancient and worn-out junk I was using I was lucky to still be alive. When he eventually paused for breath I pointed out as tactfully as I could still manage that I was walking about 10km further than him each day and yet my feet didn't look the bottom of a butcher's scrap bin....
Wonderful :) That was a perfect story/point.
 

K Turner

One step at a time
Camino(s) past & future
14 August 2019 (SJPdP 16 August)
My husband and I did our Camino with cost in mind at every step. Our fleece sweaters came from a thrift store. Our packs and socks came from theclymb.com so they were from the model year prior so the color changed. We're not ones to follow or want something just because it's the latest. Our inexpensive gear serves us beautifully!
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I prefer resale/thrift store shopping in my regular life and that includes the enjoyment of looking for items for walking the camino. I do not seek after name brands with outward labels in general because I feel they do not represent who I am as a person. I do not get my personal self worth from owning "the latest and greatest", nor succumb to the trap of "keeping up with Jonses". I do take exception in shoe and backpack quality as I feel they are the most important components of any long distance walk.
I do wear lightweight wicking clothing on the camino, purchased mostly at resale shops, or the Dollar Store. I try to be frugal with myself, but generous to others in my life.
Edit- My main luxury in retirement is the cost of traveling overseas to enjoy the camino experiences I've come to cherish. They make me feel young although I am no longer young!
 
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Paladina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles et al (2018), Mozarabe and more (2019)
A timely post, @davebugg. I often have occasion to remind myself of Thoreau’s injunction: ‘beware of all enterprises that require new clothes [or gear] ... If you have any enterprise before you, try it in your old clothes.’ But the sage’s advice that ‘one thick garment is, for most purposes, as good as three thin ones’ would probably not find favour among caministas.

You’re safe on this forum: we don’t shoot messengers for or against consumerism!
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF2012,Le Puy/CF 2015 Portugues 2017 Norte 2018, CF 2019
A friend of mine who hosts his own blog posted this latest entry I've posted below.

Given discussions about gear and clothing we've had on the Forum, I thought this might be of interest as a commentary on the increasingly sad state of backpacking consumerism as it has now evolved. Now, I am all for the free market and I love capitalistic success stories, but I also cringe at marketing products at the expense of true innovation.

This is a separate issue from that of gear and clothing costs which, for specialized backpacking gear, can become quite pricey - despite the ultralight advantage in many instances - for singular Camino use.

This is of special concern to me as one who may be hired to gear test products. . . am I contributing to snake oil and hype by what I do? Would my concerns even matter to those who hire me? After all, quality control and gear testing is a bit removed from the folks who market the stuff. For me, this smacks of an ethical dilemma that I may need to deal with; so far this has not been an issue.

If it ever does, just shoot me. . . please :)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
<Begin Quote>

Joan and I hosted a well-known person in the backpacking community who designed gear in the past. He stayed the night with us, and we had some great talks about various outdoor topics, and then I shuttled him to the start of his multi-day trip the following morning.

One topic we discussed over our kitchen table that evening? How much consumerism drives the outdoor marketplace.

It’s nothing new, of course; people always want the latest article of clothing for various reasons. You buy another 3oz fill puffy to replace yet another 3oz fill puffy. And the cycle continues.

But what our guest brought up is how this consumerism is now taking hold in the hard goods category as well. A standard idea is purchasing another expensive tent to replace a few grams heavier shelter. Or to get “the latest and greatest” piece of gear, or how manufacturers are always “updating” their packs seems somewhat newer in our small niche community of long-distance hikes and lightweight backpacking gear.

In short, manufacturers are typically coming out with “new” gear for the same reason Gatorade has so many flavors of their sugary beverage: Shelf space in a grocery store.

Except for the gear and clothing shelf space is room in our closest, or more appropriately, our credit card limit.

Mind you; gear does get updated and innovated. And we all get new equipment on some level. Myself included. You wear out clothing or tools, or you want to try new techniques and ideas. But buying for the sake of buying? That’s a whole ‘nother ball o’ wax.

In short, gear and clothing as fashion.

Something to discard when you are bored and need a dopamine fix. And not something to replace when worn or needs updating.

I made a note to write about this topic on an electronic sticky note, and kind of forget about it over the months.

Then I see a three-hundred (!) response thread about a new grid fleece on Reddit that closely mimics the storied Melly fleece Note by me: (Melanzana - a cottage manufacturer out of Leadville, Colorado).

An earlier thread about a similar piece of clothing has merely (ha!) seventy-one comments.

I remembered the sticky note buried in Google Keep.

For those not familiar with this piece of clothing, the Melly fleece ends up being a well-made, reasonably priced piece of clothing made in the USA that has a cult following. Assuming you can get one as you can’t buy it online, Melzana has limited stock, and people scalp this item for up to three times the price on eBay.

All for a modest grid fleece.

I saw the thread on this topic and went, “Holy ****!”

I wrote my nickel’s worth of thoughts on a separate thread and remembered my conversation with a friend a few months ago.

I find the whole marketing and consumerism aspect interesting: How a simple, if well-made, grid fleed fleece hoodie became an icon.

Not just in ultralight and thru-hiking circles, but also among climbers and #vanlifers (among others). When I took my WFR course this past November, many Melly fleece hoodies abounded.

It’s just a fleece at the end.

However, as with many consumerist items, the purchase and wearing of the piece became a statement in itself. Rather than what you do with the said item in many ways.

<Snip of stuff about living in vans>


But aspirational things sell. You can purchase something and become part of a lifestyle. Practical reality? Not-so-much.

A Melly fleece, at one point, found a niche as mainly a comfy piece of clothing to ward off the chill while camped out or walking in a mountain town, getting your next batch of supplies between climbs. Now, it is an item that costs twice the price or more, on eBay vs. its retail price.

For many people, not all, purchasing a Melly sends a specific statement about your lifestyle, aspirations, or “being in the know.”

A Melly Fleece is the tulip craze of the outdoor world in many ways. And the tool itself has become more important than the experience where you use the tool for many. 🙂


Though Guy Waterman wrote the following text about mobile devices, I feel the last sentence can easily apply to fetishizing gear:


(Emphasis is the author's)

<snip of Harley Davidson analogies>

So we buy the clothing or gear often because we want to be in the know, live a lifestyle, and aspire to do things when time is scarce, but disposable income might be more abundant.

And by making gear and clothing the equivalent of Gatorade with marginally different sugary water flavors at times, manufacturers are happy to help with this goal.

<End Quote>

https://pmags.com/the-quiver-a-plethora-of-puffies
Senor Bug,
You have touched on a subject that is a disease of pandemic proportion around the world. First let me tell you that you know how much I respect your knowledge and guidance in a multitude of areas. I think if we met we probably would have very different opinions on a whole variety of non pilgrim topics but who cares. I also know that you will know when it is time to step away from product testing because you are just another "cog" to feed the beast. Now you are giving you are giving honest and needed information based on your years of experience. The moment will come when you feel that you and others who are honest testers are having their recommendations twisted and distorted by the manufacturer.
I think in some ways the Camino is a perfect reflection of the world and the rampant consumerism that affluence brings to one's mindset.
It is more obvious than ever that huge numbers of people gain purpose and a self of identity by losing their identity to the I[hone, their twitter, their clothes, their political and social associations. The list goes on and on. The label on a garment, for many, is an extension of their identity and their entry to meeting "like minded people". I used to fight with my wife when she bought me clothes that had a label on the outside. I always said why the hell are you paying more for this shirt? I am giving this a@@H$$le designer free advertising, he should be paying me to wear it.
On the Camino, having lightweight, durable, washable and clothes that will protect you are important. But where does it end? I remember reading an article about what clothes to bring on a camino and the price tag for everything was in the multiple thousands. Over $100 for a headlamp, close to $100 for a hat, $500 for a sleeping bag. You get the idea. People ask about their iPads, their $1000 iPhones, their variety of cameras that I have no idea what they cost, the list goes on and on. I understand people are into these things and they enjoy it. But it is a pilgrimage first, last and foremost. Are you living your experience through a sense or a computer or telephone screen. When do you just feel what you are doing and live it. I think this is just an extension of consumerism and the death of capitalism that has rotted into, well lets not get political. It is also the added sense of isolation that so many feel trapped in front of their screens and only being able to connect through their transfixion of materials. We must have the next best thing as soon as possible even though what we have at home or in our pockets works just fine. Look at the Phone addicts who line up at each new release of a new iPhone. It is just like the junkie who needs more fixes a day because the effects of your high diminish with every new spike in their vanes.
I KNOW THIS IS ALL A JUDGEMENT, SO ALL YOU NON JUDGMENTAL JUDGMENT PEOPLE WHO LIVE TO BASH ANY HINT OF POLITICAL INCORRECTNESS NEED NOT WASTE THIER BREATH AND KEYPAD STROKES TELLING ME HOW JUDGMENTAL AND UNCAMINO LIKE I AM. DON'T SWEAT IT AND IGNORE ME.
It is a pilgrimage. It is a time of fellowship, joy pain, love and solitude. Not a time to be walking product catalog for some incredibly overpriced clothing or gear company. No need to get into how 99% of these corporations we support are all crushing workers rights, directly or indirectly destroying our environment, lobbying for even greater tax cuts etc etc etc that most pilgrims in their hears want to see changed but not at the expense of their comfort or their consumer identity.
This is not just pilgrims, or you or me specifically but it is a poison throughout the world and it is only growing.
So Mr. Bugg, keep doing what you are doing and have no worries.
For me and any opinion you may have, trust me, I am just as much to blame and probably one of the great dickheads who is still a dickhead, maybe a little more spiritually oriented dickhead, even after 5 caminos.
If their are typos don't blame me I hate proofreading.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Spring 2016: Camino Frances, Finisterre and Muxia
April 2019: Frances, Salvador, Primitivo
I love this post. And I find myself at times judging others for their expensive gear (I am not rich), but the truth I don't like to admit is that I too find myself susceptible to the seduction of the 'next best thing'. I do have ultralight gear that is/was expensive, but I have a tender back and need to pack light.

But... I am susceptible to the latest and greatest at times. It's a real struggle to talk myself out of needing what I don't really need. It's an ongoing challenge.

Thanks, @davebugg for reminding me that this is something I always need to keep in front of me.
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), VDLP (2017), Mozarabe (2018), Vasco/Bayona (2019)
Several issues are being rolled together in this discussion. Some are necessarily connected but others are not.

There is the rampant consumerism (which is bad) and the pursuit of excellence with respect to gear design, etc. (which I think is good, in itself).

I love my smart phone. My husband doesn't use one. We are both similar in our values with respect to consumerism.

We are quite frugal, overall. But he will only buy a brand new car that scores very high in consumer and technical reviews. We get a new one every 30 years whether we need it or not.

My wardrobe is pitiful. However, I take great pleasure in my expensive Icebreaker merino wool zip sweater, for example. It was not on sale. I enjoy it immensely because it is such a well made, designed, and attractive item. According to my idealistic values, I probably should have found something slightly less expensive and donated the difference to a good cause.
 

ginniek

Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances 2017
It's not just backpacking--name the sport or activity, and gear and apparel become the main topics of discussion. It has gotten much worse over the years, because the choice was so limited. 50+ years ago I hiked up my first mountain (wouldn't call it climbing because it was not "technical") in tennis shoes that were no longer good enough for tennis. Then I upped my game and started wearing my little brother's hand me down work boots. Now Hoka provides my footwear. I really never expected swimming to need so much stuff, other than well designed competition suits, goggles to fit various faces, kickboards and pull buoys. Now there are websites full of gear. Since I still swim 4-5 miles a week but don't like spending more than I have to, I depend on last year's colors--at a discount--from Swim Outlet, but stick to two particular brands of suits and one model of goggles.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
When I look through my photographs of the last ten years, I seem to be always wearing the same clothes...and they are still in the cupboard, and still being worn, although the red Macabi hiking skirt has faded badly. For some things I paid full price, others came from Aldi or Costco, others came from the fabulous Baptist recycle shop.

@C clearly I loved your comment about the car. We are the same. The current model has a nice diamond pattern of quilting pins holding up the roof upholstery, and the car unlocks itself on a hot day, and the "climate control" is stuck on freezing. But it is so comfortable for long drives and the engine is really, really good!
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016), VDLP (2017), Mozarabe (2018), Vasco/Bayona (2019)
I loved your comment about the car. We are the same. The current model has a nice diamond pattern of quilting pins holding up the roof upholstery, and the car unlocks itself on a hot day, and the "climate control" is stuck on freezing.
I think you might fit in the category of needing the new car at the 30-year point. Ours is currently only 21, but it does have a few minor scrapes and it has lost the new car smell. At this rate we might be in the "not needing" category.
 
Camino(s) past & future
somewhere between "not enough" and "way too many"
There was a 30-year span between my time of lugging 30+kg of gear up-and-down the Rocky Mountains and my "gotta-get-outta-US-election-season". (The latter turned into the walking the Camino.) In between, there was hunting and fishing to do (apologies to those averse!) and my initial gear worked just fine for those.

BUT...for a long distance walking tour? Nope, I fully recognized the relationship that "Work = Mass X Distance" and knew that I had to slim down weight carried because, well... 30 years.;)

Wow, it was just a shock stepping into REI for the first time in decades. So much so that I limited myself to just trying on essentials, tabulating price of the "possibles" along with weight (yes, I went with a scale :))

The main reason I found myself overwhelmed was because EVERYTHING was just so LIGHT! In the back of my mind there was a nagging feeling that I was going down future paths naked.

After arriving home, I set up a budget, checked gear ratings from at least three sources then spreadsheeted the results.

The Lowa Zephyr boots were the big item...$300, I think. T-shirts (Merino), briefs (ExO), Socks, a couple pair cargo pants and "tech" shirts each and I was done. Over 4 Caminos totaling about 3,000 km, I had to retire one pair of pants and replenish socks (total rotation about 3 pair of liner and "hike" each), and the original set of Lowas.

What has worked for me, will work for me; "stuff" is already light enough. The mantra that I keep in mind, that I have always tried to teach the younger generation, is "Perfect is the enemy of good enough."

As for social media and "influencers"? Well, while not involved directly in the field, the rumblings that I get suggest that their day is passing rapidly...which is to be desired.

Much appreciation for laying this out @davebugg , quite timely.

B
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
What has worked for me, will work for me; "stuff" is already light enough. The mantra that I keep in mind, that I have always tried to teach the younger generation, is "Perfect is the enemy of good enough."
Absolutely :) I used to buy big brand name hiking gear. For the past five years or so I have worn cheap builders' boots on all my walks and almost every time I step outside my front door. About £25 a pair and usually good for upwards of 1000km walking. In theory a pair of really lightweight specialist hiking boots at £150 a time might give me a slight edge but if I can walk 40+km for several days in succession without a problem anyway do I really need that extra 5% performance?
 

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