We've all fallen into the "gear trap" before. Thinking about how if you just had that titanium accessory, that ultra-light wheel set, those new cycling shoes you would be that much better of a mountain biker. The gear trap is going on a hike or backpacking and thinking it would be a better hike if you just had that fancy backpack with those fancy strap do-hickey’s and that sweet soft shell.
I’ll admit to falling into the gear trap myself. I worked for a local outdoor retailer and stocked up much more than my fair share of pro-deals. I managed to acquire three soft shells, three top-of-the-line rain jackets, and four- yes- four pairs of hiking boots in less than six months. That’s a jacket a month!
When I switched jobs I also had to kill off my crazy gear habit. I felt like I barely escaped a full blown cocaine habit. I had some new gear withdrawals, some pains when I saw the newer soft shells and the newer ultra-light technology.
But… having lived the outdoor life on both sides of the track I have to say it as honestly and as nakedly as possible. It’s not about the gear.
It’s not about the mountain bike
It’s not about the sweet frame. It’s not about the snazzy pink grips, the lightest pedals, the sleekest wheels. When I first started riding it was on a rigid frame two sizes too big and probably weighed close to 50 pounds. My next bike had front suspension and clipless pedals- and I thought I had hit the big time. Since then I’ve made some small upgrades here and there, but have essentially been riding the same type of bike- low/ low-mid range mountain bike for over ten years.
And you know what? I have no problem keeping up on group rides. I regularly pass the guys on $3000 bikes while racing. Now if a girl on a $500-$600 bike can pass a guy on a $3000 bike – then it’s not about the bike.
It’s about riding nearly every day. It’s about riding in the rain. It’s about riding when it’s muddy because who cares if my bike gets filthy-right?
It’s not about the gear
Okay- this might blurb may be a bit controversial to some but here goes. I used to spend a lot of time thinking that I needed crampons and the best snowshoes in order to go winter hiking. I saved and I saved and I put off hikes because I didn’t have the gear. Now I have crampons and snowshoes (the fancy steep grade ones) and you know what? I hardly use them! I hike in the winter all the time, mainly on mid-moderate sized peaks in the Whites (think winter hiking in the Moats vs. Mt Washington) and there’s one thing I always bring with me. It’s not snowshoes or crampons (which I use maybe 3-5 times a year) it’s those cheap $20 Yaktrack things.
It’s not the size of your boat
I worked with a fellow gear junkie who I would call a kayak expert. He schooled me on the merits of fiber glass vs. plastic, nose shape and cockpit size. By the end of my tenure with him I was really convinced that I needed an ultra-light composite kayak and it would cost me around $3300.
Without a pro deal I had to budget and save and do my own research on kayaks under $1000. I ended up with the Calypso kayak and you know what? I take that thing everywhere- local lakes, rivers, wetlands. The green pickle is always roof side during the summer months. Sure I can’t take it out on the open ocean, but it’s much more realistic for me to throw it on my car and take it to the lake down the street.
It’s not about the kayak. It’s really about getting on the water and tooling around. It’s not fretting when you scratch over some unseen submerged rocks. It’s about the freedom of your own little boat.
It's just not about the gear
You’ll still see the occasional gear review on my blog- mainly because women need a reputable source for female specific gear reviews. But I want to make it known that for me; it’s not about the gear. I find it more refreshing to ride with a fellow biker who took her grips off her last bike because they felt better- not because they were the newest thing. Someone who’s discovered some vintage LL Bean polypropylene shirts that still cut it on winter hikes.
There will always be something about a soft shell with an elbow patch and sleeping bag bungeed to a pack that makes me smile.