Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

No Gear Year

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Could you buy no outdoor gear for a year?


This article waits since about four years in my drafts folder. Come November, December, it smiles at me. It says “How about it, Hendrik? Should you take a one year break from getting new outdoor gear?”. And I smile back at it, thinking “You know, I’d love to. But I’m a gear editor at two magazines, so testing the latest and greatest is my job”. And with that I put the thought ad actum, give this draft a new futuristic date, in the hope that the next year could be a No Gear Year.

Because honestly, I don’t need anything new. I have enough hardshells and trailrunning shoes, plenty of backpacks and shelters, as well as skis, climbing gear, a packraft and a Fatbike. Now I may be a gear editor at a climbing and at a backpacking magazine, but I’m sure there’s just as many normal outdoor enthusiasts out there who have cupboards full of gear. Much of it only getting used a handfull of times a year, with the owner eyeing the new version already while the one on the shelf is still perfect.

Friday's Outdoor Office

And who is to blame? Outdoor shops pretty much have a 20% off sale on a weekly basis, there’s winter, summer and Black Friday sales where shiny new kit is smiling at us at so deep prices - and lets be honest, we really needed that 10 g lighter rain jacket because it will make our skin-out weight significantly lighter. And that new 9.1 mm single rope was needed because it will help me to send my 7c project. That new, inflatable pillow surely will be the last pillow I ever need as I will sleep like at home on it, and those new trailrunners will make me hike faster and be great for training, too. And it was all on sale, too - how could I resist?

Money spent passionately on trips, not gear

That lovely headline I copied some four years ago into this draft. As I was pondering last year to buy a new camera and spend a significant amount on it and lenses a friend commented “Why not use what you have, take the money and go on a trip to shoot great photos?”. “Ah well”, I said, “you know, it is not that easy with a house and family”. But the more I thought about it, the more it just seemed like one of those easy excuse phrases. Sure, it is more difficult to travel with a baby and a four-year-old - but it is not impossible as an increasing number of dads & moms show when they go outdoors with their toddlers & kids.

Hiking in the rain

Spending money on gear is a lot easier than going somewhere, I get it. Browse your favourite outdoor shop, see that there’s something new and it’s for such a good price - click, click, click and another package will be arriving soon. Put it on or up in the garden, maybe snap a photo and you even would have material for a new blog post - if you’re a blogger, that is. But going on a trip?

Don’t buy more than you need. Because if you do, you are going to consume way more than the resources of the planet can bear. - Rose Marcario, CEO Patagonia

Well, that involves planing. Planing a route, the food, gear, getting there, having a look on the weather, etc. You also need to actually go outside, and what if it is -13°C and snowing like here right now? Well, that ain’t particularly pleasant, especially with all that grey sky which makes for less than ideal photo weather. But isn’t that actually what we have all the gear for? Down jackets, softshell pants, warm shoes - they’d be great for this weather, and as they haven’t been used yet (enough), why not take them out for a walk or even a Microadventure?

Locus Gear Khufu eVent II

Join me in a year without new gear

It’s nothing new. Craig has done it in 2012 and still loves to go outdoors. If a gear nerd like me whose job it is to test & review the latest and greatest outdoor gear can do it, I’m sure you too, my esteemed reader, also can do 12 months without new gear. No new backpacking gear, no new bike, no new climbing gear, no new shoes, no new shelter - NO NEW GEAR. Personally I also include used gear in this, but that’s your call really. And twelve months are not that long - I just got used to write 2015 when noting down the date, and now it’s already 2016 - so a year without new gear will be faster over than you think.

And think about all the benefits:

  • Next year, in 2017, you can splurge on the latest and greatest outdoor gear, which will most certainly be better than in 2016!
  • In 2016 you can actually test and use all the gear you have already!
  • You can go on more trips, because you’ll save hundreds of €£$ on not buying new equipment and sitting in front of the computer!

Exceptions for me will be food and fuel, these I will purchase as needed for my trips - and you should, too. Because hiking & climbing on an empty stomach is no fun!

Dinner in the making

Repair, re-use, swap, loan - and use what you already have

In case a piece of equipment fails you - socks can get holes in the heels, shoes get walked through, a shelter starts to leak, the waterproof jacket ain’t waterproof no more - you can just fix it. Bring your shoes to the cobbler to get a new sole on them, wash your waterproofs to make them keep the snow & rain out again, seam-seal your shelter and use the best repair tape of all time to fix everything else: Duct tape!

Still feel the urge to try something new in 2016? You can always loan gear - from friends, companies or websites - to try a new outdoor hobby, from packrafts over a SUP board to a Via ferrata set - there’s no need to own it if you just want to try it. Imagine you don’t like skiing after the first few tries, but you got skiing gear standing there for 2.000€? Loan before you own.

Get out adventuring!

The bottomline for this move is for me two-fold: I want to Simplify my life further and show that one doesn’t need to chase the latest sale on gear. It’s more fun to go and chase the sunset with a light backpack on, which is what this pastime is all about: Spending time outdoors. Good outdoor gear helps, but we shouldn’t chase it more than spending time outside. So here’s to twelve months of no new gear, and more outdoor adventures!

Fresh turns