Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Guest Post: To Gear Or Not To Gear, That Is The Question

So does anyone else besides me see the dilemma on the horizon in the outdoor world today? OK, so it probably will not be the apocalypse and the Rapture did not come, but I do see two clashing ideas rising to the surface to battle each other like titans. To gear or not to gear, that is the question. We all like gear, who doesn’t, every time I get a new piece I sleep with it at night and dream about how cool I am, don’t pretend like you don't. Well, I know you either own a pair of “minimalist” five fingers or have thought about it within the last 30 days. With the rise of barefoot running and quick alpine style adventure the idea of doing more with less, like a caveman, is undoubtedly made its way to the forefront of the outdoor industry.

So which idea will win? Who will be the victor and claim the minds of the masses that head into the great outdoors every weekend? I see three groups of people; gear people, minimalist, and in-betweeners. Either you have one of everything, just the essentials, or a little of both. It also seems like minimalist and the gear people are both hardcore in their beliefs, with the rest of us left adrift in the middle, who go where the wind of advertising blows.

Bare Bones Movement -

You have to do it caveman style, that is the mantra, quick and fast is the clean way to do it. I think there is probably a hint of taking adventure to the next notch with this kind of mind set. From free climbing, alpine style assaults, barefoot running, and the whole less is more idea has come a new generation of athletes who want to experience nature in the most pure way possible. This new generation prides itself it not having a GPS watch, a huge backpack with everything it, or much of anything for that matter.

Does tackling a obstacle with less then your fellow man make you more a man than a mouse? Is barefoot running really more healthy, or just healthy for Five Finger’s wallet? You could make the argument that going bare bones will force you to be better at what you do, climbing, backpacking, or running. But, then again some of the best athletes in world are no minimalist either. Is there that much difference between a gear person and a bare bones worshiper? I’m not sure if owning 5 less pieces of gear or wearing five fingers either puts you over that invisible line or not. I would imagine bare bones style is more of a mindset then it is something you can quantify. But, ahhh new gear smells so nice!

Gear Junkies -

Don’t pretend you like you don’t want one. Even the guy running around in five fingers with no shirt on would take a second look at that Garmin GPS watch. It’s built into us all, those nice tents, sleeping bags, kayaks, stoves, you name it, it all looks so shiny and new. The right gear in the right place at the right time can extend our adventures and make us safe, safe to have fun and enjoy the environment more perfectly.

Besides, if no one ever bought anything from all these companies like Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, Marmot and the like, how would they stay in business to give us all those products we love? Gear Junkies are needed aren't they? They keep the economy running and innovation happening. I mean we are all buying the our gear from the companies, just in different quantities and slightly different products.

Many times the great adventures that start us all out began with massive amounts of resources. Just take the first assaults on Everest for example, it took hundreds of people and supplies to open up that vision to the world and create that summit madness that blinds people today. What about people climbing with and without oxygen, is one more noble, or is that only seen in the heart of a person? Those who go before pave the way for those to come after. Those who come after to do it quicker and faster then the first, are they better then the first? Are they equal? Who has the more pure adventure, and does that even matter?

In the end I still have not decided which is more glorious, which is the better. Gear is great, it makes possible many things for an amateur adventurer that would not be possible otherwise. Bare bones style adventure brings with it a new sense of your surroundings and feelings of accomplishment, it hones your skill.

Which camp do you fall into? What are the reasons you pick the camp you are in? Does one camp offer more experience then the other? Will future generations lean towards one side more then the other?

Daniel's Bio: Cubicle warrior and weekend warrior, that is me. I am Midwest boy raised in the flatlands who grew up working and playing in the great outdoors...mostly because that is all you can do where I'm from. I'm a fan of anything outdoors, from fly fishing on the weekend to climbing Colorado's Capitol Peak. Doesn't matter if it is running, biking, or kayaking I like to do it all. I enjoy being a amateur of all them, I believe it makes life more interesting when you don't know what you are doing. I run a web site called www.ShareThisAdventure.com, a free web site made by outdoor enthusiast, for outdoor and adventure enthusiast. I want everyone to be inspired and to inspire others with adventure stories from the mountain to the weekend road trip. Basically anyone can upload a story with photos about any activity they have done outdoors and share it with the world, the idea is to share the love of the outdoors and get people off that couch.


  1. I'm a blend of the two myself. I think learning proper technique is key and better accomplished via the bare bones philosophy. However, getting the right gear for the effort will help you excel. Nicely written Daniel.

  2. I'm usually bare bones due to lack of $$. I love gear...but have learned to do without.

  3. I'm a mix of the two. When it comes to running I'm more of a minimalist (basically due to the fact that I'd rather spend money on climbing gear, lol.) When it comes to the outdoors I have more gear though I think I have more of a naturalistic approach, it's easier to follow leave no trace standards with the proper gear. Great post :)

  4. I'm a gear-junkie at heart but my wallet keeps me somewhere in the middle. Instead I've become the guy people ask for gear advice because they know I've already researched everything under the sun to figure out the best bang-for-the-buck. For some reason (a whole family of race reports) I never get around to the tech side of things on my blog.

  5. If I was you, I'd use the term "sports junkie" and then back yourself into a volume of gear that you've acquired as a result of your participation tendencies.

    Otherwise you'll be the guy puking his guts out at mile 1 in a brand new pair of Newtons (for no other reason that that running a mile was tough) or show up at the base of a climb with a backpack that is 1000 cubic inches too small because no one told you about the amount of community equipment you need to carry.

    This approach will also get you a better ROI. To be fair, I have a lot of stuff, but all of it gets used, because the purchases are made strategically based on what my upcoming activities are.

    Either approach will keep Marmot in business, not to worry.

  6. Add me to the gear camp...IF I can get it at the right price.

  7. i would probably be considered a gear junkie. i dont necessarily think it makes me a better athlete, just a more comfortable one

  8. I have always been a gear junkie and a first adapter. Marketeers love me!

    However, over the last couple of months I have noticed that something is changing? I keep forgetting my garmin for rides and runns? It has been like 6mos since I have even considered a new bike? Heck, I haven't even tried out a new nutritional product since 2010? Maybe everything is perfect or maybe I am becoming more of a minimalist? No idea, but something is askew here.

  9. This is a fun post. I'm definitely a blend, although I lean a bit towards the minimalist. I think that some of this falls into the categories of newer vs. experienced athlete, as well as runner vs. triathlete. You see differences between these camps, for sure.

  10. I'm with the less is more mostly because I'm poor and all the stores are far away.

  11. I'm not a gear junkie, but I do think that the correct, quality gear makes most activities more comfortable and easier to do.

  12. I used to be a gear junkie... well, a shoe and apparel junkie mostly. I remember opening my locker at the boathouse and literally 16 pair of sports-related shoes came tumbling out. But now I am a total minimalist. Sort of.

  13. I guess I am in the middle. I love my numbers so a Garmin is important. But when it comes to everyday wear it's kind of, 'whatever comes out of the dryer first.'

    I do want to be safe and comfortable and sometimes that means a Camelbak or other gear and sometimes it means no gear at all.

  14. Interesting post. I'm in between but budget keeps me in check. I have a lot of gear, but use it all. I don't have a tri bike, Garmin or Powertap. I train by heart rate or RPE.

  15. I fall inbetween but my heart is on the minimalist side. I don't wear a Garmin, don't intend to. I love the simplicity of running and try to keep it that way.

  16. I'm becoming a gear junkie, I guess, as I acquire the "basics". When I run, I am usually out after dark. So, I have a light clipped onto my ROAD ID reflective hat. I have my ROAD ID bracelet. The ipod. The water bottle with the hand strap. And I will soon get a Garmin. That should do it for me for the long term.

  17. I'm probably in the camp of not liking to buy that much gear. Recently as I've gotten into running more I've bought more gear that I never had before (muscle milk, cytomax, garmin watch, foam roller, fuel belt, etc). I'm assuming that this is considered gear.

    Not wanting to buy a ton of gear has somewhat steered me away from biking, because I know you need a lot of gear for the sport (spare tire, pump, etc). I like sports that require minimal if any equipment (running, basketball, soccer, swimming, etc)

    And good luck to your Chicago Bulls next year, hopefully they can get Dwight Howard! Derrick Rose is amazing to watch, he is so fast. Hopefully they battle the Heat in the east finals again next year.

    And I'm curious as to how you like the New Balance 890 shoes, I really can't use them right now since I'm injured, but I think I will like them in the end. Very lightweight, with just enough stability.


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