Do we really need all this gear?
There are a lot of things that make the Eastern Mountain Sports corporate office a fun place to work. Chief among them are my co-workers who are some of the most passionate and dedicated outdoor athletes you’ll ever meet. When I decided to get back into road cycling for the first time since…. a while, I received a flood of support and a ton of suggestions about all the gear I “needed.” Before I knew what happened, the awesome deal I got on my new Masi ballooned to a significant investment in SPD pedals, shoes, a bike computer, multiple pairs of bike shorts and jerseys, sunglasses, a multi tool, and spare tubes. I already had a helmet but even that, I quickly learned, had to be retired since it was 8 years old and technically, a mountain bike helmet.
So when Owen Travers, the guy who picks all the awesome music you hear in our stores, shared this video with me, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud:
In the comment section on YouTube, W1LDwanderer put it best when he said:
To which I ask the question: “DO WE?” After all, when I hopped on my first Schwinn at age 5 I wore Toughskins, sneakers and a t-shirt (and no helmet, it was the 70s). When I bought my first 10 speed with my own money, I wore shorts, sneakers and a t-shirt (still no helmet, it was the ’80s). Do I really need compression shorts and a “race-inspired” cycling jersey that makes me look like all those wannabe Tour de France riders I’ve made fun of for years?
Well, when you get right down to it, the answer is ‘no.’ You don’t NEED any of the cycling gear I’ve acquired over the last 10 months (EXCEPT THE HELMET) to have a great time on a bike. Just like you don’t NEED a state-of-the-art pack and hiking boots to enjoy your state parks or a polyethylene kayak when the fiberglass canoe that’s been in your family for three generations can take you to the same inlets and islands your grandfather explored in it.
The beauty of the outdoor playground is it costs NOTHING to enjoy. Unless of course, you want to be comfortable in foul weather, ride faster, hike farther, climb higher or camp longer. That’s where the line between “nice to have” and “must have” starts to get a little blurry. Again, do you NEED a $350 jacket to keep you warm and dry in the backcountry? Of course you don’t. But you’ll be amazed how much more fun you’ll have when you’re not weighed down and sweating to death in your old-school parka or poncho.
Sure, sometimes we get carried away in choosing “the perfect system” for the conditions, activity and intensity level of the day. Like the folks in the Portlandia clip above, I’ve stood in front of my closet for 10 minutes debating whether I needed to wear my softshell on a snowshoe hike or should I wear my waterproof/breathable shell instead.
As the ever-creative Andre Lamothe of our Portsmouth, NH store put it so accurately last holiday season:
As exciting as it is to get new gear, I think it’s important to stress that having the best gear money can buy won’t instantly make you a better hiker, climber, paddler, or rider. What quality gear WILL do is help you perform your favorite sport lighter, drier, and/or more efficiently. Some gear will help you avoid minor injuries like blisters and cramps as well as major problems like hypothermia or heat stroke. All of these actions and benefits help you feel better when you’re outside. When you feel better it’s easier to dig deeper, push yourself a little harder, achieve the goals that have eluded you and have a lot more fun in the process. It’s that simple.
A classic example for me is cycling gloves. All summer long I scoffed at my co-workers as they pulled on their little spandex gloves before our lunch time rides. Full-fingered gloves when it’s less than 40 degrees? Sure, I get that, but do I really NEED fingerless gloves with gel foam padding? I didn’t think so and I kept telling myself that until the pins and needles sensation I got in my left hand after 15 miles of riding became too much of a hassle. In late September, I finally broke down and bought a pair of Pearl Izumis and a funny thing happened on our employee Century Ride – NOTHING – no numbness, no tingling, no slipping on the handle bars with my sweaty bare hands. Could I have done the 100 mile ride without them? Probably, but it was nice not to have to shake my left hand like a Polaroid picture every half hour or so to get the feeling back.
As if to validate everything I’ve said in this post, check out this tweet from @Healthy_Chicks:
Having the right gear makes every outdoor activity more enjoyable. The trick is to not get so obsessed with being ready for anything that you lose sight of the fact that the most important thing is to get out there and have fun as often as you can. As Amy from our Waterford store learned last week, if you don’t have exactly what you need, or the conditions are too much, you can always turn back. You just have to get going first…with a sweet new road bike...and a new Giro helmet…and a new pair of Smith Sprints, those look cool…