Craig Wisner

No New Gear 2012

Staring at a computer screen sometime in the evening, browsing gear,  specifications, and shipping costs, I rub my sore neck and it occurs to me that I could’ve been working in the garden and now it’s too dark.  Bouncing back and forth between manufacturer sites and Google searches, I have completely wasted a couple hours and it begins to dawn on me that I have been running a fool’s errand, that I am shopping for “fun”, shopping for a trip that hasn’t even been planned, and obsessing over details that are utterly meaningless.

Read any internet forum and it becomes painfully apparent that we are likely in the height of the Age of Vicarious Living Through Gear, made possible on this scale by the internet and the plethora of shiny new offerings and site after site of reviews and teaser photos of a new toy in action.  Not that the gear obsession is entirely new; prior to the computer, I remember pouring through Climbing Magazine ads and Patagonia catalogues, reading specs, and absorbing the potential of new offerings…for a few hours, but then it ended.  It was hard to obsess over things, at least for very long, because there simply wasn’t enough information available.  Soon the magazine was dog eared and beaten, relegated to a pile somewhere, the gear forgotten about until next month’s issue.  Or I’d take a trip to the local outdoor shop, browse the racks and shelves, talk with the owner, and saunter out.  Nobody would want to be the person that stays in the shop comparing gear for 5 hours and nobody would do it multiple times a week.

Enter the computer, the great gear enabler, making it ever so easy to burn 5 hours a week shopping and searching from the anonymity and isolation of your home.  It is now entirely possible, common even, to launch into heroic campaigns of ruthless shoe comparison, sitting at 2AM and juxtaposing the weights of every minimalist trail runner currently made while your family soundly sleeps.  It’s tragic really, because now in one click of a mouse button your favorite wind shell that’s served you faithfully on the last twelve trips suddenly becomes mysteriously inadequate in the face of some fresh new fabric you just have to have.  Oh, how we all like to say it’s not about the gear…

No more!  I have everything I need, I will resist.

I propose a challenge, a personal experiment, perhaps an antidote to the gear-centric, consumer-driven outdoor world we can all become mired in:

No New Gear in 2012. 

No backpacking gear, cycling gear, fishing gear, climbing gear, etc.  No new gear.

What if something begins to fail?  Fix it. With the exception of a few items (running shoes, socks, running shorts/underwear, climbing rope, and a few bicycle wear and tear items, namely tires/brakes), I cannot foresee being able to wear anything out that cannot be fixed, borrowed, or simply replaced by another piece of gear I already own.

So here’s to the challenge, to a year of learning new things, to studying the names of plants and animals and rocks instead of the technical specifications of tents.  To a year of adventure, of buying food and gas and plane tickets instead of stuff, a  year of  doing it rather than thinking about it.  Here’s to starting 2013 with a tattered kit full of tears, duct tape patches, burns, grease stains, and amazing memories.


12 responses

  1. Pete


    Great post! As someone relatively new to backpacking and especially UL, I jumped in with full force and wallet. And now I feel dirty. I now have the essentials, but I definitely felt myself getting sucked into gear swap forums around the interwebs. As a former running shoe/track spike junkie, I know the siren song of gear.

    Thanks for reminding me to resist.

    January 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm

  2. Good post. Just found your blog. I think I will try this “no gear in 2012”, too. We definitely get some type of dopamine rush from buying things and research shows it is triggered at the moment we make the decision to buy, not when we pay or when we receive the goods. Like many people, the thing I need most is more free time to use the gear, which can’t be obtained so easily.

    January 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm

  3. Great post Craig! I’ll go along with your challenge of not buying new gear for the year of 2012 with the exception of socks and shoes. The rest of my gear is in good to great shape. I keep up with repairs as needed, if it’s something I can’t personally repair I send it to the manufacturer. We’re 3-days into the new year, only 362 to go. 🙂 good thing this isn’t 2013, leap year, I probably couldn’t get through the extra day.

    January 3, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    • hendrikm

      2012 is a leap year. February has 29 days now 😀

      January 4, 2012 at 5:53 am

    • Whoops, Hendrik reminded me that 2012 is Leap Year, I’m felling the pressure already! 🙂

      January 4, 2012 at 6:33 am

  4. Pingback: The Nessmuk Camping Gear Test

  5. David Lutz

    I can’t do it, it just against my nature.

    But I think it’s an awesome idea and I look forward to seeing how you fare.


    January 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm

  6. Hendrik

    Great idea dude. I wish you to stay strong and have some lovely trips 🙂


    January 9, 2012 at 3:48 am

  7. Ironked

    Yeah, we salivate too much and spend too much thinking the next purchase will complete us. Meanwhile, working our butts off to pay for it or, like you said, spending all night on the ‘net playing mental ping pong with our obsessions instead of making time to get out.

    January 9, 2012 at 6:02 am

  8. Good luck. Suffer same affliction — won’t make same commitment, but will push to get out more….

    January 15, 2012 at 9:24 am

  9. Have I blown it already, not even one month into it?

    I’m currently purging some gear I don’t want anymore; selling a shelter, selling some shoes, donating other stuff to some students I have…

    ….and trying to sell or trade a jacket I have for a different one.

    Now, I’m really only getting rid of one used jacket I didn’t like so much to replace it with another used jacket I like much better…so…

    …or is this beginning to sound like the old religious sham of being granted a temporary marriage to a prostitute, having your fun, and then having the marriage annulled to *technically* avoid sex out of wedlock?

    Am I hopeless?

    January 23, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    • Craig put the gear down and slowly walk away…you’re experiencing withdrawals, it will pass. I’m finding long walks help.

      January 23, 2012 at 4:59 pm

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