Monthly Archives: August 2012

Scaling back for scaling up

I love the outdoors, but hate going on trips. I leave well-equipped only to return with the need for something new. Going on a trip is far more effective than going into a store or leafing through a catalog in terms of stimulating gear consumption. It’s so obvious how and why this happens. You’re carrying a heavy pack and someone pulls out a harness easily mistaken for a string bikini, a two-pound, two-person tent and a Titanium Jet-Boil. Suddenly, you and your pack feel fat.

This phenomenon is annoying to the frugal who steel themselves against temptations of object lust. I’ve shouldered the same Dana pack for nearly 20 years. But I have upgraded some equipment in a quest to shave weight. Years ago on a trip to Chamonix, I saw Colleen pull out a pair of flyweight crampons from her kit. The next day I high-tailed it chez Snell and bought a pair of those aluminum jobs despite the unfavorable Euro-dollar exchange rate. But my boots were still chubby, tipping the scale at nearly 5 lbs (4 lbs. 13 oz.). I had been grousing about them, and in a moment of weakness (some might say a moment of clarity) the other evening, I coughed up for those LaSportiva kicks, trimmed out in spaceman silver, promising to make me move like a gazelle. Suddenly, my bank account and I felt poor.

(It’s called the Law of Conservation of Problems in which the number of things to bitch about cannot be reduced or destroyed. Now that I can’t complain about the weight of my boots, I must whine about the price.)

In reality, the limiting factor to gear stockpiling is space rather than money. Our place is small. No basement. No attic. No garage. Meg and I have but one dog and one cat, yet somehow in the confines of our house we look like animal hoarders. So imagine if you will, the office in which I write this blog. The office doubles as a gear room with a cleverly re-engineered closet to store packs, boots, ropes, rack, tents, sleeping bags, ice axes, shovels, stoves, fuel and maps. Fly rods, ski poles and skis live upright in a corner next to a bookshelf. Bikes hang from the ceiling, helmets hang from the top tubes, and waders drape off hooks on the back of the door.

The gram wars among equipment manufacturers will continue, sure as the sun will rise in the east. And some gear will get better as well as lighter. And I’ll hold out for a while, at least until one of my mates opens her pack and pulls out a featherweight rope.

Colleen Hinton sporting an ultralight wig and carrying a travel-size cat, two of the ten essentials for a Pickets trip.