A Gear Affair

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Stories of travel usually involve some element of love. Traveling and adventure bring out our purest primal emotions, especially connection. The solo female traveler met a local who appreciated her like no-one else ever has. The adventurous couple reconnected on a mountaintop after a few years of middle-aged mediocracy. Seeing the sunset before her, the widow realized she was capable of feeling love again even if only for the natural environment. For me, it’s different. There’s always love, but not the kind you would initially think. It’s not sunsets, or beaches. It’s not even self-love. It’s gear love.

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There were times before I invested in good gear. Times when I found myself halfway up an active volcano, climbing with four points of contact in the dark at 4am, cursing my dimming flashlight provided by the tour company, and wondering what my parents would possibly think if this is how I died. "She was found wearing capri sweatpants, running sneakers, a hoodless sweatshirt, and carrying a shoulder bag that contained a camera, 291980 Indonesian Rupiah ($20USD), and a granola bar..." My Pop would be livid. Growing up backpacking through Pennsylvania, his daughter couldn’t possibly be found dead (or alive for that matter) without a headlamp and her Swiss army knife.

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I survived that Balinese adventure, but I froze my butt off until the sun came up. After backpacking through Southeast Asia, I quickly realized the adventures I was after required gear, not just stuff, in order to come out smiling on the other side. Young and broke, I remember actively saving up for my first $100 rain jacket. Last year when I updated it, the insides were yellowing and flaking apart and it was no longer water resistant, but by that time I was able to afford the newer revamped $150 version. Knowing that single jacket would save me from years of rain, snow, and sleet, or more importantly buckets of water during the Thai New Year celebration made each dollar worth the prize. 

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Before I even had the ability to save money for adventure gear, I borrowed my friends’, rented from local shops like TB&C, added items to my Christmas list, and asked my siblings for their hand-me-downs. My sister’s Merino Smartwool base layer has kept me warm for years now. I almost updated it this past winter, but it felt impossible to say goodbye to a garment that kept me company at 15,000 ft above sea level and still didn’t have a hole to show for it and that's the thing about quality gear, it lasts longer, goes on more adventures with me, and my attachment only grows stronger. I have obsessively researched the pieces of equipment and gear I own now knowing that this isn’t just a financial investment, but an emotional one. What items are going to keep me warm, dry, and safe when I’m battling new environments or unkind weather? What gear will I carry up and across mountain ranges without cursing for being so heavy?

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Like all love, even a gear affair can blind you. A couple years ago, I was hiking through Nepal and even though every single guidebook said a tent was unnecessary, there I was trekking in Nepal with my new tent. There was no way I was leaving it at the guesthouse, I felt I had to take it, that it would come in handy. It didn’t. I carried that thing for two weeks and pitched it only twice, and not because it was necessary, but because I wanted to justify bringing it. I looked like a fool carrying it and even though it was under $200, there was no way I was leaving it behind, it felt like a part of me and that’s what I didn’t realize back in Bali when I was hacking it in sneakers and a cotton long sleeve. I didn’t understand the compassionate relationship you form with the gear that keeps you safe and happy, the equipment that supports you when you are adventuring or facing this big wild world.

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Sarah Schu 6 Comments