Sunday, October 29, 2006

Gear - "you get what you pay for"

I often see the phrase "you get what you pay for" in discussions of outdoor gear and it annoys me somewhat. It implies that the more you pay, the better the gear, ignoring the issues of suitability for the intended use, niche uses, and that you may be paying extra for things other than quality. For instance, if you buy the most expensive tent, you will probably be buying an expedition, 4 season tent. Very useful if that is what you need, but too heavy and with too little ventilation if your intended use is for mild weather short trips. Boots, jackets, and a number of other hiking items have similar issues, you need to know what you need or have good advice.

Another issue are the very light items for ultralight packing such as titanium cookware which are much more expensive than aluminum or stainless steel. Yes, the light items weigh less and are functional but aren't necessarily better or more functional than other materials. And some ultralight gear must be handled carefully or they will break or tear, not items for a beginner.

Also, sometimes what you are paying for are name brands, fashion, or store policies. For instance REI has a generous return policy and many brick and mortar stores, very nice if you need it, but it does add a bit to prices over an Internet only store with less overhead. And in many cases by buying last year's gear, you can get a considerable discount. The gear isn't less good, just a discontinued color or style, possibly better for your needs than the newer item.

Basically when buying gear, you need to know what you are paying for and what you need. If you don't, you may end up paying a lot more than needed for gear which is not suited for your intended use. Some stores will help you sort out your needs but going to a store and buying the 'best', the most expensive, isn't the way to go.



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