It is pretty easy to see a cool piece of hiking gear and make an impulse buy. But what would a more systematic and disciplined approach look like? Following is an idealized process with a natural, but not rigid order. Which recommendations make the most sense to you?
1. Develop your own gear purchasing criteria. For example, my criteria are to obtain high quality gear for a reasonable price, gear that provides either a significant weight savings or an increased safety margin over my current kit.
2. Develop a prioritized wish list of new gear (brands, models, weight, costs, store) that fit the criteria established in step one above. The list should be fluid, continuously adding and subtracting items and raising and lowering priorities.
3. Research the market for the latest innovations and the newest models of the gear items on your wish list; research your favorite gear stores or manufacturers for their latest products; especially consult recently published gear guides to get a comprehensive view of what is available.
4. Consult online gear finders/testers using them to narrow your search. Here are four examples to consult:
Backpacker Gear Finder
Outside Magazine Gear Finder
5. Wait for a while to purchase new models and innovative products. Wait for others to test and share their experiences. Wait for the manufacturers to work out the bugs. Wait for cheaper knockoffs or competing companies who are able to do it better. Wait for used gear to become available. Wait for sales on last year’s models. Wait to make sure you know exactly what you want. Don’t be impulsive. Wait! Wait!
6. While waiting, locate gear reviews on the items on your wish list; talk to knowledgeable individuals with expertise on the specific gear items.
7. Do a weight and cost analysis. Determine the cost per ounce of weight saved compared with current gear. Give higher priority to items that come out lower a cost-per-ounce measure.
8. Carefully examine the product descriptions to make sure the gear items really fit your needs. If possible, go to “brick and mortar” stores where you can get up close and personal with potential purchases.
9. Select stores with good return policies.
10. Check the price of an item at competing stores, including taxes and shipping/handling fees. Find free shipping offers and discount coupons.
11. Send your wish list to family and friends at key times: birthday, Father or Mother’s Day, Christmas.
Reader Participation: Obtaining Outdoor Gear
Consider copying the above recommendations to a word processor. Then add any steps I have missed in the above list that seem important. Next mark through those steps that make little sense to you. Finally, circle 4-6 steps that seem most important to follow when using a disciplined approach to purchasing outdoor gear.
Using a detailed and systematic approach to purchasing gear like the one suggested above might raise the question of gear addiction. If this is of concern, consider reviewing the website article “Are You a Gear Addict?”