Thursday, January 26, 2017

Have the Right Gear

When I was In Malaysia ready to climb Mount Kinabalu I was prepared with my Northface shoes and  moisture wicking tshirt that I purchased from REI right before the trip. I noticed however that the porters who were able to sprint up and down the mountain used plain old leather shoes that seemed to be hand made locally with no grip on them and definitely no Gortex.

A similar incident happened during a trek to Machu Picchu. Most of the group that I was in had on all the trekking gear; Northface, Patagonia, etc. Waterproof this and that. Special hiking pants and trail running or hiking boots. But one of the guys, who I eventually became very close friends with, said that he didn't plan to do a trek in Peru before he came. All he had was his normal street clothes but he decided to tag along anyway. It was funny because he was a strong runner and in great shape so he barely broke a sweat along the entire route. Everyone else was in full hiking gear and struggling while he was in a plain sweatshirt and jeans. We joked that he looked like he was taking a regular stroll.

My point in these two events is that the gear means very little. We have to remember that activity specific clothing is highly marketing and in both cases it was unnecessary. In either case, looking back I could have tackled both mountains with regular walking or running shoes, a pair of gym shorts and any t-shirt (cotton or not). It really wouldn't have made much difference at all in terms of performance or comfort. Financially I would be better off because I wouldn't have had to purchase any extra gear. Especially trek specific clothing that I use less than 1% of the time. I could just use my 99+% use regular clothes. Now obviously you have to use your brain here, there are certain cases where it is just dangerous the be caught out with the wrong  gear or where specific gear is an absolute requirement. In many cases the product does add some level of improvement. But I think in a lot of cases someone is trying to sell you something and we confuse optional with necessity