A Gear's Life: A story of realistic expectations and maintaining your stuff

Posted by Kirsten on 2022 Dec 19th

A Gear's Life: A story of realistic expectations and maintaining your stuff

As exciting as shiny new gear is - gear with a story carries significantly more pride.

Just like scratched up hardwood floors that tell the story of excited family pets running to greet you or mini stick games in the living room, outdoor gear shines by sharing its past adventures with each blemish. With that, let me share the story of the unassuming tent.

Years ago, long before I worked for an outdoor retail store, I decided it might be time to invest in a decent tent. My $40 tent didn’t stand a chance against my dog’s paws and no amount of duct tape could salvage it. I timidly walked into a local outdoor gear store and made my way to the wall of tents. I recall staring in utter confusion until a kind associate picked up on my cluelessness and came to my rescue. They asked all the right questions which eventually lead them to recommending a tent that was *gasp* more than I budgeted for. In fact, all of the tents that matched my needs were more than I budgeted for. I hummed and hawed but ultimately decided to make the investment as I had great camping dreams. I left the store with a lightweight, 2 person tent and something called a footprint. It was basically the gold standard for tents at the time. Or at least the silver standard.

The summer that followed that purchase exceeded my dreams. That tent became as much of an adventure buddy as my adventure human (and dog) companions. It saw the outskirts of the Rocky Mountains, the coastal vibes on Vancouver Island and the desert plains in Oregon. Heck, it even took its own personal journey across a dusty, cactus filled campground one windy day after I improperly pegged it.

Now, I grew up camping with my family. I had a vague understanding that you need to clean your tent and air it out after a trip - but I only did that when it was dire. ‘Dire’ meant it had downpoured the full 3 days and now the tent is muddy and damp. Fast forward a couple years when I began working for River & Trail. It didn’t take long before I realized I had not been treating my trusty tent as well as it had been treating me. In fact, I would say I was straight up disrespecting it. Not only was I not cleaning it properly, I hadn’t been storing it properly.

That loyal tent which flew around a rocky campground and housed myself and my dog on backpacking trips deserves a medal for taking it all like a champ. I am lucky my intervention eventually came before my tent gave up on me. All of this to say, high quality outdoor gear is built to last. It is tested rigorously as companies know the elements it needs to face. In the same breath, it is on us to do our part to maintain it.

Take Care of Your Gear

Stuff will last as long as you take care of it - but unless you are keeping it in a temperature protected vault of some kind, everything will wear down eventually. Regardless of how delicate or aggressive you treat your gear. Taking care of your gear will save you money and help the environment at the same time by keeping it out of the landfill. Learning how to properly clean and store your stuff is an essential skill for any level of outdoor enthusiast. Taryn wrote this handy-dandy resource a few years ago all about how to maintain and repair your gear. Make sure to check that out!

At the end of the day, the most sustainable thing we can all do is use what we already have, for as long as we can. Obviously, we aren’t talking about manufacturing defects. In the event of something breaking down far too soon, that’s when warranties come into the picture.

When Warranties are Needed

A 1 or 2 year warranty is standard among many brands, particularly with footwear. Many outdoor gear companies have lifetime warranties on their gear. Something to note though is “lifetime” doesn’t necessarily mean your lifetime but rather the predicted lifetime of the gear itself. The reality is many brands have decided to reduce their warranties after people taking advantage and demanding replacements regardless of the situation. Either way, the current warranties offered are still pretty nifty.

Companies like Patagonia and Osprey do an excellent job of helping gear stay on task by offering repair programs whenever possible - and full replacement if they deem it appropriate. We cover Osprey’s ‘All Mighty Guarantee’ in their brand feature here. The majority of brands we carry have lifetime or limited warranties. Each brand is unique in what they cover and the process to claim one. If you have any issues with gear purchased from us, let us know and we can guide you towards the next step.

So, what do we do when the gear goes kaput?

Let’s circle back to the unassuming tent and what may have come to it. With my original knowledge, that tent may have torn or began falling apart by now. Admittedly, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it other than save up some dollars to buy a new one and send that to the landfill. This is a common story that stretches far beyond the outdoor industry. We can all do our part to change that story! Educating ourselves in maintenance and repair - or finding a local professional - is a great foundation. Additionally, when the gear finally has nothing left to give (or is unsafe to use) - consider repurposing it.

At a company level, Eno Hammocks have some videos on their social media pages about how their hammocks have been repurposed into shorts, bags and more. Patagonia Wornwear takes worn down clothing to create new pieces and the Del Dia collection from Cotopaxi is entirely made from repurposed scraps.

As individuals, we can get creative with it! Before you toss your gear (or clothes), give them another look.

Is there any material that can be utilized in another way? Is it in good enough condition to be donated? An old sock can become a Christmas tree ornament. A worn down rain shell can patch up a ripped backpack. Or… an old canoe and old climbing rope can become a lighting fixture in a local outdoor store.