For several years I’ve been trying to live the gospel of ultralight backpacking, carrying as little as possible and getting big mileage in a literal sense as well as the figurative. Since so much of my post-college life has involved being willingly unemployed (i.e., being a through-hiker), I’ve been living in a world that most people think is insane. For the time being, though, I’m living in their world– the world of rent payments, car repairs, heating oil, nine-to-five, and paychecks that are never as big as I want them to be.
|A typical home when I was seasonally employed. It worked pretty well when I had no responsibilities.|
In those years since college, I’ve worked mostly seasonal jobs that pay little, but put me in places where I can live in and enjoy the outdoors. What little money I made would often go toward backpacking gear and saving up for the next big adventure. Now it seems I’m more “normal,” with my gear budget gone to my apartment and car, and my savings not growing anymore. I’ll blame some of it on the economy, but a lot of it just comes from making the switch from full-time to part-time hiking.
A month ago I made a decision that I would spend no money on new backpacking equipment or hiking clothing unless that money came from selling my old gear. I’ll stick to that resolution until next October, unless I have a really good reason to break it. (How’s that for vague?)
|My weekend-warrior hiker-mobile with my bat-signals so far. A little rusty and scratched and old, but it gets me to the trail.|
Most people would consider buying any high-tech backpacking gear to be a luxury, but the way I see it, every person has to entertain themselves somehow. I don’t own a television, I drive a car with over 200,000 miles on it, my clothes are worn out and old, and I eat out so infrequently that I can remember every restaurant meal I’ve had in the past four months. Instead of spending money on those kinds of things, I usually spend money on backpacking. And in the past year, my average spending on backpacking equipment has been less than $50 per month. That’s about as much as a cable bill, right?
Since I love arbitrary goals (like getting my pack base weight below 8 pounds, hiking every side trail to the Long Trail, or hiking the hundred highest peaks in New England), adding the “no new spending” goal is right up my alley. But I’ve got some more ideas, too.
When I put together gear lists for future hikes, I’ll try to point out how much mileage each piece of equipment has. Standouts that I can think of off the top of my head are my Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus (over 3500 miles), my Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 poles (over 3000 miles), my Montane Featherlite wind shirt (over 4000 miles), and my North Face Beeline sleeping bag (4700 miles). Lots of people make gear lists that show off how inexpensive their equipment is, but I’m more interested in how well the equipment holds up for the long haul, and how much I want to bring it on the next hike rather than getting something new.
I’m also trying to think of every piece of hiking gear and clothing that I don’t use often, and figuring I need to sell any of it that I don’t use every year. I’m one of those crazy people who thinks other people generally own too much stuff, and I don’t want to own too much stuff. Part of that comes from me not having much storage space, but let’s face it– if you own something just because you think “maybe I’ll use this someday,” you probably don’t need it. I’ve had good luck with getting rid of my old, unused things on ebay, and I imagine that if someone is going to spend money to buy a used thing from me, they probably want it more than me.
So it’s time for me to boost my budget for new gear by getting rid of the old. Here we go!