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Enjoying nature is more expensive than I thought.


I've been making several trips to various sporting goods stores recently.

I haven't been buying anything though. I always chicken out at the last minute wondering why I even need any of it. I mean, our ancestors tread through much harsher conditions with much less sophisticated stuff.

* * *

Let me first give a little background - just to say that I will be taking a two month course this summer for outdoor guide type folks. The list of required gear is a mile long and I can't believe I really need all of it.

I mean, I went the whole year in Sweden with a spring-fall sleeping bag and no mattress pad. When sleeping in my tent, on a deserted island after breaking my way through the ice, I would simply sleep on my side to lessen the contact area and prevent the frozen earth from sucking the life-heat out of me.

The whole year, be it kayaking, biking, cross-country skiing, or just walking in the frozen wastelands of the north in the middle of the winter, I used the same combination of one synthetic t-shirt, one synthetic long-sleeve shirt, a fleece of unknown weight, and a $10 Michigan University wind-breaker.

I had a pair of $1 fleece work-gloves (confession: I did buy some cheap gloves made out of wet-suit material so I could Kayak in the cold.)

Probably the most high-tech of gear I had was a few pairs of really comfortable socks given to me by a sporting-goods-importing friend a few years ago (valued at $15 / pair). When it was a really cold night I wore two pairs.

Sure there were times that I thought "wouldn't it be nice if I had..." but the fact that I was still alive led me to believe I didn't need it.

* * *

So, a few weeks ago I got the list of stuff I need. It was just before our bike trip, so I ran out to buy anything that would be useful on the trip as well. Unfortunately, the only thing I felt it would be worth to carry along is perhaps a gore-tex style rain gear pants and jacket set.

I paid $100 for a Japanese brand while the "cool" American brands were $250 or more. In the end, I guess I should have just gotten a pair of rubber fisherman's pants and a rubber jacket which would have run me about $30. But I, like most of us, am a sucker for fashion.

I used the rain gear on the second day of our trip in which we were awaken in the morning by thunder and pouring. We rode over the mountain pass in the rain, and I was "happy" that I had the rain gear, but I also remember one of our early trips a few years ago where we rode from Tokyo to Nagoya. Then I had no rain-gear and it rained even harder. I was wet, yes. But I had a dry towel in my bag, and that is all I really needed. (it was much lighter too).

* * *

There was a point in our trip to Nagano this month that we looked at our increasing load of bags in dismay. I remember how on that first trip we each had a single back-pack. This time I had two saddle-bags and a backpack. Likewise, Tomoe also has a saddle-bag and increasingly bulging backpack - and a fanny-pack. (I carry the tent, dishes, and first-aid kit which is why I have more bags)

If we survived that first trip without most of what we brought this time, what did we need it for?>

* * *

Getting back to my shopping list, I have found myself frozen, unable to justify purchasing new gear. The money - the environmental damage. Is it really worth it?

Disclosure: I did order a new bike light online which I can't wait to get (my previous one was stolen out of a pocket on my bag on the last day of our Nagano bike adventure.) This new light is hand-crank powered. One minute of cranking lasts 3 hours.

The hand-crank light is also going to have to double for the head-lamp that is on the shopping list. Yes, my favorite head-lamp, the one that made me famous in the small-town of Karlskrona, Sweden, as "that guy who walks around at night reading a book with a head-lamp", was stolen along with the bike light.

I looked for a solar or hand-crank powered head-lamp as well, but was not able to find one, so I am just going to have to affix my new bike light to a head-band.

* * *

So what else is on "The List"?

3+ pr Liner Socks (Thin polypropylene) Why 3 pairs? And do I really need polypropylene socks? I realize it is more comfortable than wearing wet socks, and may reduce the fungus. But is that worth it? Maybe I will compromise and get 1.5 pairs - when I wear the .5 pair, I will alternate feet.
4+ pr. Outer Socks Medium to heavy weight socks I guess I already have this, but I have never needed anything more. Again I wonder about the special polypropylene socks.
2+ pr Lightweight hiking socks Cotton is okay. Hmmmm.. My lightweight socks are the same weight as my heavy-weight socks. If they can keep me warm in Sweden all night after a miss-step into the icy Baltic...
4+ pr. Underwear Quick drying fabric is best, cotton is okay. I have never owned more than three pairs of underwear at one time in my life. If I can wear the same underwear for three days in a row to the office, why can't I do that when I am "roughing it" in the forest? - Just kidding, and checking to see if anyone really read this far.
2 sets Long underwear, top & bottom Mid-weight: Capilene/silk/polypro Hmmm... I have one pair of spandexy type long running pants that tend to keep me warm enough in any situation I have faced so far. I wonder why I would need two pairs - and tops at that. Especially when I have to bring all kinds of fleeces and what not as well.
1 set Rain gear I guess they assume that I am afraid of getting wet.
1 pr. Fleece pants 200 weight polar fleece or wool Even if I have the long underwear?
2 pr Shorts Quick drying (no cotton) Why 2 pair. I have one pair and I am not worried if anyone notices that I wear the same thing twice.
2 Swimsuit or jog bra and shorts Quick drying (no cotton) My shorts are my swimsuit.
2+ Short sleeve shirt Cotton is okay and dark colors work best. No problem
2+ Short sleeve shirts Synthetics are best. Hmmm. I have one.
1 Long sleeve shirt 100 weight Fleece or Medium-weight wool sweater Or maybe I can just wear both of my long-john tops...
2+ Long sleeve shirt For sun protection, cotton is okay. No problem.
1 Jacket 200 or 300 weight pile / fleece (no leather or cotton) I just bought a rain-gear set that has a jacket. Am I only allowed to wear it when it is raining?
1 Warm ski hat/Watch Cap Synthetic or wool fibers- no cotton blends No problem.
2 Sun hats One broad-brimmed hat with tie and on baseball hat or visor. Why 2? Is it in case I loose one? Or is it a fashion thing? How about if I tie it to my collar?
2 Bandanas For washcloth and sun protection, Kleenex, etc. - you can purchase at www.outwardboundwilderness.org/gear No problem. I can make a bandana of a pair of old underwear (whity-tighties)
1 pr. Gloves or mittens Synthetic fibers-no cotton blends I have a pair of leather ski-mittens I love (it was before I knew where leather came from). The only problem is they weigh a pound each. What to do...
1 pr. Non-padded paddling gloves Bicycle, water skiing, sailing or cotton work gloves Now, my kayak gloves are very different from bike-gloves. And bike-gloves are very different than working gloves. I am a little confused.
1 set. Cut-able clothing For first aid simulations $1 at the local thrift-shop. Not a problem.
1-2 sets Street Clothes For classroom settings and for trip home. Footwear: Gotta take this anyway or the others at the Seattle-mini-reunion for "Masters of Strategic Leadership for Sustainability Masters Program" won't let me join.
1pr. "Wet" running / tennis shoes For boating, swimming, wading I have this.
1pr. "Dry" running / tennis shoes Sandals For land activities and for use in camp I do NOT have two pairs of running shoes! What are they thinking? Why would anyone have two pairs of running shoes unless they are hard-core runners?
1pr. Teva/Chaco type sandals Must have ankle buckle/fastener Oooooo. I have wanted these for a long time. Unfortunately, when I was in Malaysia last year I picked up a pair of extremely well-made and long-lasting flip-flops for $3. I have worn them all summer, winter, and spring since then. Getting a pair of Teva sandals may be good for the trip, but afterwards they will sit on a shelf collecting dust since they are not as convenient as the flip-flops. Maybe my one pair of tennis shoes will be OK.
1pr Medium Weight Backpacking Boots Please see attached boot sheet. I have a pair of hiking boots which I have been using for years. I just hope they are "up to spec".
1 Sunglasses with keeper strap Polarized lenses can help you see through the water’s surface reflection to observe marine life. Keeper strap should float I guess that makes sense. I don't have sunglasses now because I usually only wear my glasses, but I will probably be wearing contacts for some of the more "adventurous" portions of this trip.
1 Prescription eye-wear (if applicable) Contacts ok w/glasses as backup - bring extra glasses and hard cases The best suggestion in the list. the most haunting movie scene in my life is in Lord of the Flies when the chubby kid gets his glasses taken and smashed. I would die.
1 Simple pocket knife With can opener (no sheath knives) I am not going to pay for a new knife just because mine does not have a can-opener. I have opened cans with the "blade" part many times.
1 Headlamp A light worn on your head to keep your hands free. LED is best. I can't wait to make this out of my hand-crank bike-light.
2 sets Batteries for Headlamp No batteries needed here unless my arms break - and if that happens I can't change the batteries anyway.
1 Waterproof sunscreen SPF 30 or greater, unscented Of course.
Notebook & Pens 8”X5” notebook/steno pad, 2 pens and stamped envelopes. What's a "stamp"? I seem to remember it from my childhood...
1 Moisturizing lotion For dry feet & hands, unscented OK. I thought this was a hard-core trip. And besides, sexual activity with other course members is strictly prohibited (it's not a reality TV show). Why do I need smooth skin?
1 Toilet kit Toothbrush, small toothpaste, earplugs, comb or brush, small unscented biodegradable soap. Can bring small deodorant for class days. Otherwise makeup, hair products and deodorant, etc. are unnecessary. Because after spending a few weeks with the smelly Kevin in the mountains, they will be offended to smell me in class?
1 $75 For traveling money and to pay for lost or damaged school-issued course equipment. I really wish $75 was enough to cover traveling expenses!
1 Small towel Optional, synthetic towels dry quickly Finally, the one thing that means I don't need rain-gear, and they only say 1 "small" towel. I could by 50 small towels for the price of the rain-gear.
2 32 oz. Water Bottles I'm sure someone will let me drink out of theirs if I am showing signs of dehydration.


Perhaps it's a Japanese thing.

It always seemed that, when I encountered hobbyist photographers in Japan, they'd be decked out in photo vests, weighed down with some ridiculous amount of expensive photo gear. But, upon watching them work for a few minutes, you'd get the feeling they were a bit "lost". I suppose looking the part is more important than knowing what you're doing.

Meanwhile, I always carried the least amount of gear possible... and I was on a paying gig!

Then again, I see the same thing here in Colorado, where outdoor recreation is big business. The people I see spending the most money on backpacking gear don't strike me as the sort I'd actually meet in the backcountry.

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