Gearaholics Anonymous


REI sales are a terrible thing.

I consider myself highly resistant if not reasonably immune to rampant consumerism, however gear shops have a way of bending my resolve like nothing else, and like Backcountry Jesus I have accepted REI into my life so completely that it’s impossible to escape the Good Word of 20% Savings. Wherever I turn, from my mailbox to my email inbox, even the damn app on my phone, I’m bombarded with the need to get more stuff. On the street, gear shops and surplus stores beckon me with a relentless siren call. And I always, always waver.

Not because I actually need something; every closet and cupboard in my home is brimming with gear already. But because I might need something and I haven’t realized it yet. That climb up Hood I’ve been thinking about for years? I have no immediate plans to follow through on it, but I might, and right now there’s a sale on crampons. I should get them. I don’t know where I’ll put them, but I’m sure I’ll figure that out.

Every. Damn. Time.

In response to this particular problem, I’ve had to develop some of my own “steps” to ensure that the biggest mountains I face aren’t made of unused gear and debt.

Plan to shop, don’t shop to plan

Inspiration is all fine and good, but browsing at a gear store is like grocery shopping when you’re hungry: that diet is going out the window and that pad thai mix is probably going to sit in the cupboard forever. If I’ve got a trip planned soon, perfect, I can cover anything I might still need for it, maybe even a luxury item or two. No trips planned? Well that’s a problem on multiple levels, but no better time than now. I do however have to keep myself from planning a “sometime soon” trip around what’s on sale and stick to something I’ve already set in motion, which is where the next step comes in.

Wishlist first, sale list second

Most every shopping site these days offers a “wishlist” feature, and I use the hell out of them. I’ll make one for a specific trip or purpose, or I’ll simply use it in place of the shopping cart. This lets me dream shop all I want, but when it comes to pulling the trigger on something I don’t get to make that move until it’s on a planning list.

Give your gear the attention it deserves

Whatever you organizational situation, there are dark recesses of your gear storage that may not have seen the light of day for years. This is a disservice to both you and your gear, and not just because it’s taking up space. I make sure to pull out everything I have at least once a year and give it a once over. This lets me both make repairs and maintain it as well as take stock. If it’s been in there for a year or two and still hasn’t seen more than one use, it’s time to go. If I’m not using it anymore because it’s beat up or crusty, time to look at a replacement.

Talk to your sponsor (aka travelling/hiking/climbing buddy)

Few people know you better than the ones you’ve toiled and traveled with. They know your strengths and breaking points, and they know the hail marys you’ve pulled with one piece of gear or another. They also have their own entire gear closet. Be there for each other through times of sales, and you’ll both get through this. Just remember to ask them the most important question, “Would you get it?”

For garage sales, all bets are off

Limited time, unique stock, stupid deep discounts, and no returns: garage sales are both the best and worst thing ever for those of us with a gear problem. And honestly, you’re on your own here, because I have no recommendations for these other than get there early and may God have mercy on your wallet.


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