You have a passion for gear, but not just for the sake of having stuff. You appreciate how good gear makes your favourite outdoor activities more enjoyable and even safer. You appreciate all the R&D that has gone into the best designs and understand how you benefit from technological advancements that have made gear lighter, stronger, and warmer. Knowing that the right gear can make a difference, you do much research before making a major purchase decision and sometimes fuss over minutiae that others don’t even think about. You suspect that this might set you apart from your friends, and some of them have even described your interest in gear as an obsession, as if it might somehow be unhealthy or abnormal. This may leave you feeling misunderstood and alienated – as if you’re different, almost an outcast. But you’re not alone. There’s a whole tribe of like-minded gearheads out there. And in case you don’t already know it, it’s very likely that you’re a gearhead too. If you’re not sure, just look for the following 12 signs.
1. Over-built phone case
Your phone case is designed to withstand being driven over, dropped off the top of a mountain, or blown up. You like how the sturdy ruggedness says “This guy knows gear and his phone can safely accompany him to the ends of the earth if that’s where he’s going.” In fact, this phone case is so rugged that both Bear Grylls and Chuck Norris will endorse it.
2. You have a gear room
At the very least, you have a gear rack or cupboard, and if you have several hobbies and a LOT of gear, you probably have a whole room for it. In fact, when you were still looking around for a place to live, you looked for an apartment or house with an extra room. You may not use it as an office (the reason you gave your significant other), but this is where you do your real work.
3. You camp outside the store the night before a big sale
You’re prepared to queue overnight for a good deal, but you do it in style. You rock up the evening before a big sale fully kitted out. Pavement camping has to be taken as seriously as any backcountry adventure when so much is at stake. While you sit back (of course you have the world's most comfortable and tricked-out camp chair) and sip on your beer, you go over your strategy for getting to the most in-demand product first, knowing that the first few minutes will be crucial.
4. Gear tattoos
Some people get tattoos with the names of their children or significant others. Not you. The skin covering those sculpted calves, biceps and shoulders are reserved for your favourite gear and outdoor brands. Your spouse might leave you, and your children will probably drain your bank account. But a lifetime warranty is for ever.
5. You know about the release of a new product before the store employees do
When you go into a store asking if they have the new whatsit, the store assistant gets confused and says he doesn’t think the brand makes the new whatsit. You correct him, and show him an article on outdoorgearnews.com (making sure that he also notices your shock-and-waterproof phone case). It’s dated that morning, but you’re very disappointed that he hasn’t heard of the product or stocked it yet.
6. You often find yourself justifying new purchases
If others won’t accept the logic that you actually save money by buying gear on sale, you can justify your purchase decisions in other ways. You have no trouble explaining why a new pair of rock shoes are an investment, even though they start depreciating the instant you swipe your credit card, or why you absolutely have to have a pair of TC Pros for your next Indian Creek trip, when two of your five other pairs of climbing shoes are specifically for cracks.
7. You educate the gear shop assistants on the products they stock
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. When a shop assistant tells you that tent X is the lightest freestanding tent out there, you correct them by pointing out that the most recent edition of tent Y is actually a full two ounces lighter than tent X and that the store does stock it. It’s not on the shelves yet, but you know they received their first shipment just yesterday.
8. Bumper stickers
No stick figure family on the rear window of this guy or girl’s car. Like visible skin, this space is reserved for your favourite brands’ logos and other symbols or an active and outdoorsy lifestyle. You tell yourself that this level of personalisation makes your vehicle a very unlikely target for a thief. From the rear, the car is easily identifiable, and people who know you can spot your car in traffic or a car park from a mile away.
9. You have a email folder labeled ‘Gear Specials’
You receive newsletters and promotional emails from almost every major outdoor store (and some minor ones). If you have time, you open these straight away and scan them for gear that’s on your wishlist. If you’re busy, you put them into a ‘Gear Specials’ folder to go over later. Because some of your friends also appreciate a good deal, you sometimes forward these on to them if you see something they might want.
10. You can quote gear specs like a priest can recite Bible verses
A friend comments on another friend’s new bike, and when the owner describes the linkage, fork, and tires, you rattle off the rest of the spec list without pausing for thought. You know the brand and model of most of the components on your friends’ bikes. In fact, you know more about some of the bikes than their owners do.
11. You know the stories behind your favourite brands
If you’re a climber, you know that the founders of Patagonia made climbing hardware long before they got into outdoor clothing and that Black Diamond’s alpine tents were the creation of Todd Bibler. And if you’re into mountain biking, you know that Gary Fisher was the first of a bunch of backyard garage mechanics to produce the first commercially available mountain bike.
12. You have kitchenware made by outdoor companies
You could equip your kitchen with kitchenware made by Fiestaware or Lodge. But why settle when you could flip pancakes with a Honnold signature spatula or tend to the BBQ with tongs from Park Tools. I mean, they look like cone spanners. How could you not?
Use your purchase power for greater good
If you can relate to the above, you probably spend a significant amount of your disposable income (or line of credit) on gear. That purchase power is a wonderful thing, but with it comes great responsibility. As consumers, we decide who we support with our wallets, and with a little due diligence, we can identify and reward those brands that act as agents for positive change. If you appreciate wild spaces and want to get behind outdoor companies that are doing their bit for the environment, you too can support them with your purchases.