“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” -Henry David Thoreau

Over the years, I have come to realize just how much truth there is in those words from Thoreau. However, as much as I love going on an outdoor adventure, I must admit that I love the preparation almost equally.

Planning the logistics of a hiking, fishing or hunting trip is fun for me, as it allows for more time to think about the upcoming emprise, imagining the possibilities. It also often requires the purchase of new equipment.

Well, “requires” may be a bit strong. Often, acquiring new equipment, the latest and greatest, is more of a want than a need, as in, “I really don’t need ‘product X’ for this section hike, but I really want it.”

These days, we are programmed to be consumers by an endless bombardment of advertising, advertising that is now tailored according to our various likes on social media.

I was recently reminded of this while laughing my way through Nick Offerman’s latest book, “Where the Deer and the Antelope Play.” My daughter, Tate, gave me the novel for Christmas, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. It’s divided into three parts, each heavily influenced by the writings and teachings of Wendell Berry, and along with laughing (as Offerman is certainly funny), I found myself both nodding along on many points as well as doing a bit of self-examination.

In Part 1, Offerman finds himself in the outdoor equipment retailer REI preparing for an upcoming hike with friends, and here he points out the trap into which we often fall as consumers: “the artificial deficit.” It’s a thought process that says, “I can’t go have fun doing [x activity] because I don’t have the proper gear.”

Sadly, I, too, have fallen victim over the years to this way of thinking. In some cases, the logic is justified. For instance, I’ve written before about the importance of having the right hiking boots for backpacking. However, there are other items I’ve accumulated over the years that certainly fall into the “want” column rather than the “need” column.

This reality usually becomes clear at some point during the hiking, hunting or fishing trip. In Offerman’s words, “I’ve never to my knowledge finished the ups and downs of an arduous, daylong hike, arriving back at camp only to lament, ‘Man, that was so fun, but think how much better it could have been if only my middle under-layer was self-wicking!’”

So, what am I saying? Simply this: Don’t let the need (or want) for the “latest and greatest” prevent you from making your outdoor adventures happen this year, because at the end of the day, it will be the hike or hunt that you remember, not the gear.

With that said, I would like to offer a bit of advice, gleaned from personal experience over the years as it relates to equipping your outdoor exploits. I’ll call it “quality equipment versus landfill fodder.”

Do your research and purchase the best equipment that your budget allows. I have rarely, if ever, been let down by this approach. As my wife can attest, I do my due diligence when it comes to researching an item before I make a purchase, and that approach has paid off over the years.

To be clear, equipment failure can happen with any product; however, it is much more likely to happen with shoddy equipment, and I have not found the backcountry to be a forgiving place.

On that note, using your equipment in the outdoors causes wear and tear, so maintenance is a must. Furthermore, properly maintaining your gear will extend its life. The first training I received from my dad after learning how to safely operate a firearm was how to properly clean and care for it.

I still have both my first shotgun and first rifle, and although they do show the normal signs of use (as any tool does over time), they perform just as well as they did the first time that I used them in the field. The same principles apply to hiking boots, tents and fly rods and reels — take care of your equipment, and it will take care of you. Neglect it, and you can expect to pay the price.

Recently, I was reminded of this fact while participating in a chapter hunt with the Mississippi Christian Bowhunters at the Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge. A majority of the young men in attendance were either current or former members of the Blue Mountain College Archery Team.

As such, most were using the latest and greatest in terms of bowhunting equipment. I, on the other hand, was using a 20-year-old (but well-maintained) Mathews Legacy compound bow and an older model Summit climbing treestand (also well maintained).

Both the bow and the stand worked just fine, and although they weren’t new, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the woods as well as the fellowship with old and new friends back in camp.

Ultimately, it’s the experience that matters most. Therefore, don’t let your list of “wants” prevent your “need” to get outside in 2022, and until next time, I look forward to seeing you out there in our great outdoors.

Email outdoors columnist Brad Dye at braddye@comcast.net.

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