“Gear reviews” make the bread and butter of older-style websites like this one, YouTube and TikTok videos, and other forms of social media.
If you want to the likes and influencer juice, do gear reviews.
However. I do not write many specific gear reviews overall for various reasons.
- Mainly because it bores me, I’ll discuss a piece of gear I’ve used for a while, but to discuss the umpteenth version of another 65 +/- liter pack that I tested for one weekend? No, thanks. I am not a gear minutiae person, and I think a review needs more than a weekend of light use. I do not want to churn out reviews with my timebank funds.
- When I go out on trips, I want to use gear that works. Because timebank funds end up as precious commodities, I don’t want to tinker with equipment that may or may not work. Not that I’m opposed to trying out new gear or clothing. However, doing it for every trip for the sake of reviewing gear means I am doing fewer of the things I like (trip planning, roaming about, spending timeout side, occasional opinionated writing) and doing more of the things I don’t like (researching fabric types, tinkering with gear systems, writing about specific gear).
- When I do test gear, it is usually a replacement for existing equipment that wore out, or I am curious to try new techniques to increase my toolkit. I enjoy trying out new things from time to time but for a reason. I reviewed the Montbell Versalite that I loved once I needed a new rain jacket, tried out sun hoodies that did not work for my hiking style, found an old-school style pocket knife made with new materials, and used a Nitecore Nu25 when I needed an additional headlamp. Now I’ll probably use it for years to come.
This point brings up the topic of this article – gear “Whaddabouda?” -ism
What is, well, what is gear “Whaddabouda” ism?
The statement of seeing a piece of gear that works well for a particular task or need but then saying, “Whaddabouda if you need to do this as well?!?!?!”
In the case of the Nitecore article, a commenter stated:
The Nitecore does the job in the tent but I wouldn’t want to rely on it for all night walking.
That’s why I bought this light, all-purpose headlamp.
I needed something light, reasonably bright, and enough battery for general camp chores over roughly a week of hiking. In an emergency use, you make do. Otherwise, you take 50 lbs of lightweight gear.
Despite the myth, “Be Prepared” did not mean equipment initially; it means in body with physical health and in mind with skills and knowledge.
And those skills mean knowing what to bring for the conditions, trip goals, and possible contingencies.
As with many people in my family, be it now or in the past, I believe in the right tool for the job. I don’t bang in a screw with a framing hammer, and I don’t think framing nails go in very effectively with the backend of a screwdriver.
In the case of the headlamp, I wanted a tool for reasons stated earlier. If I want a headlamp to theoretically use all night for ultra runs or SAR use, something like the Petzl NAO would work much better and is suggested for these uses by many people. (Use your search engine of choice.)
But the $200 price tag, the weight, and the fact that it uses batteries would not work for my needs. If I ran all night over technical terrain or had to perform SAR work in all kinds of conditions? You bet I’d use this one with lithium batteries!
At the opposite end of the spectrum, I have a budget headlamp in the truck for emergency use and car camping. It’s a Petzl Tikka clone I’ve used for years now, never fails me, and you can pick up many of this type for less than $20.
Would I want to use it for my backpacking? Probably not. But as an all-purpose headlamp in the vehicle, it works very well.
Speaking of trucks, Joan and I have a Tacoma. It does not tow much, nor is the payload particularly generous compared to an F150 or Tundra. I am not a contractor, nor are we towing an RV or boat.
We load up the truck with outdoor gear almost weekly, drive up some tight and rough roads somewhere in Utah and spend time in the backcountry. A larger truck would not work well for our needs.
I’ve had people tell me my Swiss Army Knife Classic won’t baton wood (Why would I???) or skin an animal very well (Ditto!) and so on.
Not to say I need specific gear for every need.
My ULA Circuit is as close to a “do everything” pack I have in my collection and arguably the one I use the most in recent years. But when I need to load up ski gear, go packrafting with cold-weather equipment, or even haul extra gear/water for people, I reach for my ULA Catalyst because I think it’s far more manageable with this tool vs. my other one.
Granted, Joan and I have the luxury of devoting much of our spare time and discretionary income to the outdoors, so we do have many tools for different outdoor activities.
Even so, back when I started my outdoor activities, I knew one tent, pack, and or even limited clothing choices would not do it all. See above about the family background. 🙂
When researching gear, think less of Whaddabouda contingencies. And more about what you need for your activity of choice and goals. Otherwise, you might end up with a $200 headlamp just to look around your camp at night.