Rob's Blog Archive

April 14, 2013

The Difference Between Things and Gear










At this time, the total number of suits I have owned during my adulthood is two.  Both still hang in my closet---the one I got during graduate school no longer fits, but that’s not by a lot.  If I lose as much weight as I’d like, and I’m almost 2/3 of the way there now, it will again.  No matter, the one I got for my nephew’s bar mitzvah eight years ago does fit.  Being plain gray wool, I expect it will get me through the things I need a suit for for many years.

The cell phone I own, also number two in my life, is a plain razor.  Given that one of its key uses is to let me call friends if, on a dogsled run, I lose the team, and that this would likely involve me falling and/or being dragged for a bit, I’m thinking an I-phone might be a bit out of place. I am not planning on upgrading my cell phone soon. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all of my wardrobe is stagnant.  At this time, I have two active Gore-Tex parkas and three active parkas that aren’t waterproof.  All are five years old, or less.  

And don’t talk to me about gloves and mittens---I’ve never found anything close to perfection in these so I have a quiver full that always include a couple of pairs that constitute “this year’s experiment.”  

I also have gear that, while old, remains state of the art or close enough for government work.  My metal edged waxable double camber skis are really no different from what I would get now.  Rossingol Chamois’, they are circa 1986.  My climbing rack is based on Hexentric’s and these remain state of the art---what has changed is the cord used with them, something I have continued to upgrade.  My rock climbing shoes are from the mid-nineties and my mountaineering boots are from the late nineties.  The former haven’t changed radically and the latter not at all, at least if you still want a leather mountaineering boot. 

And my favorite dogsled is made from carbon fiber epoxy and its design is state of the art.  I remember taking it through the streets of Anchorage on the ceremonial run for the Iditaord and Janet Sweeney gently whispering in my ear that she had “sled envy.”  With good cause.

I own a lot of gear and very few things.  Gear has use.  Things are manifestations of social interaction.  Gear functions.  Things are fashion statements. 

All of which is not to say that I’ve been invulnerable to fashion my entire life.  On the climb of Monte Cristo Peak with my friends Albert and Kurt, I remember proclaiming that wearing a rolled up bandana as a sweatband was cool.  I had just moved back to Seattle from the Bay Area and that’s what we all did there.  I also remember leading through on a couple of light fifth class moves, summitting a beautiful peak, and having the best glissading down (skiing without skis) of my life.  I can even picture the walk back along the Sauk river to our car.  The funny thing is that I really can’t remember how well the bandana worked.  After something less than a year, I stopped using bandanas that way. 

Late summer 1992, I hiked up to Grand Teton’s lower saddle just as a major storm moved in.  Gusts of wind bent the aluminum poles of my Moss Olympic I tent so much that I was wondering if they would survive the night.  I moved the tent around and it did better, though strong gusts still had the aluminum poles bending more than I had ever seen before.  That tent ended up being my primary mountaineering tent from my last year in grad school, 1984, until I replaced it with a Sierra Designs Stretch Dome CD in 2000.  And while the Moss is no longer active, I still have it. 

I do think of gear like tried and true friends.  What I’m wondering is does anybody ever look at a shirt that’s in line with current fashion like a tried and true friend?  I’m thinking not so much.  But who am I to say---I’m just a crackpot living in Montana.    

Addendum: I do look at certain pieces of art as tried and true friends, just like my gear.

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