Monday, March 31, 2008
My annual dividend from REI was burning a hole in my pocket and there was also the offer of 20% off on any one item through 30 March to sweeten the deal. So I headed off to the Bloomington store on Saturday to help stimulate the economy. My Columbia convertible pants, purchased on Silk Road in Beijing for next to nothing, had finally fallen apart earlier in the winter making outdoor pants something I actually needed rather than just wanted. I was drawn to a pair of Mountain Hardware Navigation Pants, a "mid-weight soft shell hiking pant with 4 way stretch and articulated knees". And some cool zip out gaiters on the ankles I might add. Perfect for the tick season. I always hate to buy stuff with just one use however, so I asked the clerk if these pants, both moisture and wind resistant, would be good for skiing? "Oh no, these are for hiking. I'd recommend you look at the North Face Gore-tex blah, blah, blah designed specifically for skiing". So I bought the pants. And immediately wore them skiing the next day. Well, not immediately I guess. First I wore them to the Back to the Shack Party, hosted by TheLegend and TheGraciousPartier to celebrate a successful Vasaloppet and the semi official end of winter. I can honestly report that not only are they a fine telemark skiing pant with the built in boot gaiter, but they are also a superb beer drinking pant. Spilled lager beads up nicely on the water resistant surface if you should inadvertantly miss your mouth while raising your beer bottle.
More and more we are encouraged by the marketeers to purchase super specialized gear for various activities that we engage in. Something tells me this might be a need on the part of outdoor gear manufacturers to sell more gear rather than our need for this 'specialized' equipment. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I invested in a kayak helmet to protect my favorite organ from damage during surfing practice. I wore this 'kayak' helmet skiing in Colorado over Easter. I thought it functioned perfectly well as a ski helmet, much as my Mountain Hardware specialized hiking pants functioned perfectly as skiing and beer drinking pants. I did get one comment on the chair lift from an observant gear head but otherwise my multiuse ploy worked fine. It must have been that "Ski Loveland" sticker I slapped on the back to throw people off.
The most transparent ploy to sell more product is the specialized sock market. The first decision when purchasing from a major wool sock manufacturer is whether you want 'performance' socks or 'lifestyle' socks. Then the choice becomes a dizzying array of hiking, light hiking, running, biking, walking, hunting, skiing, snowboarding, and yes, even fishing socks. If you pulled all of these socks out of the dryer at once it would be impossible to tell them apart. You would be even more hard pressed to differentiate when they are actually on your feet. I'm going to come clean, much like Eliot Spitzer, and confess that I've been completely unfaithful to any one sock genre'. I've hunted in skiing socks, walked in cycling socks, kayaked in running socks, and (sob!) even skied in snowboarding socks! Does that make me a bad person? It might make me a cynical person, a person disdainful of our 'marketing professionals', or even a cheap ass person but I don't think it alters my karma or place in the universe. If you feel the need to invest in gear thats marketed specifically for your focused, specific sport go nuts! Just remember that you're reading a post from a guy who thinks that a Filson duck hunting cap is the perfect headgear for almost every occasion and that a little duct tape can add ambiance and accessorize almost any garment. And did I mention that duck decoy gloves work well for paddling? It would be wonderful to hear some other gear multitasking success stories too.