I am not sure when this happened. Part of the joy of hiking is that you don’t really have to buy anything as long as you have decent shoes, and a way to get to the mountains. Bring some water. Pack a sandwich. Maybe even a jacket in case it gets cold later. There isn’t a whole lot to it.
In the last two years, everything changed.
I realized there is a WHOLE NEW WORLD out there for the discerning gear shopper. $60 baseball caps, $160 pants made JUST FOR HIKING, ultra-light-weight toothpaste, and waterproof toilet paper. It was almost as much fun to shop for hiking gear as it was to actually hike.
When I spent over $20 on a pair of socks, I realized it was getting out of hand, and that my desire to be the it-girl of the mountains was expensive.
So… I decided to stop impulse shopping at REI, and that I should figure out what I really want/can use, and don’t already own. Not all the stuff I want, mind you, but stuff that would actually impact my hiking experience.
Sad as it is to admit, the only thing I actually need is a new pair of boots.
Yes. I have hiking boots. I have two and a half pairs of hiking boots. There are the really comfy trail-runners that are made of mesh and completely useless below 40 degrees (these are the counted as half a pair). There are the mid-weight hikers I bought when I first started hiking again and didn’t realize that Colorado may be kind of like a desert, but I will always end up walking in water, and waterproof boots are kind of necessary. And then there are the ones I end up using most: The Most Uncomfortable Boots in the World: the boots that make my feet curl in agony as soon as I look at them.
Other than the boots, I could survive in relative luxury in the woods for an extended period of time, provided I had, you know, food and stuff.
So anyway. On Mother’s Day, I took my mom to Eddie Bauer to go shopping. She likes all that out-doorsy stuff, and there was a pair of capris that she had been drooling over a few weeks back.
While she was trying them on, I browsed the store and thought, “See how good I’m being? I love that $50 button down, but I am not going to buy it. I love that dress (which is confusing because it is obviously not meant for hiking), and it’s only $80, but I am NOT going to buy it. I won’t even try it on.”
This lasted about 10 minutes.
Because then I saw it.
Alone on the rack, glowing florescent red among dull blacks and grays, it was shiny and it was underneath a sign that said “FIRST ASCENT 40% off”.
It was like love.
It was one of those things I WANTED, but could not quite convince myself to buy because the usefulness seemed limited. It was an ULTRA-LIGHT WEIGHT DOWN UNDERLAYER. And it was RED. And did I mention it was shiny?
Thinking the sign was a mistake, and not seeing any other down jackets around, I refused to let my hopes rise. I figured it wouldn’t fit.
But it did.
Then I thought, “No way is it on sale. No. Way.”
My dad saw me looking at it, and came over to investigate.
“That’s a nice jacket,” he said.
800 fill down, light, stuffs into its own pocket, warm, red, and shiny: Yeah, Dad, it's nice.
“Yeah,” I said in the most non-committal voice I could muster. I pointed at the sign. “I wonder if this is included in the sale.”
“You should ask,” he said.
I took that as permission, and prepared for disappointment. My heart skipped a beat as I walked up to the cash register.
“So,” I said, attempting disinterest, “Is this included in that discount back there?”
The clerk scanned the tag, “Oh yeah,” she said, “It’s ringing up at $109.”
At this point, I dropped my passive disguise. “SCORE!” I said, “I’ll take it!”
So, I still don’t have boots that don’t make my feet cringe. I hesitate to buy more than two or three books for my Kindle a month at less than $10 each. I desperately need a new camera, but can't commit. I won’t buy myself an iPod even though I have lusted after one for at least 3 years. I can't even convince myself to get a Netflix account for $15 a month. But I didn’t even hesitate to spend over $100 on a jacket of limited use.
At least now I’ll stylin’ out in the wilderness in my new shiny red coat.