Recently I have had some enquiries about what equipment I use, and since the summer season is now upon us, I thought I would put up a post or two on The Dorset Rambler approach to walking gear 🙂 ! And I thought I’d start with just some general thoughts before discussing specific equipment in future posts.
I’ve actually often wondered about the modern day gear and whether we in fact need such fancy and technical ‘stuff’ – although I must add that I buy some of it myself. This thought stems from my childhood when we, as a family, used to walk up to 20 miles in a day with nothing fancy at all – I actually used to wear my school blazer and shoes because that is all I had ( can you hear the violins 🙂 ). There is a funny story around that because we got caught in a rainstorm one day and with nowhere to shelter, we got soaked. As usual, I was wearing just my blazer which was maroon in colour, and when I took it off, my shirt which had been white when I started, had turned a rather fetching shade of pink where the dye had run.
My parents walked miles but they never owned, nor could they afford, any specialised walking equipment. They walked in everyday casual clothes and ordinary shoes. They didn’t even own a rucksack and just carried everything in a picnic bag. I realise that the choice of walking clothes and equipment was limited in those days anyway but I am not aware that they suffered any ill effects from not having the latest mega-waterproof jacket or whatever.
Maybe the school jacket incident recounted above illustrates, at least in part, why we ‘need’ modern gear but I am still not totally convinced because it seems like a whole industry has created a market for itself among enthusiasts and even casual walkers, which just taps into the consumer society we live in. On that day, had we been carrying even very cheap Pac-A-Mac’s (remember those?), we would have been fine. The late, great Alfred Wainwright also had no fancy equipment and never carried a waterproof as far as I know. However, that said, that jacket story does illustrate that there are benefits to living in a more enlightened age for walkers.
To a degree of course, it does depend on what sort of walking you intend to do. If you are only going a few short flat miles on reasonable terrain in good weather, then you need nothing fancy at all, apart perhaps from a pair of trainers. If you intend to head up into the mountains, walk long distances, or backpack, then clothing and equipment specifically aimed at walkers will certainly make life easier, more pleasant and in some cases safer. However I really don’t think it is necessary to get hung up about having the latest innovation, or the most hip label. Just by way of example, my main heavyweight waterproof that serves me in the winter, is around 30 years old and is still going strong with regular reproofing.
You might think from the above that I am against buying technical walking gear but this is not the case. However, even as someone who walks a lot, I don’t think it is necessary to spend a fortune and I rarely pay full price, preferring to think ahead and shop when the sales are on. Also, I don’t think it is necessary to keep updating equipment unless there is significant gain. I remember watching a video once put out by Patagonia that promoted repairing rather than replacing, and I agree with that philosophy, although of course it is not always possible. It is just so easy these days to get sucked into, try to buy into, the whole lifestyle thing which is what all the advertisers try to get us to do!
I guess one of the main issues, especially if you are backpacking, is weight, as no one wants to carry more than is necessary. This is one of the areas where technical equipment and clothing scores over everyday wear. Unfortunately though, light weight usually means heavy money so for me, it often results in a compromise. This is something we will discuss further.
So this is my broad philosophy and in future posts I will talk about specific items which will include my approach to footwear, clothing, camping equipment and so on. I hope this will prove helpful. It will be, of course, my approach and others might not agree.
Thanks for visiting.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler
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