New & Improved Backpacking Gear!

What’s Up With That?

It’s that time of year. Back in June the big European Outdoor Gear Retailer Show was held. At the end of July the big US show was in progress in Utah. I’ve never been to one of these events, but I’ve been to trade shows in other industries, which usually are not open to the public. So I have a very good and probably accurate perception about what goes on at the outdoor gear shows.

So what are these show? Manufacturers show off their “New” and often “Improved” gear in hopes retailers will place orders.

Out in the world of consumers, backpackers are waiting impatiently for newest and greatest offerings. On Internet forums the gear faithful are posting, “Anyone hear what is new at the show?” Folks with press credentials roam the floors of the shows taking pictures, grabbing brochures, and talking to sales reps, so they can run home and share all this wonderful information on their blogs for the panting public to lap up.

What’s not to be excited about? And of course everyone can’t wait until these products are released, usually in the fall or next spring, so their favorite blog or magazine can review all the new and improved stuff, and of course tell us what is best, what we must have, and where to buy it. It’s AWESOME!

It’s the business of backpacking and I wrote about it four years ago, although I didn’t touch on the trade show industry. Doesn’t matter, we’re back to gear reviews. One thing I have noticed about website and blog reviews; after a while the reviewer seems to gain confidence in their self-image and start focusing about what is new about a product, not what is good about it. And so they bore with fabric deniers, shoe foot drop, and of course weight. Opps… what about function after testing it for let’s say 100 days or nights. Nope.

But it doesn’t matter, we want NEW & IMPROVED GEAR!

New is usually a re-hash of an existing or old design. Improved is an incremental change of minor benefit, if there is any at all. But it doesn’t matter. Consumers want more good stuff to replace the perfectly functional stuff they bought after being released at last year’s outdoor show. Let’s face it — new and improved usually means something a company creates to gain market share at the expense of a competitor and, of course, a means to separate you from your money.

Gosh, you need that new 1 ounce stove because your’s weighs 2 ounces. Forget that the new lighter stove has smaller pot supports and isn’t as stable as the one you bought last year.

Oh, and that new miracle fabric in the new waterproof and breathable rain gear is something you needForget the fact that it won’t be waterproof or breathable, or the fact the reviewer hasn’t tested it long term in the rain.


Ah, but we’re Americans. We consume. It’s the engine of our economy whether or not we really need all the new and improved stuff.


A few weeks ago I read an article that said 49% of Americans are living week-to-week. It went on to state

…according to a new survey conducted for GOBankingRates. Forty-one percent of men and 56 percent of women say that they are in that kind of precarious financial position. Meanwhile, a total of 61 percent — 52 percent of men and 69 percent of women — report that they don’t have enough in an emergency fund to cover six months’ worth of expenses.

Wow! If you are one of the 51% who is not living week-to-week, do you have emergency funds to cover 6 months of expenses? What if 6 months isn’t enough time to cover an emergency as it wasn’t for millions of Americans during the Great Recession just a few years ago. Right now unemployment rates are at their lowest in 16 years and 1/2 of what it was in 2009. The economy always runs in cycles and when the next downturn occurs (not if), even if it is minor, it could quickly turn into another Great Recession since almost 50% of the population is living week to week and 61% don’t have enough in emergency funds. Hmm… do you really need that new sleeping bag to replace the one that is working just fine?

All of this is something to think about.

I’m keeping my “old” gear until something wears out or breaks. And since I’m keeping what I have, there is no need to read the blogs covering the outdoor shows or the new and improved gear they will soon be reviewing.


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