Assessing Seasonal Gear Leads to a Trip Down Memory Lane

Stephen Mullaney

April 14, 2017

Spring has sprung and it’s the beginning of another fine season of outdoor adventure, which means it’s time to start unpacking, inspecting, cleaning up and then repacking your gear.

As you start pulling out the dusty Tupperware containers crammed with camping gear you’ve had since your first journey beyond the pavement, take some time to reflect. Revel in the moment as you remove each memory from the box. Think about where that tool or boot or piece of canvas has taken you, and the gifts you in turn received by being able to use that equipment with confidence.

Dig deep and you’re likely to find a piece of gear that appears — to the uninformed — to be broken and unusable. But to you, a broken cam that you’ve had for years has meaning to it. In fact, you’re pretty much convinced that, in the event of an emergency, you could set that passive piece to save your butt.

As you’re reading this, one of you might be thinking about an unusual rock you and a buddy picked up on a particularly fantastic trip. It’s never left your bag. Maybe it reminds you of that trip. Or it serves as a good luck charm. All you know is that you’d be uncomfortable if it wasn’t in your bag.

Maybe down at the bottom of the plastic bucket is a rotted piece of webbing that’s never been used but is appreciated beyond any other piece of equipment.  It might be a gift that was given to you by a friend or outdoor education industry mentor. Maybe that webbing — although never used for its designed purpose — inspired you to take human-powered outdoor recreation seriously, which changed the direction of your life. For the better.

So enjoy your walk down memory lane. Examine each item. Reflect on it. And then repack your gear. But here’s a thought: If you were to remove some of those memories from your pack, you’d have room for new memories.

In addition to losing one to three pounds of memorable but outdated, damaged or useless gear, you’ve opened an opportunity to collect more memorabilia. And instead of leaving it in your pack off-season, consider giving some of those memories to your loved ones or mentees who would appreciate them.

While it’s true that “things” don’t always bring you happiness, sometimes a simple gift can change a life. Writer, adventurer and climber Brendan Leonard wrote a book called “Sixty Meters to Anywhere” that centers on a gift his brother gave him for Christmas one year — a used 60-meter-long climbing rope. At that time, Brendon had given little thought to climbing as a recreational avocation, and he asked his brother if he could remember why he had given him the rope.

His brother said he didn’t recall Brendan being all that excited about the climbing rope, but the gift was offered because Brendan had just moved to Arizona and his brother knew there were lots of places to climb in that state.

In a podcast we’ve embedded below, Brendan reflects on that gift-giving moment. He said he came to the conclusion that, “no plane ticket that my brother could have bought me that would have taken me anywhere better than where my climbing rope has.”

So what’s in your camping gear that brings back fond memories? And can you bring yourself to part with it?

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About the Author: Stephen Mullaney is the staff development director at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) in Wilmington, N.C., where he is responsible for the training and education of NCOAE’s field instructors. He is a member of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) and has taught within the Durham, N.C., public school system. Stephen received his undergraduate degree in English from Framingham State University, and his Master’s Degree in Education from North Carolina Central University.

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