Kayak, Lifestyle, MTB, SUP, Thinking

Yeah, but do I really NEED it?

In the past I’ve been a voracious consumer of outdoor equipment, buying the next best thing as soon as it was available, changing items on a whim and discarding yesterday’s wonder kit it replaced.  But over the years I’ve recognised the drain this had on my life; it was a financial drain, it was an emotional drain and I was a puppet of the marketing machines, playing my part in the environmental damage that consumerism is accumulating.

Advertising, marketing and other societal forces are constantly trying to convince us that buying new things is the answer to our problems.  In most walks of life, that is simply not the case and people just end up with more stuff and the same problems.  I listen to the strong arguments of the simple living gurus who endorse ridding your life of clutter and minimising your possessions and I agree that in most aspects of your life this works exceptionally well.  However, in the sphere of outdoor sports things aren’t that simple…

The more sports you do the more kit you need.  It is rarely cheap, can wear out quite quickly and is mostly in a constant state of evolution; today’s best on the market is mid range, or even worse, obsolete, in 5 years’ time.  But still, there are ways to keep things manageable and despite still having a large garage full of kit (it is kinda my job too…), I now take a more focused, less wasteful approach.  I thought I would share with you the coping strategies I’ve evolved over many years to avoid financial ruin, but retain high performance levels whilst reducing turnover and waste…


If you truly want to escape the consumerist trap this is the best place to start – reduce what you buy in the first place through applying these principles.

Do you ‘need’ or ‘want’ it? This can be a psychological minefield! A classic example of a genuine ‘need’ is when something that has a functional role for you has worn out through use and a replacement is required. No brainer. By contrast, a ‘want’ may typically be a new bit of kit which is very similar to something you have but with some updates that give small performance gains; Tempting but… The bottom line is that few of us can genuinely justify spending large amounts of cash for marginal gains, leave that to Team Sky. Use the item you have for longer, then when it starts to wear out maybe that upgrade is now cheaper and more reliable…

Can something multitask?  This has been a big turning point for me. Although the concept can be applied everywhere, I find its greatest impact is in my wardrobe, which has transitioned from dedicated single purpose items to flexible general purpose kit. The key is to look for similarities instead of differences; is there really much variation between a jacket for running, MTB, road biking or light summer hiking use for example? Even with cycles, a second set of wheels is much cheaper than a new bike and can transform your ride for another purpose. There is a deeper joy to this too, as you put on your favourite, familiar, good quality base layer for cycling that yesterday you used under your drysuit, getting more wear out of versatile, quality kit.

Have you looked into it? There is a limit to this, and I have been prone to researching to the point of obsession, but the concept is sound. Check things out, read reviews, do the homework, and hopefully avoid wasting time and money on something that turns out to not fit/do the job/work as promised…

Buy Quality If you are doing the above three things correctly then you aren’t buying lots of kit, so invest in quality when you do purchase. Your research will have given you the info you need, decide a budget and get the best you can for that amount, knowing that it will pay you back every time you need it.

I know that is still a lot of bikes, but they are all ridden regularly and it is a reduction from seven bikes!


We tend to throw things away too easily these days.  Stuff seems cheap, when it stops working perfectly we replace it.  But at what true cost, both financially to us as these things add up but also to the environment, as our attitude creates mountains of waste?

Look after things So much turnover can be prevented through timely maintenance, proper cleaning and early repair action if a problem develops. Sometimes just leaving a bike coated in mud without rinsing it off can result in seized parts after only a couple of days, especially in winter. And one of the biggest culprits is destroying clothes by washing them with normal detergent and softener; wash technical clothes, especially waterproofs, with specialist products to help them perform twice as long as they would otherwise.

You can fix that… Sure, at the roadside it is quicker to change an inner tube rather than find and fix the puncture, but fix the inner tube when you get home, don’t just throw it away. On everything from cycles to boats, shoes to clothes it is surprising which component parts can be fixed. A few years ago the zip broke on an expensive cycling jersey but the dry cleaners were able to fit a new zip at low cost and I am still using that top now. Equally, Meindl recently resoled a set of boots for my wife at half the price of a new pair of boots which should give her many more years of use.

Retask Sometimes, despite your best efforts, something no longer performs as it did when new and cannot fulfil its original purpose. But can it now take on a different role? I have old inner tubes wrapped neatly around chain stays instead of buying chain guards, dry bags that are no longer totally waterproof rerolled as stuff sacks within a bigger dry bag, and you’ll rarely see me gardening in anything other than well worn branded mountain clothes that have taken a less demanding retirement!!!

Lots of activities means lots of kit, but there is still scope to cut back…


Ok, so you really don’t need this anymore; it has either been replaced, or you’ve moved on and simply no longer enjoy off road unicycling… What next?

Make a bit of cash… There are lots of ways to sell things now, and you can quickly reach huge audiences online. I’d advise trying the methods that don’t take a cut (Facebook, most club, retailer or magazine websites, Gumtree etc) before resorting to sites that charge you for selling (eBay etc), but making a bit of cash from gear you don’t need is good for you and good for the buyer. To be most effective, don’t let the unused item sit around too long; every week that passes the item is getting older, its value is dropping and the likelihood of finding a buyer is reducing. Be decisive and if you don’t want something clean it up, take a picture and get it posted…

Make somebody happy… Some things you just won’t sell. They may be too worn, too niche or simply the value you’d receive doesn’t warrant the time you’d take to advertise and complete a transaction. So give them away! There are a few projects out there that specialise in finding a charitable cause that could use your old kit, such as Gift Your Gear or Alpkit Continuum Project. For many, an old waterproof is a much better alternative to no waterproof at all…

It had a good innings… No life left? Properly broken? Time to dispose then, ideally by recycling. Break it down to constituent parts and recycle as much as possible, maybe it will be reincarnated as the next new shiny thing you are tempted by!

A version of this article appeared in the Winter edition of the wonderful online Adventures Mag for whom Live2Flow is a regular contributor.

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1 thought on “Yeah, but do I really NEED it?”

  1. A very interesting article. I have to say, i tend to do most of what you have described, but more from necessity than choice. Having come to enjoy outdoor activities a little late in life, and at a time when I already had significant financial commitments, being very careful with choosing and purchasing kit is absolutely essential. Being married with three children means i am fifth in line to my monthly wage, and so so the accumulation of kit has been a lengthy process.
    I have certainly benefitted from second hand kit from friends, both paddling, and cycling. I am continuing to use kit that is perfectly serviceable, despite looking well used. My ‘go to’ mountain biking top is an Endura long sleeved top, which was bought second hand from eBay around five years ago. Road cycling shoes also came from eBay. I have a fantastic Gore soft shell cycling wind stopper jacket which was given to me. It has a slight scuff where the previous owner took a tumble. He bought a new one, and i benefitted. I’m more than happy to live with the scuff and the very vivid green colour as it is toasty, and was free!
    I also agree with your thoughts on research and quality. I have sought advice from friends, magazines, online forums etc. If i am going to make a purchase, then i want the item to be good quality, knowing it will last. I also need to know that what i am buying is fit for purpose, and can be adapted for use elsewhere. My Exposure bike light can be used as a head torch. I am not in a position to buy something, find i don’t like it, sell it on, and get something else.
    Being in this position means i also look after my kit. Not being in the position of updating when new stuff comes out, or when i feel like it, means the kit i do buy has to last. This does mean however, that i am never really in a position to sell kit on, as i use mine until it has reached the end of its life.
    If the title of the blog was ‘yes, but would i like it?’, then i’m pretty sure the answer would always be yes. For me though, i have to agree, ‘Yes, but do i really NEED it?’ is something i ask myself constantly.

    Liked by 1 person

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