My MontBell Super Stretch down sleeping bag was the first piece of gear I ever named. This toasty sack with elastic baffles accommodates my fitful sleeping habits, everything from kicking legs and stomach sprawl sessions to restless rolling. I’ve spent more achingly comfortable nights in the thing than I can remember. But the pleasant fit isn’t what inspired the nickname. It’s the years of use – and the not always so pleasant combination of down, moist environments, and multi-day trips – that earned “The Pet Store” its name.
Our relationships with outdoor gear, from the familiar things we hold on to for years and sometimes name, to the most technologically modern smart gear that makes our favorite outdoor activities comfortable, and in many cases possible, can be fascinating. Most of us who spend much time outside find ourselves cruising the local gear shop shelves for something new to replace a retired item or fill a new need on a regular basis, and when the holidays roll around, we are even more vulnerable to the bling of bright and shiny new gear as we pretend to shop for our loved ones. Thankfully, with more outdoor gear companies making products that take it easier on the natural world, we can buy what we need, especially from local retailers and gear purveyors that support our local economy, and feel better about it (hint: check out our local outdoor gift guide).
I love functional and comfortable new gear as much as the next guy on the trail, but I also find it endlessly interesting how so many of us fall in love with certain pieces of gear, holding onto them for years (sometimes too long, like the Patagonia fleece I kept using long after every zipper had blown out and the sleeves looked like rats had had their way with them). In more rare instances, we go so far as to naming our cherished outdoor items because they’ve taken on personalities of their own – familiar and reliable partners in our most memorable outdoor adventures.
A jacket my brother has been carrying around in his bike pack for years comes to mind. It’s a rice-paper thin, purple nylon “wind breaker” that he picked up for 50 cents from our late, great Aunt Lottie at a garage sale years ago. At some point we started referring to the jacket warmly as Aunt Lottie. He breaks it out a couple times a year for foul weather mountain bike descents and we check on how she is doing, laughing at the jacket’s seemingly endless lifespan and remembering our aunt fondly before he zips up and disappears in a blaze of purple.
Do you have your own story to tell about a piece of gear, named or not, that has held a special place in your outdoor life over the years? We’d love to hear it and consider sharing it in an upcoming story about our relationships with outdoor gear. Send your 100-200 word story pitch to: email@example.com. //