G.A.S. causes bloat, back pain, discomfort, and a general paranoia that your gear is holding you back from your full potential. I’m not talking about eating beans, I’m talking about Gear Acquisition Syndrome and it’s a serious condition that affects millions of Americans. While G.A.S. is not limited solely to outdoor adventurers (those are the only patients that I’m qualified to treat so we’ll focus on them for now) but also affects car enthusiasts, quilters, competitive shooters, and others. If you’re unsure whether you or a loved one is affected by G.A.S., let’s walk through the symptoms and treatment options.
As a longtime member of the Outdoor Retailer Association, I’ll openly admit that I took advantage of people afflicted with G.A.S.. They were easy to distinguish from the general population as they would come into the outdoor store I worked at frequently, always looking for the “latest and greatest”. Like an addict looking for their next fix, they would feel an irrational compulsion to buy things that they didn’t really need. The conversations, and justification of needing the latest and greatest, usually went something like this.
“The new kayak paddle this year shaves off .2 ounces by using an exotic hybrid of carbon fiber, graphene, and hummingbird stem cells? Well, that’s obviously the reason I had a hard time paddling 18 miles last week; my current paddle is too heavy!”
“Did you hear about the new Robo-Assist boot? It makes it feel like there’s 10lbs less in your backpack by assisting your legs up hills! If I had those, I would definitely go hike from the base of Mt. Mitchell to the top! Oh, and I’ll also need a solar panel to recharge the batteries while in camp, and probably several large extended batteries.”
“Wait wait wait…..they make inflatable flamingo tent stakes? I’ll take 8! They’ll go great with the Christmas lights and lawn chairs I take with me when backpacking.”
Even though the gear they have is perfectly acceptable, they’re convinced new gear, or more gear, will make for a better experience. This leads to added expense, anxiety, and only rarely in a good time.
Treatment options for those suffering from G.A.S. are limited, and are dependent on the patient’s willingness to tackle the problem head on. Sometimes, a spouse can initiate treatment with statements such as “There literally isn’t room in the garage for another canoe.” or “Why do you have fly rods hidden under the bed?” Much like an intervention, the patient will begin trying to rationalize their purchases and need for more gear; remember to hold their hand, look them deeply in their eyes, and tell them they really DON’T need more gear, they need to go out and use the gear they have more often.
A strange corollary to G.A.S. is that the more gear the person accumulates, they seemingly go out and use it less and less. I’ve seen patients make excuses to not go hiking on a day of slightly inclement weather because “my rain jacket doesn’t breathe as well as a new one would”. Or, “I want to hike the 77 miles of the Foothills Trail, but my tent weighs 6lbs. Maybe if I had a lighter tent I could do it.” This may come as a shock, but the average American could probably stand to lose a minimum of 6lbs…so instead of spending a few hundred dollars on a new tent, let’s actually follow through with that New Year’s resolution. Physical fitness overcomes shortcomings in gear 98% of the time.
Rehabilitation Test Case:
A patient of mine I will refer to as “Tactical Barbie” is a fairly new competitive shooter who has Stage 4 G.A.S. and I have been working with him slowly on the road to recovery. Competition coupled with an activity exacerbates G.A.S. because it tricks the patient into thinking he could win if only he had the newest gear to give him that edge. While that may be true at the very highest levels of competition, where the gear truly is holding back your potential, it is not the case for a middle-age man who does this for fun on the weekends. He has bought enough camouflage gear, specialty patches, and color-coordinating knives that it led to my giving him the name “Tactical Barbie”.
Every time he comes to me for a counseling session to prevent him from buying more gear, I instead try to funnel his desire for something new into self-improvement. For example, in his case, taking private lessons to improve handgun marksmanship which is his weakest area. For a kayaker, instead of buying the latest and greatest whitewater boat, I would suggest they spend that $1000 to instead go on a multiday paddling trip to a far flung location or improve their skills with focused classes at something like the Nantahala Outdoor Center or even our local United States National Whitewater Center. Skills and experience trump gear almost every time.
G.A.S. is a very dangerous disease that quietly kills fun in the outdoors. It is only of benefit to salesmen and the people like me who buy the “old” gear off of patients, who are convinced it’s useless even though it’s new in the box. So instead of pining after new gear this spring, get out and use the stuff you have.
Amish in the sense that, at one point, my family helped others raise barns.
Now I build websites to help others build their businesses.