People who know me know that I love my gadgets. Recently, someone asked me what my favorite piece of gear was. Instantly, my thoughts were racing as I tried to filter through all the wonderful gizmos, gadgets and just plain essential gear that I have had over the years in order to declare an absolute favorite.
There are some essential hiking items like a great pair of boots or shoes (I seem to go through a lot of these) or a great pack. I love Osprey packs and cannot say enough good things about the company and their products, but does that put these things in contention for favorite piece of equipment? I do not think so. If it did, then I think I would have to also list favorite clothing manufacturers or sleeping bags and I just do not think of these things as gear. Maybe someday I will do a blog with my favorite brands and in that post I can extol the virtues of great clothing manufacturers and other essential hiking equipment manufacturers, but not here.
I began to think about what makes something a favorite, and I came to believe that the most important distinction is that it must be something I use often and something I am not comfortable hiking without. That knocked out the little Leatherman that I carry and use once in a blue moon, and it kicked to the curb the great headlamps I have used over the years. Oh, the wheels were spinning fast as I thought evaluated the remaining possibilities.
I thought I was doing great when I winnowed it down to two things. I thought my favorite piece of equipment had to be either be the great carbon Leki trekking poles I use all the time, or my Garmin Fenix 3 that I wear on my wrist which tells me every possible metric I could ever want to know about my current hike or adventure, when suddenly the answered occurred to me. Surely this was a trick question because in this epiphany, the answer seemed so obvious.
My favorite piece of gear is with me all the time. Better than any compass it allows me to discern my way through the woods when a trail is not apparent, better than any map it lets me know from the vegetation that surrounds me how high I have climbed or how near I am to the summit, better than any barometer it tells me from the color of the sky and the types of clouds overhead what the weather will be in the next couple of hours, better than any field guide it tells me when I cross a brook if the water level will be higher or lower when I return to the cross it later in the day, and more accurately than any camera it captures all of the images that surround me from the start of my hike to the end. This one piece of equipment does these and a thousand other tasks, all at once, and it is so important that it renders all other gadgets almost superfluous. I truly am a gearhead because my favorite piece of gear is my mind; it leads me on wondrous adventures.