Everybody has that one piece of gear they don’t want to part with. They may not know it, but it exists. However, when threatened with the prospect of losing this piece of gear, they can become more defensive than a mother bear with a couple of cubs. At least, this is what it felt like when I figured out that I, too, had that one piece of gear. For me, it was ‘the tent’.
After two decades of backpacking, and half a decade of working at an outdoor recreation store, I had accumulated a garage full of gear that I never really used. I lent it out when I went on trips with large groups but that became a headache after a while. I didn’t know about GearTrade.com, and I actually lived in the middle of Scoutville, so I decided to organize a gear sale.
I put up a nifty sign in the front yard and started moving everything from the garage to the front lawn. I hadn’t even started on the tents when a boy and his mom stopped by. They asked if I had any tents and I replied, “Sure. They are in the garage.”, and gave them the permission to go in and take a look. They walked past the pile of tents that included gems from MSR, Catoma, and Mountain Hardwear in their colorful stuff bags. It was the nondescript, dark, gray bag that prompted them to ask “How much?”. The question was like a punch in the stomach for me. There it sat, the $60.00, 10-year old Colombus Trekker II, and this was the one he wanted.
They say when someone is dying, their life flashes before their eyes. In that instant, the relationship between ‘the tent’ and I flashed before my eyes. I remember buying the tent from a store where I would eventually work. One time, the zipper broke and I paid $35 dollars to have a new one put in while another time, the fiberglass poles broke and I custom ordered $50.00 aluminum poles as replacements. Whenever I went on an adventure, this was the tent I used. I let others use my expensive tents which were 5 times the price of my Trekker.
It’s rare when you find inexpensive tents that serve so well. From my scout days up until my late twenties, I could not afford a high-end gear. I had always taken the budget route. Every cheap tent I had would either leak or break in strong windstorms. Not this one!
One night several years ago, some friends and I were camping on the Egypt Plateau in Escalante. It was during fall. It isn’t unusual during the season for thunderstorms to come through that are so bad, they could flood the entire Escalante River Gorge. This particular night was one of those times. Rain pounded all around, as the lightning lit up the sky and the thunder shook the air. The rushing water sounded like a waterfall as it rushed down the red rock hills. Underneath ‘the tent’ was two inches of water. It was like sleeping on a water bed. Not once in the 8 hours of Zeus’s meteorological justice did it leak.
In the morning hours, I noticed some people had abandoned their tents during the night and moved to their cars for shelter. Some tents lay scattered and broken in various camps around ours while many high-end ones stood proudly reaffirming their occupants of their wise decision to choose the best. And then there was me, dry and warm, standing alone with my $60.00 nondescript champion.
Snapping back to the present, my attention turned to the Boy Scout. “That tent is broken”, I said, “How about I sell you this bright orange one for a good price instead?”.