Buying the right outdoors gear
This month my favourite outdoors magazine (I mean other than The Outdoors Guide) came in the mail. The title of this issue is “The Best of the Best”. The selection of articles contained within identifies the 47 best outdoor gear items available this year.
What makes this magazine so valuable is that their selections are not advertisement driven. In other words, they are not picking Brand A knife because Brand A is taking a full-page advertisement on page 7. They are picking that item because it has been tested by their editorial staff as well as humps like you and me across the continent that spend a lot of time in the woods.
So far I’ve bought three very valuable items - rather impulsively I might add - after reading the Gear Guide. The first was a Thompson Center Icon bolt action .308 rifle. It shoots nice three-shot groups at 100 yards consistently into one small hole. l am using match grade ammunition, but I’ve shot some very expensive sniper rifles worth 5-times as much without better results. It was one of the best of the best in 2007.
The second item was found in last year’s Gear Guide: The Marble’s Pocket Axe. This diminutive little hatchet has a blade guard that neatly fits into the hickory handle, and if you have the wrists for it, you can start your own logging operation with this tool. You can also shave yourself with it - if you’re so inclined.
This year’s purchase is the Pendleton Lite hunting knife from Cold Steel. At $22.00 I splurged and bought two. Apparently it holds an edge like knives ten times the value.
“But why, my dear, do you need all this stuff?” Is a question I hear quite often. My answer is convoluted to say the least, but unless you’re going to pull a Bear Grylls and capture a deer with a piece of parachute cord and a survival knife - and spend three months doing it - you need a collection of good stuff.
I’ve also learned that the love of the outdoors in my DNA. At least according to John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart” DVD series, which explains how your desire to get out there and explore is a mechanism for connecting with creation and our Creator. So I no longer feel guilty about chasing fish, game and hiking up large hills. It’s good for you - spiritually, physically and emotionally!
I’ve also learned that when it comes to buying stuff, you need to be smart about it. Here are some of the pitfalls that lay in wait for unwary buyers:
Don’t pay for name-brand stuff unless it has a reputation for workability, functionality and durability. Don’t buy equipment just to look good. Primarily it needs to do the job and be able to take some lumps and bumps (which includes rain, snow and mud) without falling apart.
Beware of used equipment. For the most part I have stuck with buying new rifles, saving the really good shooters, and selling the duds. A lot of people do the same. If you just want to be able to shoot a deer or moose at 100 yards - then no worries. But if you want long range accuracy - beware of used rifles unless you really know the owner.
Furthermore, not everyone looks after equipment like the owner’s manual suggests. Some run them over with trucks, throw them in the same box as the chain saw, and smash them against trees when they’re frustrated.
Typically guns that have been fired with a whole lot of dirt stuck in the end of the barrel are not good buys.
Similarly quad-runners that have been totally submerged in swamps aren’t good buys either.
Sadly not everyone tells you these things when they sell them to you.
Another red flag is very, very inexpensive used products. Like say a Husqvarna chain saw selling for $50-dollars. Ask if it comes with asbestos gloves because it is probably “hot”. And who in their right mind wants to fuel a black-market industry that results in more break-ins to your car and home.
I also find it helps to do the math. One good purchase at $259.00 that lasts for twenty years is far better than a $79.00 purchase that lasts for two months and then has to be replaced with the $259.00 purchase that you really wanted to make in the first place.
Finally don’t ask your financial planner about “investing” in a boat, quad, or 4X4 truck. They’re not investments. Neither should you ask the guy stocking the pharmaceutical shelves at a large department store about what kind of ammunition to buy for your next hunt. Would you ask him advice on a vasectomy?
No, I suggest going to the specialty outdoors stores in your city or town and asking them for sound advice. You may have to pay 5- or even 25-dollars more, but it is worth every penny. Finally, read all the reviews you can on products before you buy. At least you’ll be an educated shopper.