Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cold Hard Cash...Cold Hard Reality.

I got a comment from a reader the other day and while the correspondence is something I so dearly enjoy; this reader took me to task over an apparent connundrum in my personal philosophy regarding finance and outdoor gear. I have made multiple statements on my blog over the past couple of years regarding what I refer to as "my innate thriftiness" or in other words being cheap. I also haven't done much in the way of gear reviews but those that I've done featured items that my reader thought a guy with "innate thriftiness" wouldn't own. Or at least have paid for. While I see his point that a guy that doesn't like spending money probably wouldn't spend $3000 on a single rifle, I believe he's failed to read between the lines on most of my posts to see a couple of (at least to me) very plain things I believe regarding spending one's hard earned cash on outdoor gear.

So I thought I'd write an actual post about it with the disclaimer that this is my opinion only. I'm not your investment counselor for goodness sake, I'm a blogger that lives just this side of Timbuktoo.

So here are four of my thoughts on buying outdoor gear.

1. You can buy quality once, or you can buy crap... a lot of it.

The best advice for outdoorsfolks that I have is to have a very good, very high quality, very basic set of gear. You don't need a mountain of stuff to have fun and be successful in the outdoors. I have friends that have garages that look like the innards of a Bass Pro Shop...and they haven't seen a critter in the field in a long, long time.

That said, the equipment you do buy- go ahead and buy some really decent stuff. One thing I painfully learned is that cheap gear tends to leave you in the lurch when it hurts the worst. Some of the things that you shouldn't skimp on are items related to your survival- tents, sleeping bags, rain gear, stuff that keeps you from developing hypothermia is a really good place to spend money.

As a word of advice- top shelf gear is expensive and generally a slow mover. In the cut-throat world of retail that means slow movers are frequently on sale. My "excessive" rifle was purchased new-in-the-box from the gun shop at something like 50% off MSRP, a staggering number when you consider the MSRP is $3300. It takes the profit off a lot of small sales to make up that kind of loss for a store. Its also a lot of money sitting in inventory if its not moving. Also, time your purchases to coincide with that equipments off season- ie. skis in spring and tents in winter for a better shot at deep discount.

When you're buying the good stuff...never, ever, ever pay retail.
2. 99% of everything in the sporting goods mega mall or mail order clearance house you DO NOT NEED in order to be successful in the field.

Really folks- you don't need a two stroke margarita mixer... you may want one but don't confuse that with need. My biggest beef with the outdoors industry is that they are constantly parading trinkets that have no genuine usefullness other than what they have developed for you, answering questions that you never asked.
I really wish they'd spend their time doing something more useful- like making rain gear that doesn't leak.

3. If you're paying interest on your gear you ought to be hunting more money, not critters.

Nothing stimeys a good time like having the bills follow you home from a great hunting adventure. Given what the average U.S. household pays in credit card interest you can buy a really nice rifle every so often if you were to pay in cash and use that interest money at the hook and bullet store instead of sending it to some huge finance empire. You might try the time proven "Borrow and Barter" method for gear you don't have and really can't afford at the moment- I once got the use of a brand new ATV for a weekend this way. If you use this method, do be a good sport and return your borrowed item in excellent condition. I returned the ATV spotlessly clean, full of gas, and with a fresh caribou quarter given in appreciation to boot. I'll be welcomed if I ever have need to borrow it again.

Online internet forums with other hunters are a great place to swap items you no longer need for things you currently want. Buyer beware but some good old fashoined gear swappin' can really help stretch a hunter's budget. In this tough economy I'm regularly seeing folks bartering and trading goods on the internet forum I frequent and generally its a win-win for all parties involved.

4. With the BIG stuff its usually cheaper to rent.

A coworker of mine was a real halibut angler and was incensed when the price of a full day halibut charter went north of $100 (those were the days!) and decided to beat all the rip off charter companies at their own game.

Signing on the dotted line yielded him the payment book on a 25' Bayliner ($40000) and trailer. What he didn't realize is that new sea going boats are best thought of as a "blank canvas" rather than "finished art" and another $20,000 later he actually had boat he could put in the water and possibly fish from. On his maiden voyage he also ran into another snag- his 1/2 ton pickup gave up pulling a 3/4 ton boat just about the top of Moose Pass leaving much of its transmission behind. A new and appropriately sized 3/4 ton truck ($35,000) fixed that ill.

So my acquaintance was then perilously close to $100,000 in debt for a natty new fishing boat and truck to pull it with. He figures he's paying about $4000 a day to go fishing now and last I talked to him he's working so much overtime to try to keep up with the payment he doesn't have so much time to fish....

So remember this acronym when it comes to boats...


That daily rate might just be a bargain.


Unknown said...

I can speak from experience because I am a banker that there are two great days in the life of a boat owner. The day they buy it and the day they sell it! :)

cooperhill said...

Nice post. Unfortunately, or fortunately?, my mantra lately has been "don't buy it". I have a good deal of good (not too old) outdoor gear and just can't justify buying new gear because it's neat, new, or ultralight.

hodgeman said...

@cooperhill- if its not broke, don't fix it! A friend of mine is an avid "ultralight" backpacker and he's the biggest gear hound I know. He'll spend a whopping chunk to shed just a few ounces. He also doesn't get much feel for durability because 1 or 2 trips is all most of his stuff makes before its replaced with "new".

I like the idea of UL gear but I seriously wonder if some of it will last even 2 or 3 seasons of regular use.