In honor of the reopening of our Used Gear site, we got to thinking about some of the gear we have been privileged to help add some extra life and time on the trail. While it can be exciting to purchase the latest and greatest gear, there is something about holding a piece of equipment that has journeyed beyond your experience, and then to make it part of your own story in the outdoors.
In that spirit we ask: what is a piece of gear or apparel that was handed down to you or that you have handed down to another? Does it have a story? Why is it meaningful to you?
Bonus points for photos!
For me, it is this vintage FRITSCH & Co ice axe given to me by a dear friend, Jim. He passed away a few years ago, but I will never forget the amazing conversations we had about his travels and adventures in the mountains. His eyes lit up when he talked about his time spent climbing and skiing in the cascade mountains of Washington. He spoke about this ice axe with the familiarity of an old friend. I often ponder if this axe was ordered for REI by our founder, Lloyd Anderson in a letter similar to this one. It would certainly be a striking coincidence! I was shocked and humbled when he gifted it to me. While it is more sentimental than practical at this point, every time I look at it I am reminded of how inspirational a life lived outdoors can be. It is a piece of gear I will treasure always, and someday I will pass it on to someone else who will be inspired by its stories.
I know we've got some used gear aficionados out there (@Rob6 and @TomIrvine I'm looking at you!). I also seem to recall a certain backpack that was given to @bryndsharp that has an awesome backstory. We'd love to hear about it!
John that ice-axe is a treasure!
But this is a tough one for me. I was - and still am - the only person in our family that was into the whole outdoor thing. My friends and I were busy assembling our own gear-piles (with very bad tents, sleeping bags, and packs). Everything I got was new - and it's still pretty much that way.
But back in the seventies, when there was a bicycle boom going on. My brother kinda moved away, leaving his ten-speed Gitane behind. It wasn't a great bike, but I was blissfully unaware of this. After all, it had a classy French name, and sew-up tires which were very impractical for my needs, but I convinced myself that they were somehow superior. We rode many miles together, and I even proposed to my wife while riding it. (True story. She actually said no, then changed her mind a few days later. Maybe it was the bike.)
I eventually ditched the sew-ups for a pair of new rims and clinchers, and rode the bike well into my adult years, before making it my "winter" bike. I named her "Crusty" for the salt-ravaged look she developed in those last years.
Nothing is left of the bike, but I still have the bike wrench - also left behind by my brother. I was certain that I could completely overhaul the bike on the side of the road with this tool if the need arose.
What a great story to go along with the bike and that awesome looking bike tool! It still appears to be in good shape. How many different ways could that open a bottle I wonder? Thanks for sharing!
John, that ice axe is incredible! My two items are in a similar vein:
My mom's dad was an accomplished marksman who was in the woods as often as he could be, often hunting, when he wasn't tending to his farm. Whenever he was in the backcountry, he always had a simple metal compass in his pocket. He passed away when I was very young, so I don't remember much about him, but my grandmother gave me the two compasses he used. The one he used most often is covered and dents and scratches, as well as a few rusty spots - signs of a well-used life outdoors! I backpack with my trusty Suunto compass that I've had since my Venturing days, but I keep one of his compasses in my pack hipbelt as a kind of totem and to share some outdoor adventures with grandpa Cecil.
My other one is a recent acquisition - my dad gave me his trusty Victorinox Swiss Army watch when he retired! He wore it for about twenty years straight, whether it was out camping or hiking or when he was in the office. I remember wanting a watch like this so badly when I was a Boy Scout, and saving up my allowance and buying a similar-looking Fossil watch, which my mom found in a drawer last year as well! (Rambler trivia, looks like I'm not the only one who adventured with a classic Fossil Blue watch!) Like the compass, it's covered in scratches and all the telltale signs of a life well lived, and it still works! I'm debating whether or not to remove the steel links and add a more hot weather-friendly NATO watch strap or to simply resize the bracelet and wear it the same way dad intended.