Over the years, I have seen some amazing classics come through the shop. It’s always amusing when I have the same thing buried in the gear room somewhere. This happens more often than you think. Snow Lion, Petzl, first generation Patagonia and Marmot, Gerry; REI labels from the 70s….great old stuff. Some of it is terrific shape, and some of it is beat to shreds.
I DO understand your relationship with your gear. I get that you romanced and honeymooned in that tent, and your children were conceived in it. Perhaps you summited a particular peak with a certain coat or pack. Maybe you’ve had that day pack forever, taken it around the world, and it still works. Or it did, except for the zipper, My job is to know when to repair and give an item a little TLC, and when to find a tactful way to say, “it’s done”. I always feel bad as I do empathize!
I confess that I didn’t truly get this until we had a family event that underscored this attachment. We used to have a Jansport traildome. The green one with the fiberglass poles? You know it if you’ve been around as long as I have. It was actually my husbands, acquired sometime in the late ’70s. He and I did our first winter ski trip in it and many many backpack trips in the Sierra, and the Colorado and Wyoming Rockies. We had K-Koted the leaking floor back in 1985, Fast forward to the mid 90’s, when my husband and I are stoked to finally have the kids in their own tent (the Jansport) on family trips. We were camping on the backside of Mt. St. Helens, and over night there was a torrential downpour. Our kids roused us because the inside of the tent was a lake. Sigh. It was obvious: this tent was at the end of its life. How could that be? All I know is that it felt horrible and somehow wrong to toss it in a dumpster, but that’s what I did. Would a little farewell ceremony have been better? I’m not sure about that but I still recall the angst.
How do you know when it’s time to toss? Things like Velcro, snaps, zippers, and drawstrings are an easy fix. If the item needs patching, is the patch now going to be the strongest part of the item? This is not a good thing. How about the base fabric? Is it in good condition or is it showing signs of fading, thread breakdown, or UV-induced weakness? For tents especially, UV breakdown of the fabric and breakdown of the coatings is a sure sign of an elderly tent. Mildew and flakey coatings are unrepairable. In my experience, there is no good fix for worn floors or worn flies. If you must use your tent on its last legs, the blue tarp fix (over the tent, and/ or another one inside and on the floor) is the only real way to stay dry.
I can’t tell you the right way to say goodbye to beloved old gear. Whether you toss it, tuck it into the rafters of your garage, or have a memorial ritual is up to you. What I can tell you is how to take care of what you do have, and make it last as long as it possibly can.
Happy Trails until next time…