When Gear Becomes a Part of the Team

Sitting on the couch with my favorite gear

Is it me, or over the years, do some pieces of gear move out of the realm of go-to/favorite and become something more like a friend?  They become a Part Of The Team – or a POTT.

Even if you’re solo, you’re not alone if a POTT piece of gear is there.

It could be crampons that stuck with you in tough times, the pack that always has your back, an insulating layer that gives you the warm and fuzzies, boots that carried you on the trip of a lifetime, or an old iPod that provided the soundtrack to it all.

This stuff isn’t necessarily still in use… often it isn’t.

So why?  Why do you still have it?

Do you throw away photos?

We’ve all heard it – a picture is worth a thousand words.  I believe that.  My apartment is filled with paintings, etchings, and photographs from my travels.  And each one is surely worth 1,000 words.

Panoramic view of paintings hanging on a brick wall
Paintings, paintings everywhere

But a POTT is worth 1,000 experiences.  A 3 dimensional, tangible, instantaneous reminder of all the experiences, good and bad, you had with it.  That’s why the object becomes more than a piece of gear and transcends to POTT status.  It’s like talking to an old hiking friend about a trip you took together.  Its ability to bring the feel of experiences back like they just happened makes it a time machine.

My old R1 Hoody (which is retiring thanks to my Nano Air Hoody) still stinks like the climber’s hut on Cotopaxi.  It brings me back there first.  Next I step back into a freezing traverse of the beautiful Bonds, to a day drinking beers and throwing snowballs at buddies on a frozen lake in Enfield, then to my AMC leadership training weekend on Cape Cod, around the largest bonfire I’ve ever seen, with new friends.

A man smelling a Patagonia R1 mid layer top for hiking
Smells like good times

The R1 could take me farther back if I let it.  It’s not just about how many memories these POTTs call back, but how well they do it.  Sounds, smells, the feelings of rocks or snow under the feet or the comforting warmth of pulling on that special parka in a cold, remote place…

The POTTs bring it back to me in a more real way than a photo can.

A photo represents a moment – usually far less than a second.  The POTTs embody all the moments they’ve been there for.

Should I not be saying this as a photographer?

My old blue EMS Thunderhead was there at the start of it all on Mt. Chocorua, purchased just a few days before.  I don’t use it anymore… It’s so beaten up it could barely be called water resistant, let alone waterproof.  It breathes better than ever, though!  It’s still in my closet, hanging out with everyone else, brushing up against the pretty new things.  I like to think I put it out to stud.

Two rain shells on top of each other
Thunderhead enjoying its golden years

My iPod Shuffle is also a POTT, as is my DSLR.  Crampons? POTTs.  Old Blue?  Old Blue is the King of the POTTs.

A very old blue hat
World traveler Old Blue turned 23 this year

Adding to the power of these things is that we don’t see them every single day.

Which is more fun – walking around your living room, looking at the art on the walls, or digging through a box of old photos you only pull out when you’re cleaning under your bed?  Our wall art is right in our faces, all the time.  I don’t notice mine all that often.

My friend Brian stayed with me last summer and drove up Mt. Washington one day.  He took his little “I drove up Mt. Washington!” certificate and put it up between my 4000 Footers scroll and a beautiful painting of Mt. Rainier – right on my living room wall in front of the couch.  I didn’t notice it for 3 days.

When I’m digging through an enormous pile of crap to find the snow baskets for my trekking poles each year, it’s like stumbling across the shoebox full of photos under the bed when I see my oldest pair of MICROspikes in there.

Why doesn’t all of our gear eventually attain POTT status? Well, maybe it wasn’t quite right.  The fit was a little off, or it wasn’t as comfortable as you’d hoped.  Maybe you didn’t get to spend enough time together – it broke, or was replaced by something lighter, that did more or was otherwise better.  Maybe it’s so built in to what you’re doing you don’t notice it.  I’m not having flashbacks when I pull out any of my base layers.

Not every photo in the shoebox is a winner.

Take a look at what’s been hanging around unused.  Some of those things are probably POTTs.  Pick them up.  Chill with them for a while.  Anything coming back?

So, is it just me?

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