Lose the Gear!

Climbing GearAccording to the Outdoor Industry Association, over 46 billion dollars a year is spent in outdoor retail. I admit to being a part of this market. A trip to the closest REI or Sportsman’s Warehouse will have me re-evaluating my climbing gear or considering if it is about time to get a new camp stove.

I used to drive my parents crazy by subsisting on a dirt bag diet and yet owning enough mountaineering, camping and climbing equipment to pay for another semester of college. No mom, REI doesn’t take returns on climbing equipment!

Today I’ve got a gear closet that reflects a life spent pursuing adventure from Peru to Alaska. It’s got kayaks, mountaineering gear, trad racks, mountain bikes and backpacks. This gear and I have been blessed with seeing some mighty beautiful parts of God’s green earth.

Lately, though, I’ve begun to consider that perhaps we’ve introduced so many toys and equipment into our outdoor experiences, that our connection to the outdoors is being insulated. One of the things that I find attractive about the outdoors is the shedding of a synthetic environment, but today I’d make the argument that with enough gear you’re still surrounding yourself with a different kind of “indoors.”

Ross on Dewey PointThere’s a Scandinavian philosophy called friluftsliv that explains the concept in detail. Essentially it speaks to a viewpoint that promotes a strong bond to the land. This bond is attained by living on and from the land in a manner that allows us to understand our reliance upon the environment in a visceral, emotive manner. This connection is obtained through taking out a lot of the gear intensive outdoor activities, and simply experiencing and living within the landscape. There is much to be said for a lifestyle that is able to simplify its outdoor experience instead of complicating it.

Two cultures have illustrated this concept to me; one is the Scandinavian culture, and another is reflected in the lifestyle of the indigenous mountain people living on the island of Palawan in the Philippines. These two cultures have traditionally been able to stand up and walk into remote wilderness and thrive off that wilderness. The north people would take a small axe and knife, and the Palawano people still carry a machete. Each tool is superbly suited to its environment, and the people that carry these tools develop an incredible skill set in terms of using them.

In the next few months, I’m going to explore the craft of both respective cultures, and document this journey. It’s my hope that viewers and readers will experience my journey vicariously.

Bush Knife vs AxeTo this purpose, I’ve gotten two MORE pieces of equipment, but this time they’re going to be utilized in a much more minimalist mindset. I’ll be using a TrailBlade, made by Palawan Blade, and a Wetterlings Forest Axe. The design of these tools is taken directly from the Palawano and Scandinavian people groups.

We’re going to jump into testing each tool in scenarios that mimic basic needs of survival and thriving in a wilderness environment. Cultures that came before us possessed skills and knowledge that gave them a self-reliance in their environment and strong connection to the land. Hopefully, as you join me for a portion of this trip, we can take away a respect for these wilderness skills and knowledge that, as a society, we are sadly beginning to lose. Along the way, maybe you’ll be inspired to jump into a wilderness experience of your own; share it with us if you do!


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