Despite the cold and wet winter water program, the author only recently considered a $350 flotation jacket as a better means of protection than a simple $40 life jacket. (Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire)

Despite the cold and wet winter water program, the author only recently considered a $350 flotation jacket as a better means of protection than a simple $40 life jacket. (Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire)

The daily struggles of a gearhead

How to justify purchasing those new waders.

An hour after I looked around my living room and declared that I had pretty much anything I could need for the outdoors, I was back on Amazon.

You know how it goes. You get to a place in your gear ownership that feels just right, but the porridge eventually cools.

This is when perceived deficiencies drip into the consciousness.

“I could _______ if I had ________.”

It’s easy to justify purchases when you add safety and comfort to the equation.

“These waders kinda leak and water can cause hypothermia, so better get new ones.”

Sure some Aquaseal is $6.99, but how can you turn down an excuse for new waders?

[‘The sticker guy’: Stick to something, or fall for nothing]

In addition to unreasonable justification for gear and such, projection is another sneaky motivator. You buy the thing that represents the lifestyle you want to live, or the thing you want to do, but don’t. You project attributes of a life you wish you had.

After talking to a couple buddies on my podcast about backcountry skiing, I thought it would be cool if, I too, was touring around the slopes on skis affixed with skins. (Yeah, I’m happy about my new vocabulary words.)

But, would I really get out the door and up a mountain with enough frequency to validate the cost? I’m not passionate about skiing because I haven’t done it much and being a novice is often frustrating and painful — some of the best excuses to quit.

There’s a weird self-doubt quality here. There’s being honest with yourself and there’s limiting yourself. If you say you weren’t meant to do something, that could be a lie. You might just use that as a warm cuddly excuse to not push yourself through the novice period. I didn’t hunt until I was in my 30s. Now I’m practicing my bow daily for a bow-only moose hunt in August. I really took to hunting and now do it as much as I fish. Could skiing fit in there too? Maybe.

[Video: How to get out after falling through the ice]

Or maybe it’s not reasonable to think I would be able to devote time to skiing given the lack of daylight hours, the potential lack of snow and the fact it overlaps with steelhead season.

So, the reason I was on Amazon was because I was looking for a Mustang suit. I thought about how easily I’d validated comfort purchases yet a flotation suit escaped my consumer impulse.

I wondered how at least a flotation jacket hadn’t been one of my first purchases when I bought the 1985 Boston Whaler four years ago. I assessed how conservative I am when it comes to running my skiff to where I fish. During none of those trips was the water anything more than sporty. But sporty can turn dangerous quickly. Everyone buys life jackets hoping they will never be needed, which is why they aren’t always used. At least the jacket could be functional and provide better safety in cold water.

However, I reasoned that I could save myself the money and instead continue to be diligent with checking the weather, never pushing the limits and wearing my life jacket.

I left Amazon for a different website and bought a T-shirt with a picture of a moose that read: “Organic” because I am a sucker and a fool.

The next day I was trying on jackets at the local marine store.


• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.


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