I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the MOST sustainable gear in the world is the gear you already own. Constantly buying gear, whether thrifted or new, is never going to be as sustainable as using what we already own first. But our gear is only good when it is serving its purpose aka working correctly. When done properly, quality gear can last for decades, in fact there are plenty of items in my closet that I’ve had for nearly 10 years. So, the question then become, how can we do to make our gear last?
Waterproof: How waterproof an item is wears out over item. Because of this it is important that we re-waterproof certain items every year. For example, snow gear is designed to be waterproof. However, constantly using the gear, sitting down, and just normal wear and tear is going to make items less waterproof. I usually buy waterproofing spray at REI since they have a wide selection for different types of gear. Taking time to do this each year will help your items stay waterproof and thus last much longer.
Sew and Patch: It’s not uncommon for outdoor gear to develop rips and tears, either from overuse, being snagged on a trail, or a spark from the campfire. The best action to take in this instance is to sew the rip or patch the hole as soon as possible. The sooner we do this to our gear, the less likely it is that this damage will spread. Obviously, some rips are past the point of repair, however a majority of damages can be easily repaired at home. Also, don’t underestimate the power of some quality duct tape.
STOP Washing Gear: Well, at least some of it. Not all gear is meant to be thrown into the washing machine time and time again. In fact, doing this can actually make our gear get damaged extremely quickly. The first step is to read the labels on our clothing/gear to figure out how to properly care for it. Common items that shouldn’t be washed include rain gear, snow gear, down/puffy jackets, and certain types of shoes. When we properly clean our items, we help ensure that they will last for years to come.
Untie/ Unbuckle Items: Sometimes after a long day outside we just want to take our gear off as fast as possible. Unfortunately, this too can make our items wear out quicker. When it comes to shoes, untying them will help them avoid getting stretched out. The same goes for clothing; untying, unbuttoning, or unzipping items before taking them off means that they are less likely to get stretched out or torn.
Obviously, it’s impossible for the average person to repair all of the damage on all of their items. If this happens to you there are a few options of what to do. If you can’t repair it yourself try: Sending it back to the company. Many companies will try to repair items (even if its many years old) and if they can’t they will try to repurpose the materials and give you store credit. Repurpose the material on your own. Doing this may require a bit more creativity but there are plenty of videos and articles about clever ways to repurpose old clothing/gear.
Donate your items. If an item is completely unwearable, then you shouldn’t be donating it. However, if you have a used item that you no longer need, think about donating it to a local charity, shelter, or larger organization. I donate my shoes to Sole4Souls that repurposes old shoes for those in need.
If you have the means to do so, it’s best to buy gear that is built to last. Often times these items are more expensive but when properly taken care of they can last literal decades. In fact, they usually end up being cheaper in the long run. We should use what we already have, but obviously there are times when we needed to buy an item. In this case it’s always best to try and find it used or purchase from sustainable and ethical companies. Be sure to try these tips for making your gear last, and enjoy the many adventures to come.