Gear Freak is a term you will hear associated with many sports and activities, and while I’ve been involved in many gear intensive activities in the past, this term seems to have a special affinity with hikers. As an overarching statement a ‘Gear Freak’ is someone who enjoys the process of researching, buying, playing with and talking equipment often just as much as the activity of hiking itself; sometimes more. Gear Nerd is a term that can be used interchangeably here. As an overarching comment, Gear Freaks are often male but on occasions you will come across female Gear Freaks. Some say female Gear Freaks are not so common because women usually have more social awareness. That’s harsh!
From personal experience there are four different levels of Gear Freak you are likely to come across. Where do you sit?
There are a large number of people who hike but don’t call themselves hikers. This best describes many people you see out hiking who will only do so occasionally with family and friends. They will often use clothing and footwear they have at home, sometimes choosing the wrong thing, and will grab a backpack from their cupboard as opposed to owning dedicated hiking gear. Usually their hikes are contained to limited distances and timeframes and often close to their car.
These guys/girls are probably better called ‘Gear Enthusiasts’ and this term probably best describes most hikers who do more than just the occasional hike. They typically own one of everything and it will do them for the majority of their hikes. They know about the gear they are carrying but don’t get too caught up in what’s the ‘lightest’ or the ‘best’. They don’t spend a lot of time researching their purchases instead relying on reviews and advice from outdoor stores. They will however make considered choices.
If you have been hiking for a while you will have come across them. These guys (and at this level it tends to be guys) usually own multiple of everything. Multiple stoves, multiple packs and multiple tents. They know every bit of technical information about every piece of gear they carry and due to the extensive research they have done, they also know these details about gear you are carrying as well. Level 2 Gear Freaks will usually keep this information to themselves unless asked (and then watch out) and will typically volunteer helpful advice to less experienced hikers.
Now we are getting serious, these guys take things to the next level. Like the Level 2 Gear Freaks they know every minute detail about every piece of gear ever made. The difference between a Level 2 and a Level 3 Gear Freak is they are not afraid to tell you why you have made the wrong choice on every piece of gear you own and why you should immediately get off trail and go make your own gear. They will have heated debates at campsites about gear and the only opinion that matters is theirs. You are fighting a losing battle if you get into a discussion on gear with these guys.
How do you recognise a Gear Freak? Just ask them how many pieces of a particular type of gear they have. I mean, can you ever have too many stoves?