Requests and Asking for gear information

October 18th, 2021 by Carl D

Hey Folks,

Supper under a tarp, Denali Natilonal Park backpacking trip, Alaska.
Supper under a tarp, Denali National Park backpacking trip, Alaska.

This is a post you might be able to use regardless what you’re wondering about (we’re all wondering about something, right?). One of the things I see most common when I cruise around the web at different forums, blogs, websites, check my email, etc, etc is requests for information about gear. Whether it be camera gear, ski gear, backpacking gear, rafting gear, paddling gear, biking gear, mountaineering gear, whatever. So many people post requests for information about gear choices without offering much, if any, idea on their intended use.

Backpacking Gear Questions

Example; “I’m looking for a good pair of hiking boots for the winter”. This kind of request is, in most forums, useless. before offering any kind of recommendation at all, I’d need to know more information. A lot more information. What kind of hiking? On trail/off trail? Winter where? Alaska, or Florida? Hiking, as in dayhiking, or backpacking trips? You wanna go backpacking in Denali National Park? Or Gates of the Arctic? And on and on. Without even discussing the nuance of individual fit. style, taste, etc (particularly important with boots), it’s about impossible to really offer any useful information to the request.

Photography and Camera Equipment Questions

I see the same thing with photography gear; “I need a new lens, what should I buy?”. Well, it depends on what you need that lens to do. It also depends on what other lenses you have already; photography gear, as with backpacking gear, is a system, it’s not an isolated bunch of parts. If I own a 17-35mm, and a 70-200mm, and I shoot a Nikon D700, maybe a 50mm f1.8 would be a great choice for me, particularly if I’m wanting to do some aerial photography. On the other hand, if I’m dying to photograph boreal owl, and I own a 24-70mm f2.8 lens, a 50mm lens likely isn’t going to be the best choice.

The problem is we all want simple answers. Well, in 99 out of 100 cases, there are none, without narrowing down the field a bit. Don’t be vague. Be specific. What backpack you need depends; the backpack I use might not (most likely will not) be the best pack for you and your needs. How long are the trips you generally take? How much weight do you need to carry? What are the other key items, of “the big 4” (inc., sleeping bag, pad, tent) that you currently own? Do you generally hike solo, or split the gear with another hiker/s? Winter and mountaineering trips? overnight summer jaunts in the southern Appalachians?

You need a new lens? Do you want to backpack with it? Do you want to concentrate on wildlife photography, or big, wide landscapes? Wildlife? Bears, or birds? Photographing bears while you hike the Highline trail in Glacier National Park, or bears on photo-specific trips to places like Katmai National Park? The more information YOU offer, the more information I, or anyone else might be able to offer.

You need a new car? You need a new car for WHAT? Your outdoor gear is generally going to be specific to types of weather, terrain, usage, etc, etc. It’s also going to, generally, need to work in harmony with the rest of your gear. So if you really want some sound advice on gear, offer specific detail on what you need it to do.

One  of the very best things about the internet is the access it gives us to not just pre-written information, but literally thousands of people out there visiting the same websites we are who are generous enough to gladly offer some great advice and information on exactly what we need to know. The problem is, if we don’t tell them what they need to know in order to help us, we can’t really benefit from their generosity. It’s in our interest to help them help us.

All information needs context. The more context you can provide when you ask for information, the more useful and helpful that resulting information will be.



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