January 11, 2009

Cheap Gear

M. and I went to Colorado Springs earlier this week and stopped by our favorite department store, the ARC thrift store at 1830 W. Uintah St. It is large, well-organized, and full of cheap gear.

Stuff that did not exist when I was younger ...

A few weeks ago, M.'s winter parka experienced catastrophic zipper failure. At ARC, she picked up a like-new Columbia Omni-Tech parka for $20. (List price about $120.)

This was my day: A Cabela's "chamois cloth" shirt, maybe a discarded Christmas present worn once to please the giver, for $7.

Barely worn athletic shoes, $4, list price $49.95.

I don't normally buy used footwear, ski boots sometimes excepted, unless they are new or like-new and not shaped to the previous owner's foot. But sometimes you find new boots and shoes on the shelf -- shop-worn merchandise donated by retailers?

Like some no-name Chinese snow boots (with extra melamine): too clunky for long walks, but fine for going to the woodpile, short dog walks, or wearing into town on snowy or slushy days. Ten bucks.

Into my head floated the memory of a winter camping trip at Rocky Mountain National Park's Bear Lake with my Boy Scout troop from Fort Collins when I was 13 or so.

I was wearing jeans. And no one said anything, because that was pretty normal back then. (Even the ski patrolers wore jeans, to show that they were too cool to fall down and get them wet.) Of course, my jeans froze stiff from the knees down. The only other option might have been some Army-surplus wool trousers from Jax Surplus, if someone had suggested that.

Long underwear: cotton or some cotton-polyester blend?

Foot gear: well-oiled leather Wellingtons. And I wore them snowshoeing. It's what I had.

Sleeping bag: Army-surplus down-and-feathers bag, probably Korean War vintage, with a short foam rubber pad underneath--and not closed-cell foam, but something taken off a chaise longue, as I recall.

I don't remember what sort of coat I had -- some flimsy parka, most likely.

The second evening, the Scout leaders took us to see some wildlife movies in a heated Park Service building. Even then, I wondered if the main reason for that was the movies or just to get the boys warmed up before crawling into our miserable sleeping bags.

No harm done. We all survived and even enjoyed parts of it.

But I could walk around in the ARC store today and find cheap gear better than what Holubar Mountaineering was selling then (except for their down-filled sleeping bags).


mdmnm said...

Pretty amazing how much good gear is available now days, isn't it? Polypro and thermax long underwear, that actually dry out with exertion if you get your pants wet with snow or rain, is fantastic stuff and makes life so much more comfortable.

Nice finds!

Peculiar said...

Yup, it's kinda mindblowing how much standards have risen even in my lifetime. But I must admit, when I get out I'm clad head to toe in cotton far more often than not. Of course, I know when I ought to take the stuff off and get into some fleece.

Chas S. Clifton said...

Yes, there was life before Polartec, although it is hard to remember.