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In pursuit of GoodEnough®

Not every piece of gear needs to be perfect

There’s a lot of camera gear I’ve owned (or still own): Sony A7, Sony A7r2, a6300, rx100 vii, a7c, 35mm f2.8, 50mm f1.8, 70-200 f4, 85mm 1.8, 20mm, 24mm 2.8, 24-70mm f4, 24-70mm 2.8, 16-50mm f3.5-5.6, etc etc.

I’ve never been a full time photographer, but I’ve had the chance to shoot professionally with a variety of clients over the years. However, with photography, as with other components of my life, I’ve made efforts to tone down the amount of stuff involved.

Some of this was by necessity, due to bouncing around the world and living in Boulder, New York, and London over the last two years. But some of it was due to a realization about how much I had focused on optimization vs versatility. That 70-200? It’s super fun and I used it on a couple shoots. Distance compression is a cool effect, and you can get some wild and dramatic shots. But has it been worth that usage, and, more importantly, is it worth keeping around? The 85mm? It’s a great portrait lens, but when am I regularly shooting portraits?

For the last two years, I’ve basically only shot with a single prime, first the A7rii paired with a 35mm, and now the A7c paired with a 24mm 2.8.

The a7c + 24mm is compact enough to fit in the front vest pocket of my running vest and versatile enough for basically everything I throw at it. My recent photography is almost 100% centered around active pursuits (trail running, backcountry skiing), or roaming around cities. It’s a run-and-gun style of shooting that rewards portability, and rarely needs a wide array of focal lengths.

It comes in at 24.3 MP, a far cry less than some of the megapixel insanity we’re seeing in top-end mirrorless cameras these days. But unless you’re planning to blow up your photos to the size of a billboard, you don’t really need more than that. If I wasn’t still so tied to full-frame, the handy RX100 VII is probably the most camera the majority of people need.

The same can be said for outdoor apparel. I’ve whittled my closet down significantly over the last few years (most of the excess went straight to Boulder Sports Recycler). Some of this is due to using things that are good enough rather than perfect for a given situation.

My Rab Xenair Alpine Lite isn’t perfect, but it has proved supremely versatile. It’s my go-to layer for any kind of active pursuit. I’ve worn it down to the teens while backcountry skiing, and it was the only “warm” layer I’ve worn all summer for higher alpine pursuits. My 6-year-old Black Diamond Stormline Stretch continues to be a workhorse (here’s my original thoughts about it). It’s often my backcountry shell in the winter, and my only rain layer in the summer.

6 years ago in Alaska, and a few weeks ago in Austria

As a result, my closet is smaller and more efficient than ever, and it’s easy for me to take no more than a carry-on for a month of international travel (including a wedding). There’s less mental overhead around deciding on gear for any given outing. I grab the camera, grab the jackets, and put on a pair of running shorts.

Everything for a month in Europe + a wedding

The great clash at the heart of outdoor brand marketing is that they simultaneously promote “green” solutions and technologies, and at the same time constantly attempt to convince you that nothing you have is GoodEnough®.

I loved this article by Dan Kennedy that humorously roasts the endless technical jargon of the outdoor industry (Thanks for sharing, Mike Rogge).

"It’s a FabRitude® system that SeamWelds® WetDry® in a ChemTex® Graphiton® overlay… and you can’t afford to do whatever it is you do without it.

Maybe you’ve decided you don’t need it. That’s fine. Truth is, you may not be able to afford the premium price point of CarbonCore® with GroundToClouds® InvisiGraphite® shims that create the perfect SuperStability®. We’re speaking to people who demand as much from their gear as they demand from themselves. That may not be you."

I mean, if you don't have a jacket for medium humidity, high temps, a light wind from the southeast, and a chance of graupel snow that also addresses the very specific apparel needs of high-effort technical gravel biking, are you even qualified to be on this trail?

I’m not here to judge. There are plenty of folks who have a greater array of hobbies that may require a larger set of specialized clothing. As I said, most of my photography these days is viewed on phone screens, emails, and blog articles – full-time folks may require the latest, greatest, specific cameras and lenses for different types of shoots. As a trail runner, my personal vice is shoes.

I think it’s worthwhile for all of us to occasionally evaluate and say, “do I really need that”? Do I really need something that is more specialized, has the “newest” waterproof tech, or is a few grams lighter? Do I need another re-usable mug in a slightly different size for a slightly different purpose? Or is what I have GoodEnough®?

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I'm Kyle Frost. Join 65,000 readers enjoying Here & There, my weekly outdoor/travel newsletter with nuance, questions, and complexity.