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While researching last week’s Historical Badass, Earl Shaffer, we learned that Shaffer thru-hiked the AT trail for his third time at age 79 in a pair of boots he bought at a thrift store for $10. Awesome.

That isn’t to say that spending 30 times that on a pair of hiking boots isn’t worth it. But it is worth pointing out that things that seem essential—modern, expensive, cutting-edge boots for a 2,000-mile hike, for instance—aren’t always as essential as they seem. Some people need a pair of bombproof boots for the thru-hike of a lifetime, and some are fine with a bargain pair from a Goodwill rack and a roll of duct tape.

That’s the thing though, expensive is relative when it comes to anything, of course, depending on personal financial circumstances, but also in terms of what you personally consider worth the expense.

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If a pair of boots costs $300 or even $400, but lasts the owner 20 or 30 years, is that worth the initial expense? Or if a $300 boot weighs less than a pair of cotton socks but only lasts for two seasons, is that worth it? See? It’s relative to the owner.

Some gear, say, bikes, for example, tend to reward the big spender with noticeably increased performance. But whether a $1,000 Dyneema tent that is whisper-light but as fragile as china is that much of a gamechanger in the backcountry depends entirely on what you want out of a piece of gear. Is it just a means to an end, by allowing you to pursue adventure in the outdoors comfortably and safely? Or is the wow factor of gear worth factoring in to the equation, and something that is enjoyable in an of itself?

That’s in the eye of the credit cold holder.

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Photo: Tim Foster