Friday, July 20, 2018

Life Advice From Gear Instruction Manuals


The outdoors is a place that builds character and teaches wisdom. We look to explorers and adventurers as heroes and role models. We seek out inspiring stories of endurance and triumph to glean insight about living on the edge and living life in general. But what if there is a source of wisdom right under our noses that we have been overlooking?

The other day I was reading through the owner's manual for several new items I had purchased for an upcoming backpacking trip abroad. I noticed some of the instructions pertained not only to my new gear but also more broadly to life. This gave me the idea to see how much life advice I might find in something as mundane as some owner's manuals. So I dug out a box where I kept old manuals and I found some genuine treasures!

"You are responsible for your own actions and decisions." Petzl ascender instruction manual. Printed in bold under a warning label this advice is a great reminder that we cannot blame anyone but ourselves for our failures or success. If you want something, stop complaining, take responsibility, and go get it!

"Use caution to prevent damage." -Yakama rack manual. This is a good bit of advice to remember from time to time. In outdoor adventures sports, we focus mostly on taking risks and pushing boundaries. Yakama's wise words are a reminder that we need to mix a bit of caution in with our risk-taking. Pushing the boundaries too far without caution is not bravery but folly. Calculated risk is the goal. Sometimes you need to wimp to wimp again.

"Understand and accept the risks involved." Petzl carabiner instruction manual. This is great advice from a company known for quality gear that helps manage risk in extreme environments. You can have the best gear in the world, but at the end of the day, it's up to you to use it right. So go out and do extreme things, but know what you're risking.

"Always hold bottle upright when drinking." - Katadyn water filter bottle instruction manual. These are timeless words of wisdom. They apply to every beverage at every time of day and especially when having a cold one.

"With frequent falls, a burly rope is important." - Mammut climbing rope manual. If there is one thing climbing teaches, it is that you must always get up again after a fall if you want to succeed. If you want to excel in doing hard things you need thick skin, a tough attitude, and a burly rope.

"The key to reducing condensation is ventilation." MSR tent manual. This is true literally and metaphorically. It is important to vent your tent and your stress. If you let condensation build too long without adequate ventilation you will end up a hot mess.

"Ride defensively; be prepared for all situations." - Trek bike owners manual. This is practical advice for every area of life, and especially for the road. No one else is going to watch out for you as well as you. Live life, and be prepared for anything!

"Relax." Gregory backpack fit guide. 'nuff said Gregory.

"Never paddle alone." - Dagger kayak owners manual. Great adventures are best shared with others.

"Do not wash your sandals in the dishwasher." - Chaco sandals care guide. You know the only reason they print this in the care guide is that someone wrote in trying to make a warranty claim after doing this. Never the less, it is good advice. Keep your dirty sandals away from the dishwasher. You eat off those dishes for Pete's sake.

"Well-loved sandals can accumulate dirt and debris." Chaco sandals care guide. A poetic reminder that any life worth living will likely include some bumps and bruises. Get out and experience life. You only get one, so why try to keep it pretty and clean.

"When navigating to a destination, point to your destination, regardless of the direction you are moving." - Garmin GPS user manual. These are words to live by. No matter what your current trajectory, always keep your eyes on your goals. If you stay focused on the destination and keep going you will get there in the end.

"Go for a run or ride." - Garmin GPS user manual. We can all use a reminder like this from time to time. Get out and enjoy the tranquility of the wind on your face. Sometimes you just need to leave life behind for a moment and enjoy the great outdoors.

"Never mix fresh and used batteries." - Princeton Tec headlamp instruction manual. This is a masterful reapplication of ancient wisdom for the 21st century. For example, Jesus said, “No one pours new wine into old wineskins.” Sometimes we are better off leaving the old behind completely in favor of the new.

"Give yourself a high five or a fist bump— but not both." - Big Agnes tent owners manual. If you accomplish a challenging task (like setting up a new tent), you should be proud. Just don’t let it go to your head. One could take this advice literally also. Give yourself a high five or fist bump when you complete something difficult, but don’t do both unless you want your friends to have another reason to think you’re weird.

"Ride in an unusual manner." - Trek bike owners manual. So true. Life is short, be unique. Don't let anyone shame you for being you.

Who knew gearheads were so philosophical!


Written by David F. Garner

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