Why “Solid” or “Sturdy” Does Not Necessarily Make Gear Better
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I grew up on a farm near the Canadian border routinely working 100 hours per week. Hard work required hard gear. At least that was my thought process all of those years ago. I grew to appreciate brands like Carhartt and Red Wing Shoes because they know how to make solid gear that lasts. I still have a Carhartt jacket from my early 20s and get nostalgic when I wear it or a pair of Red Wing boots. Anyone reading this article who has ever donned a Carhartt jacket or a pair of their bibs knows how long they take to break in and how long they last. They are not items that require frequent replacement.
Fast forward a decade or two, and I still have a hard time shaking the mentality that heavy is synonymous with quality. I am, or at least was, drawn to gear that can be described as solid, sturdy, or indestructible. These words are almost always synonymous with “heavy”. I mistakenly thought heavier items are better for no other reason than they last longer and I will not have to spend money on replacements as frequently. That logic led to my first suppressor being a full-auto rated stainless steel behemoth. It will last forever, but it was so heavy that off-handed shooting with it at the end of a 16” barrel was futile. It was even harder to handle when attached to the end of the 26” barrel of my Remington 700. I have since spent the extra money for a titanium suppressor from OSS (now HUXWRX) that is both durable and lightweight.
It has taken many years and more dollars than it should have, but I now recognize that there is a cost to weight. Qore Performance published a series of articles I wrote about the benefits of QPI’s hydrophobic plate carrier, the IcePlate EXO when compared to the SCARAB LT and the Crye Precision JPC 2.0. In those articles, I used math to show how even one ounce of weight translates to 132 pounds over the course of a mile (2,112 average steps per mile divided by 16 ounces per pound = 132 pounds). Carrying an extra pound of gear equates to over a ton of extra weight over a mile. Even if you are the hairiest of knuckle-draggers who prides himself on not complaining, why would you force yourself to lug around that kind of weight? (And if you’re a few pounds overweight, maybe the math will convince you that eating a few more salads and a little extra PT can be a huge advantage.)
I had the benefit of meeting with Justin Li, co-founder and CEO of Qore Performance, who let me handle an IcePlate EXO sample before they went to production. This was a light bulb moment for me - I finally realized that lightweight does not have to mean fragile. We did things with the EXO that I was certain would destroy it. But I was wrong. Qore Performance was able to fit the durability of Carhartt into a much lighter package. And when Qore Performance went to production with the EXO, I was one of the first people to fork over my money and know that I got everything I paid for.
Whether you are buying a new pair of running shoes or kit for the field, try to reconsider what it means for your gear to be “solid”.
Gunnar Anderson is a former EMT, rescue diver, and prosecutor who now trains and advises both law enforcement and emergency management.
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