Throughout this site, I’ve said “skills trump gear almost every time.” That’s because skills have a lot of advantages over gear.
Why are skills better than gear?
- Skills are almost always cheaper to learn.
- They weigh nothing.
- Skills occupy no space.
- Skills are multiplied by teaching others.
- They are nearly infinite. You won’t run out.
- Skills make you valuable as a person. Gear, people can just steal that from you.
Those are just a few of the reasons. Gear on the other hand:
- Cost hundreds or thousands.
- Has significant weight.
- Occupies space.
- Can’t be multiplied unless you spend more money.
- Most gear wears out or runs out.
- Gear makes you a target in bad times.
Skill Vs Gear: Skills Save You Money
Learning how to tie knots can save you hundreds if not thousands. How? Tons of products on the market exist simply because people don’t know how to tie knots in cordage or don’t want to. Here are just a few examples:
- Super Cinch Rope Tie-Down – 12 for $40.00
- Rope Lok – 1 for $14.00 Shipped
- Guyline Tensioners – Pack of 8 for $9
You get the point, and that’s just for tying knots. What about for learning how to make fire with natural materials? You can save money on:
- Bic Lighters – $1 a piece.
- Ferrocerium Rod – $10 a piece
- Fire Piston – $30
The same holds true for shelter building, water purifying, hunting, trapping, and foraging. As a result, all of these skills can save you huge amounts of money. The more well-versed you are in a skill, the more likely you’ll be able to do without other gear.
Skill Vs Gear: Skills Weigh Nothing
Depending on what happens, you may need to relocate or your plan might be to leave where you are. In that case, weight can drastically effect how long it takes for you to get somewhere as you’ll need to rest more. In addition to skills weighing nothing, they also can eliminate gear that otherwise would have weighed something. With some paracord and a tarp, you can make a backpack, and use the tarp and paracord to make shelter. That saves you from having to lug around a tent, hence saving you energy. Here are video demonstrations:
Making a Yukon Tarp Backpack
Making a Tarp Tent
Skill Vs Gear: Skills Don’t Occupy Space
You can argue that many skills still require tools or materials, but many of those things can be found or fashioned from things found in nature. Even if you can’t make the tools, you are likely to save far more space having the tools and skills that can make things, or perform tasks than one-trick-pony gear. I’m astounded at the number of “survival kit” lists I see that have toilet paper on them. Just some basic outdoors training would save people many square inches or feet taken up by unnecessary, disposable, paper products. Do they have other uses, such as tinder, sure, but there is much better, more tightly packed options for tinder.
Why Not Make Your Own Axe in the Woods?
Skill Vs Gear: Skills Can Be Multiplied by Teaching Others
Ever had a lighter spontaneously turn into two lighters? Me neither. Survival gear doesn’t multiply, you just buy more if you need more. That’s not the case with skills. If you can make a fire with sticks, you can teach someone else how to make a fire with sticks. That means you can go out hunting and know that when you get back to camp, you’ll have a fire waiting for you rather than needing to build one yourself.
Class of People Learning to Make Fire
Skill Vs Gear: Skills Are Nearly Infinite
When you run out of lighter fluid, that’s it for the lighter. It’s done. When you know how to make fire with a bow drill, you don’t run out of fire making capacity. When the last bag of freeze dried food is consumed, it’s gone. Hunting and foraging skills help relieve the worry about having food. The right skills can address a problem almost endlessly and gear cannot. Gear is used up, worn out, damaged, lost or stolen. Does some gear last a lifetime? Yes, but that’s the exception, not the rule.
Need Rope? Make Rope?
Hey look, nearly infinite rope in the desert.
Skill Vs Gear: Skills Make You Valuable
Skills make you more valuable as a person, while gear simply makes you a target. If you needed to join up with a group of people, skills make you an asset that they would want, rather than a potential liability or resource drain. Skills can allow you to band up with other people who might have skills you don’t possess. The sum can be greater than the parts. On the other hand, gear can make you a target for theft. At the very least, gear will increase the likelihood that you’ll always have to be on guard to avoid someone trying to take it.
Is Gear Completely Useless?
Gear Makes Things Easier, Especially for Novices
Of course not. Gear makes things that otherwise require great skill and make it easier. It’s much easier to get a rocket stove going with a lighter than a campfire with sticks. It’s a lot easier to setup a pop-up tent than rig a tarp as shelter with cordage and knots.
Gear absolutely has its place in the world, but as you become more skilled in bushcraft, you’ll realize that more and more gear is less and less useful to you. Gear will always have its place in the world, but it is generally most useful to people with less skill. How else would the Wunder Boner exist (and for only $19.99!)?
Give the Fisherman in Your Life a Wunder Boner!
Gear Offers Redundancy and Alternatives
What happens if it is just too cold out? It becomes a lot harder to work a bow drill or a fire plough. What if you are injured? A lighter would be a welcomed companion. I’m not trying to throw all gear out, but I do want to drive home the point that skills put you in a much better position not only to make better use of your gear, but to also know which gear is necessary, and which should’ve been left in the bargain bin.
Gear Can Save Lots of Time and Energy
Time and energy are very valuable in nature, and gear can give some of it back to you. If gear can save you hours, or it can save you lots of calories worth of effort, then it might be worth the weight and space that it occupies. That is where your judgment comes into play. No one can possess an expert level of skill in all areas. Some areas you’ll be great in, and others you’ll be bad at. Use gear that helps you out in those rough areas of your skill set.
Are You Saying that Gear Doesn’t Require Skill?
I don’t want to confuse anyone here. I’m completely aware that there is plenty of gear that requires great skill and care to use. Guns are one such example. There are many skills that require gear, and that gear is absolutely necessary. It is also worth noting that if you have gear that requires skill to use, then you should ensure that you have the skills to use it. Too often, people purchase gear and never even take it out of the box. I don’t know about you, but I have no plans to learn my gear during a crisis.