Thursday, November 30, 2006

My Gear is Pricier Than Your Gear

If you enjoy hiking, biking, skiing, or other outdoor adventure activities, you've probably noticed that there's nothing humble anymore about travel gear. Travel and adventure gear has become another form of one-up-manship. People who wear $10,000 watches and $4,000 dress shoes to work during the week aren't about to let go of their dress-to-impress competitiveness when it's time to venture outside.

One sure way to see where this is heading is to check out any article titled "XX Hot Gear Pics" or "Travel Gear of the Year List." These articles are a boon for magazines because they are a nice way to grab the newsstand attention of aspirational browsers, plus they are pure gold when attracting advertisers.

The latest comes from National Geographic Traveler, with the cover headline 45 Gear Picks of the year. Don't check it out expecting to find a lot of things that a traveler of normal means can afford unless there's a home equity loan in play to finance it. We're talking a $1,200 low-res mini camcorder, a $4,100 mountain bike, a $299 flashlight, $800 skis (no bindings included), $159 sunglasses, and a $210 rope. (Yes, a rope!) The cheapest item is a $30 umbrella, but it's not waterproof--just for the sun.

But look at the prominent ads in the magazine and it gives you an idea of who this article is really aimed at. There are full page glossies for Rolex, Cartier, Chivas Regal, and Hummer. Hummer? Maybe that $299 flashlight is another way to compensate for some, ahem, weakness somewhere.

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