Let me start with a confession: I love bad weather. If it’s sleeting sideways, I want to be out in it. The reasons why may be a topic for a later date (or a visit to the Shrink), but a side effect is that I’ve developed a taste for good, reliable “support gear.” What is support gear? That’s all the non-camera-gear stuff that lets you get out there and make the picture. It’s boots, jackets, packs, poles, ropes or whatever else it takes to get out there and get the shot, safely and comfortably enough that you’re willing and able to do it again someday.
Having good gear gives you a certain freedom. It means you can go with confidence, knowing that you can handle the rain, sleet, or challenges of terrain. Of course, you have to stay cognizant of your physical or skill limitations if you’re really pushing that envelope, but that’s a separate topic. I’m not into gear for gear’s sake, but I do love what opportunities the right gear opens up for you. For me, that’s the draw of good kit.
The best gear becomes invisible to you. For example, a good hardshell keeps you dry without getting in the way. After a while you don’t notice the hardshell; your attention is on whatever it was you were outside to do, and you happen to be dry and comfortable when otherwise your attention would have been on being wet and miserable.
If a piece of gear is worth having, it’s probably worth having in high quality. There are exceptions, of course, for niche items that will not be relied on heavily, or cases where there really is no difference between the bargain one and the designer one. But in general, I’m a believer in getting the right tool for the job, once, rather than incrementally buying my way up, burning money along that path. You’ve probably heard this argument when it comes to tripod purchases. I believe it there too.
Of course, good gear tends to be expensive. As someone who gets huge buyer’s remorse when something doesn’t live up to expectations, I end up doing a ton of research before I buy anything more complex than a pair of socks. Unless they’re socks for a specific task — then those too. After the research stage is knowing how and when to find good deals on good stuff. That’s my Scottish side showing, I suppose.
As we go along our photographic journey, I will be adding mini-reviews on some of the support gear I use to get there, or have discovered along the way. Hopefully this gives you some context for where I come from when it comes to all that.