Are you a Kit Monster?

Kit Monster This article is by Andy Ashton and was originally printed in the January 1997 edition of Trail Magazine. It is reproduced here without their kind permission - I hope they don't mind!

I plead guilty to most of this...

It's the usual story. Your friends get you into it. Nothing serious, mind, just the soft stuff. A fleece maybe. - I mean they're very practical aren't they? - or a woolly hat.

Then before you know it, you've bought something more. Something small, but infinitely useful, like a torch made out of aircraft aluminium, or a miniature purple karabiner for, sort of, hanging things on. But you're not hooked, are you? I mean it's not a habit right? You could stop at any time.


Then you're onto the hard stuff. Axes, stoves and gaiters clutter your wardrobes. Things stop being green and start being emerald. Catalogues pile up on your bookshelves and your bank balance vies with the Third World for solvency. Friends come to you for advice, and you know all the answers. Then Shop Assistants come to you for advice, and you still know all of the answers. Finally you have 'working in a climbing shop' fantasies and then you know you've got it bad.

You're a Kit Monster.

Don't get me wrong. Being a Kit Monster is fantastic. For a start it's something to do on a weekend when your long-suffering partner finally rebels against being scared witless on some gale-ridden knife-edge in the middle of nowhere and demands to go ... shopping. This is no longer a chore. Despatch them to a shop of their choice, and you can go and check the new multi-purpose stove that even burns yak dung because although there's not too much of that in the Lake District, you've been thinking about going to the Karakorum one day, and anyway a stove like that is essential - if there's a long wait for food at the pub you can strip it down and put it back together again to fill the time. On the way out of the shop you can run your hand over the Gore-Tex and hope no-one notices.

Secondly, being a Kit Monster gives you something to talk about. As you struggle up some rain-swept slope, you can casually remark 'Hey, did you know that my sweat is being efficiently wicked across a vapour pressure gradient stabilised membrane and I'm exactly the right temperature?' Best to try this one on another Kit Monster though, or you might end up with some scuff marks on your four-way stretch, highly breathable face.

Finally, being a Kit Monster is great because it gives you the ultimate pleasure - spending other people's money. Friends come to you for advice and you escort them to the Temple of Kit. Here you convince them to part with double the wedge they first thought of for something 'they won't regret eventually'. Of course, you have to make a few minor libations yourself - an upgrade for your headtorch or some very technical socks, but the Urge has been cheaply satisfied via your poor chum's expenditure. They're probably even pretty pleased with their purchase. Ah, the joys of Kit Monsterdom! Kit Monsters abide by two rules. The first is 'Quality Counts'. This easily translates to 'buy the most expensive'. This counts happily for vicarious spending, but unfortunately also for personal transactions. But somehow, the pain makes it all the more pleasurable, don't you think?

The second rule is 'Be Prepared'. Kit Monsters live in a far distant future full of multiple bizarre possibilities, all of which need to be provided for. So better buy everything, just in case. Finally Kit Monsters are bound by the law of Progressive Obsolescence, which states that any item of kit, however serviceable, immediately becomes unsatisfactory the moment a technically superior version comes onto the market. I mean, there's nothing wrong with it, it's just that when there is a better one 'out there' it's just not quite the same, is it? Thus Kit Monsters always have huge mounds of old kit, charting the evolution of outdoor gear over the past two decades, because Kit Monsters never throw anything out. They just stick Duct Tape onto it and shove it under their bed.

Maybe you know a Kit Monster. Maybe you are the proud possessor of an overdraft and a piece of kit you know you will never regret buying. Or maybe reading this has given you a prickle in your spine, and even now the awful horror of self recognition is creeping over you...