On The Importance Of Buying The Best Gear You Can

Filson hunting bibs

You can pry my Filson hunting bibs from my cold dead hands… Sitting on an exposed cliff, freezing 40 mph wind and horizontal rain pelting the two inches of exposed skin around my eyes, the author’s thoughts turn to gear. This column, indeed, the entire endeavor, is predicated on checking out the latest and greatest photo and filmmaking gear. What could a deer hunter sitting quietly for hours at a time in all weather have to do with the newest cool piece of tech?

Now that photography and film have reached the digital realm, tech updates seem to happen on an internet-enabled, lightning-fast schedule. And, every year, like clockwork, a new camera comes out that has new features that actually do sound pretty cool. You may resist, thinking your gear is good enough for now, but you do have to upgrade every couple years, if for nothing else than equipment failure. I shot seven years and 350,000 exposures on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II (more than twice the recommended shutter life span) and only upgraded when I had to. I do wistfully wonder how many fabulous photos I missed by not having upgraded sooner, but Schrödinger and his feline buddy will have to sort that out themselves.

Sitting on my ledge, wind howling, branches banging together to rub off any scant remaining leaves, I’m actually rather cozy. SmartWool against my skin, followed by two layers of Patagonia up top, a thick wool-blend jac-shirt with a scent-reduction layer, and then, there it is, the best garment. I’m talking so cool, they don’t even make it anymore. You can’t have this for love nor money. It was expensive, crazily so, and one of my first purchases upon becoming a hunter.

I’m talking about pajama-soft, virgin wool camo overalls from Filson.

“Why not the best?” this Filson of Seattle asks. Indeed, I believe these hunting bibs are my favorite article of clothing. I get to wear them maybe 30 hours a year. And every one of those hours is comfortable and protected. Certain people I might be married to had been a bit salty to me, complaining about “all the money I spend on hunting.” Sitting up on my ledge surveying the valley below, reveling in my awesome Filson, I realized I hadn’t spent much on hunting lately. Twenty years ago I bought the best gear I could find, spent a little more for it, but am now enjoying years of fabulous protection from the elements. And did I mention how I love this gear? Just putting it on makes me happy. Letting it do its thing and keeping me warm, dry and comfortable so I can pay attention to what I’m there for no matter the weather.

And shelter is one of the most fundamental things there is; the gear that protects you is primal. Any gear you make your living with is primal, of course. But there’s something special about sitting out in the woods in the middle of nowhere, nothing to do but sit quietly trying not to even move, lest you give yourself away. Wrap yourself tighter in that cocoon of beautifully wrought wool and spend your limited daylight hunting hours warm, happy and content.

And, yet, atop the amazing bespoke and elitist Filson bibs I wear a Gander Mountain house-brand Chinese-made cheap-as-can-be coat, which I like because it has a lot of pockets. The best gear is the gear you have with you, to mangle a popular aphorism. This column is ostensibly about photography and filmmaking gear, in particular, ways to make cheap gear act like good and good gear act great. I was in college when I had a shoot ruined by a cheap tripod. I bit the bullet, gritted my teeth and sprang for the Gitzo (like, $350, if I recall correctly). And, I still use it today, nearly four decades later.

So, here it is: Buy the best gear you can. The short-term financial pain will be lessened each time you use it, doubly so each time you use that thing (whatever it is) to create beautiful art. Crappy gear will enrage you more each time it fails, making you wonder if it’s really you that’s the problem, not the gear.

Photographer and filmmaker Chris X Carroll has been fired upon by Norwegian whalers north of the Arctic Circle, swum naked with REM, taught Viscount Charles Spencer to sail, and turned to ask Elizabeth Taylor if the melon he was holding was ripe at a grocery store before realizing who she was and nearly passing out. Visit Chris at www.chriscarrollphoto.com, and follow him on Instagram @chrisxcarroll and on Facebook at chrisxcarroll