Is Your Outdoor Equipment an Asset or a Liability?

3 ways to make sure your gear is paying for itself.

At the request of a colleague, I recently read the book Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. You can buy the book if you want, but the TLDR version is that rich people take more risks and buy more assets. He makes the case that most things that the lower/middle classes buy are actually liabilities, especially our cars and houses. 

Basically, according to the book, if something doesn’t give you a financial return on your investment, it’s a liability. If it’s a liability, it generally costs you money to own it. Most often these expenses come from maintenance and at a bare minimum the opportunity cost of having your money tied up in something you can’t cash out of at a moment’s notice (illiquidity).

Whelp, that went down hard when a guy like me starts to look at a yard, farm, shed(s), and a closet full of items that, at first glance, look to be strictly for entertainment. And no, renting it all out is not an ideal option.

Ask yourself the following 3 questions when determining whether your gear is an asset or a liability.

Our closet dedicated to camping gear.

1. Can it go on many trips or does it match your local ecosystem?

The best assets are transferable. In this case the most valuable gear you own works in many different situations. 

For instance, I own 2 sleeping bags: a warm-weather bag and a cold-weather bag. One or the other comes along on every trip. Doesn’t matter if it’s 5 days of hiking or a backyard bonfire that I… ahem… just don’t feel like driving home from. 

I also consider gear to be an asset when it survives The Land of 10,000 Lakes (IE anything that floats). You desert dwellers might gravitate towards a nice water-bladder-holding backpack.

Two sleeping bags laying on hardwood floor.
A Marmot summer bag and a Big Agnes winter bag.

2. Will it last a long time?

The best way to rake in those fun dividends on something is to make sure it sticks around. Quality might cost more upfront, but it pays in the long run. Basically, if I don’t see something making it through multiple seasons, I just don’t buy it anymore. 

Liabilities go in the garbage while assets get passed down. For instance, we use a cast iron every morning to cook our eggs that could easily transition to open-fire cooking. 

If an item cannot pivot or last for more than a year, what’s the use in buying it?

3. Does it keep you healthy? 

It is incredibly difficult to put a price tag on your well being. That’s how I justify buying myself a new pair of hiking shoes or road tires for my mountain bike because after an afternoon float, there’s nothing like biking my way back to the put-in. 

Ultimately, every year that goes by without a meeting our health insurance deductible is a step closer to financial independence.

Cast iron flatlay on a braided rug.
We’ve collected a few cast iron pans over the years.

If the gear wasn’t around, something else would fill the void.

It simply comes down to this: you have to do something with your time. You can work, sleep, or do something fun. But fun costs money. If you weren’t gliding through the water in that kevlar or lugging that expensive bag up a mountain, you’d be spending your time somewhere. 

Somewhere that charges for time spent (think restaurant, sporting event, water slide park, or a streaming subscription). AKA an alternative cost. 

Since it costs money to enjoy your time, a gear item that continually enhances, improves, or allows for certain activities within that time is paying you a dividend, and not costing you money.

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This post was written by Nick Schmitz, November 2020.

Nick sits in canoe and Luna swims in the water

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