Early on, I realized that going around town to buy my gear for the Waterloo Region Crossing that I participated in last weekend did not make sense to me. My reasoning for not wanting to do so was this: I didn’t want to be trying to make the ends justify the means.
Briefly, for those that do not know, I participated in this trek to help connect the dots between homelessness, land-use, and global climate change. While the first two issues were what the event organizers had focused on, after a lot of thought, I decided that I also wanted to do the trek for climate change too given how these issues were closely interrelated.
Especially after having put so much thought into my reasons for participating, I wanted as much as possible to align my goals for the trek with how I prepared for it. This included my process of getting "in gear" so-to-speak, with my equipment.
Aligning with my goals
The most obvious reason for my decision was that forking out funds for gear that I might only use once ran counter to my goal of raising money for homeless citizens. Given that they often cannot afford the clothing they need, how would it make sense for me to purchase clothing that I might never use again?
As for driving around town unnecessarily, for those that know me, that may seem confusing given that my family owns an all-electric vehicle, (a Nissan LEAF to be exact in case anyone wants to know). A type of vehicle that I want to quickly add I know not everyone has the means, or should be expected, to buy, and that I realize we are quite fortunate to own.
Without a doubt using an EV saves A LOT of energy compared to the average combustion engine vehicle, and we try to augment that by charging it at night when electricity is more likely generated from hydroelectric and nuclear sources. These being energy sources that at least have lower “downstream” carbon footprints once the necessary infrastructure is put in place.
However, driving reduces the lifetime of the battery, and the manufacturing of batteries, as well as the vehicle itself, whether electric or not, results in the production of greenhouse gas emissions. So, for relations relating to my transport, I did not want to drive around town unnecessarily while purchasing equipment for the trek.
Less obviously although also important to me, I did not want to purchase my gear from mega-stores. This is despite how difficult this can be given that, for the most part, this is at least where most real-life (as opposed to on-line) sales occur nowadays.
I won't mince words in saying how frustrated I feel with how these stores perpetuate urban sprawl -- frequently locating away from the heart of the city, using up large quantities of land, and stealing customers from small local businesses so as to bring about urban decay and the loss of local jobs. The impact on the homeless includes less land being available for affordable housing, and the location of goods and services in inaccessible, car-centric places, amongst other things.
Having said this, *without a doubt* I realize that buying from these stores also can be a necessity nowadays, especially for those with less disposable incomes or with many members in their household. As I said, trying to find products other than in these stores can be difficult, and I shop in them too occasionally. Trying to avoid shopping at them just made particular sense to me in the context of my trek.
The approach of the tortoise
My solution to dealing with these challenges was to adopt the approach of the fabled tortoise as opposed to the hare. I did a little bit to prepare my gear each day or so, for a couple of weeks prior to the event. This gave me time to go gear hunting – first in my home and then with my outdoor-loving friends and neighbours.
Even with all this, a few days prior to the trip I discovered to my great panic some items that I still needed (including electrolyte tablets which I had not even heard of before!). Fortunately, firing off a couple more email messages and texts helped me find people who kindly lent them to me.
There were also a couple items that I still had to buy, including some mitts that I felt I desperately needed to avoid potential frostbite as well as some gaiters to keep the snow out of my boots. I did though purchase these items from stores that I have greater respect for (including one largish store that at least is located in a fairly central location) and that I was able to visit en route during another trip.
Check, check, check!
With all the difficulties I had experienced with preparing up until that point, for some reason I had it in my mind that the gear check would be also challenging. To my great joy, my experience was pleasant and everyone who helped officiate this process was quite encouraging.
The only hitch arose when I was asked if I had Band-Aids. Technically they weren’t required, and common sense dictated that I needed to bring some. As we had run out of quality ones at home, I ducked afterwards into a small local drug store, Alphamed Pharmacy, that I hadn’t visited before.
As I was in there, I shared with the pharmacist why I needed them, and he, without me even asking, offered me a discount on them. Not a major discount, and I nonetheless appreciated his thoughtfulness.
This last experience in the pharmacy encapsulates my experience with gathering my gear. It felt like my entire ‘tribe’ of family, friends and larger community helped me get outfitted for the trek. I was so glad-full for their help and excited by the feeling that everyone was coming together to make the trek possible! A much-anticipated trek about which, at long last, I will try to share with you about next.
My Story of the Waterloo Region Crossing 2019