If life has taught me anything in my 37 short years, it’s that no amount of fancy equipment or tools can make up for a lack of experience. We’ve all been there at one time or another. We’ve convinced ourselves that if we just had a particular tool that we’d be up for the challenge. While it is true that the right tool for the job is almost always the best choice, by no means does the right tool in the wrong hands make that person a craftsman. Any tool in the wrong hands is, simply put, dangerous. As I spend time floating from one virtual haven to another this evening, my search results leading me to a variety of expeditionary sites, I continuously come across misleading information. I realize that many of the sites I visit are intended to sell a product, therefore the vendors will make it look as easy as possible to implement and use. As a tool enthusiast, I even find myself getting sucked into these types of advertisements, wishing that I too, could join in the excitement of owning such a shiny new product. But after I bit, I have to take a step back and wonder if a) this tool is something I really require and b) I would be better or worse off having purchased it. The adventurous side of me will almost always answer with “absolutely” to the first question following immediately by countless justifications as to why. Thankfully, the logical side of me has a better grip on reality.
Without sounding like some old codger who balks at every new piece of electronics, I do wonder at times if letting advanced technology dictate the outcome in certain situations is really the best option. Automobiles in general, not just high-cost vehicles, are becoming more and more complex, incorporating computers at every possible turn to help regulate systems that, in turn, are used to run other pieces of computerized equipment. I do appreciate the fact that these types of technology are being used to develop features like more advanced air bags and other safety systems. As much time as many of us spend in our vehicles, safety is becoming more and more of a concern. These same types of technologies are being used to assist in the off-roading community as well. And again, part of me really appreciates the ingenuity of this type of advancement. But there comes a point where you no longer require any type of skills to compete because you are entirely reliant on that same technology to get you in and back out of any delicate situations. This is where I begin to question whether the tools of technology are indeed helping or hurting. It seems, from my view point, that this type of technology is just advanced enough to get someone new to the sport into trouble. And Murphy’s Law dictates that the same technology that gets us in, will no doubt fail us at the most inopportune moment on the way out.
Setting some of the advanced technologies and vehicular gadgetry aside for the moment, just look at the average equipment load used by many off-roaders. I’m certainly not saying that one shouldn’t prepare oneself for the eventuality of disaster, big and small. Preparedness is the mark of a realist, not a pessimist. My ethical question to the readers is this… Does excessive quantity or quality of equipment ruin or destroy the experience gained from not having the equipment at all? Is a greater quantity or better quality of gear considered cheating? If so, at what point do we limit the amount of gear we use? Where is the magic threshold past which the experience becomes pointless? To clarify my point, take two off-roading enthusiasts and pit them against one another in a side by side race through an overland off-roading obstacle course. Assuming that both individuals have the same level of experience, it would seem reasonable that whoever has the better equipment will most likely win the race, yes? To outside viewers, giving one competitor better equipment is akin to cheating since the second individual is obviously handicapped by comparison. If I am competitor number one and I am provided with a newer model Mercedes Unimog, while competitor number two receives a 1978 Datsun Hustler, isn’t the competition a bit one-sided? Wouldn’t most consider this to be an unfair advantage?
I’ll admit that compared to many in the off-roading community, I am still relatively new to the sport. And like most enthusiasts, I am appreciative of good equipment. But there are times when I wonder whether this extra gear is truly advantageous or simply a provision for a false sense of security. Does my dependency on the equipment actually detract from the overall experience I gain? At this point, I really can’t tell you. I personally run with quite a bit of equipment on board since I don’t like being caught unaware. So I’m certainly not pointing fingers at those folks who like to be prepared. But like most things in life, winning often comes down to the amount of resources available to you. From a purely ethical standpoint, I’m just not so certain I approve of that idea.
What do you think?