How possessive are you? No, not in your relationships with another person, I’m referring to your gear. We all have certain pieces of gear we covet and we protect. You’ve likely heard the expression “safe queen” used to describe knives or firearms that never get used and live mostly in the dark and secure confines of a locked container in your closet, basement, or den. For all the other gear that actually gets used, you might have discovered an inseparable relationship with it or perhaps a jealous relationship should one of your buddies use your gear. When someone else uses a piece of gear you’ve used so frequently you can close your eyes and recall every detail of its construction, a little piece of you dies inside. Ok, maybe it’s just me but when someone starts creeping in on my most personal gear, the only proper response is, “keep your hands off my…”
Woobie-When you were a little kid, you might have had a binky. Perhaps you called it a woobie. In either case, you know what I’m referring to. It’s that emotional and physical comfort blanket you never wanted to part with. You dragged it through the dirt, spread it out on the living room floor, and draped it over yourself when you took that epic daily nap. Your woobie from childhood has perhaps morphed into an adult-sized version. My friends at Kifaru didn’t hide the fact their poncho-liner sized blanket (wildly popular with military guys) is a modern version of the woobie and they named it such. I’ve traveled all over with my Kifaru Woobie and have almost lost it to a few ladies over the years. Thankfully, I didn’t and I still use it all the time lounging in camp, on long flights, or when I need an extra layer of warmth in my shelter.
Spoon- A good spoon is a creature comfort that is often underrated. I rarely venture into the woods without a good spoon packed away in my canteen kit. Sure, with a set of skills, some time, and patience, you can carve a replacement spoon from off the land but if you don’t care to whittle, a titanium spoon can’t be beat. Of all the items on this list, this is the only one you are going to put in your mouth. Nothing is going to get more personal than that and the thought of someone using your spoon should be repulsive. Sure, you can clean it like silverware in a restaurant but at least there is a mystery to who used your spoon last. If one of your nasty camping buddies uses your spoon, you can’t get the image out of your head of them tongue punching it. Sorry, keep your hands off my spoon!
Ax- If you believe in tradition, the tradition of never lending out your ax is one you should follow. The justification is simple, sharpening an ax takes a significant amount of effort. We’re not talking about ⅛ inch thick knife with a wire edge, a damaged ax edge will probably require more than a simple strop to work out any chips or rolls. Simply stated, there is more steel on an ax head to remove if a keen edge is desired. A good friend would never ask you to borrow your ax in case they accidentally damage it. Rather than borrowing your ax, they will ask you to do the work for them instead. Imagine the guilt they would feel (assuming your friend has a conscience) if they damaged your ax. Imagine your frustration if you had to fix someone else’s mistake. I have a few axes I am extremely reluctant to hand over and a couple I have never let anyone use. Even my closest friends who I know are competent woodsmen know to bring their own tools or they are absolutely willing to replace/fix what they damage. Call me traditional but 9 times out of 10, I’m going to cut what you need me to instead of letting you get your hands on my ax and potentially damage it.
Seat- Have you ever heard the expression, “move your feet, lose your seat?” If you haven’t, you’ve never met people unafraid of stealing your spot around the campfire or even at home in the most comfortable reclining chair. No exaggeration, straight up wrestling matches have happened over claiming someone’s seat. From ultralight backpacking chairs to simple padded seat cushions like the one from Lester River Bushcraft my buddy Lt. Mike bought me, comfortable seats in camp are a luxury and borrowing one for an extended time may not be outside the realm of possibility. Think about it, you have the option of continuing to sit on that cold rock or log or slide right over and use the comfortable seat your buddy just abandoned. You aren’t the first person to think about this and you won’t be the last. I know if I have a seat I’ve used for a while, it starts to mold to my body’s contours. Seats take a memory and get more and more comfortable. I don’t need someone else’s rump carving out the seat my derriere has worked on time and time again. Like the kids on Forest Gumps’ bus, “this seat is taken.”
Hat- The perfect curved hat brim and frayed edges are not purchased, they are earned. I’ve owned a few hats I can say have been with me for miles and miles and miles. Each tattered edge tells a story and it took a lot of persuasion for me to retire my “lucky” hats before switching over to a new one. Along the way from “new” to “retired”, I never let someone wear my hat and I know I’m not the only one who is somewhat superstitious about someone else placing your hat on their head. Ever since I was in grammar school and experienced the awkwardness of a lice and nits screening in the school nurse’s office with all my classmates, I always found hair cleanliness important. I wouldn’t want someone with some funky scalp stuff going on wearing my hat around. Then again, I don’t know if anyone would want to wear my hat with all the great sweat rings that formed around the cap and down on the brim. FYI: I never heard of any classmates with nits but we had some suspicions who may have been infested when they mysteriously went absent for a few days after.
This list is far from complete and the conventional wisdom should be followed in asking before you use someone else’s gear. You never know what someone will be highly possessive of and it’s better to be safe than to earn a black eye. If you have gear you want sole use of, consider marking your name or initials on it with a Sharpie or another distinguishable mark. When in doubt, never let your gear out of your sight or run the risk of seeing that nasty buddy of yours using your stuff.
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Kevin Estela is a Survival Instructor at Estela Wilderness Education. Kevin is a frequent contributing writer for publications such as RECOIL, Athlon Outdoors, and Beckett Media. He is a Sayoc Kali Associate Instructor Level 5, as well as a BJJ Purple Belt.