Simple Consumerism

Scrolling on Facebook, and the ad for Patagonia’s sale popped up in my feed. “Save up to 50%!” it read, enticing me to click on a site I’ve visited wistfully a few times before.

The jacket that caught my eye.

The jacket that caught my eye.

Patagonia is a brand I adore. I am a huge fan of their active environmentalism and their putting money into the same causes. I love that they encourage fixing and re-using instead of creating items that are designed to be thrown away. Friends of mine are wearing the same Patagonia jackets and fleeces they’ve been wearing for 20 years.

But I have a jacket.

I have a jacket I bought a few years ago, a jacket that combines an outer water-resistant shell with an inner fleece lining. I can wear the parts separately or together. I wear it in the fall and the spring, and it serves as a thick layer under a larger outer coat if the weather is seriously cold. (I spend almost an hour every morning getting kids out of cars at the school where I work.) I can wear a sweatshirt under it too.

This jacket, though, is bulky. It doesn’t pack small. The fleece layer is not particularly warm.

In short, it works well as a land coat. When we go sailing? Not so much.

Jeremy and I have been talking for the last few months about the need for a couple of layering pieces that work in different conditions. We have foul weather gear (which I am about to re-waterproof) for heavy rain; it’s big enough to fit a layer or two (think short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, fleece) under it. We don’t have any light rain gear, for walking in town when it’s drizzling, or to stuff in the backpack when we’re going hiking.

We also don’t have anything light and warm that will act as a jacket on its own while also serving as a layer if needed. Space is, on our small boat, a premium, and needs to be considered carefully, especially with items of clothing that will (hopefully) not be worn 24/7/365.

I have lusted after a Patagonia puff like this one for a while now. The price had me checking eBay and looking in the local consignment stores with no luck. Why Patagonia? Why not just buy a cheap jacket and be done with it? Is there magic in Patagonia?

See paragraph 2 above.

Still, I have a jacket. Do I need another one?

Consumerism is rampant in the US. The general theory seems to be “buy more” and “buy now”. When I put a (sort of) tongue-in-cheek post up on Facebook asking for people to give me their Patagonia horror stories (to help me resist the siren call of a jacket I’ve been wanting for a while) the responses were interesting.

Only one person said, “Hey, hold off.”

Everybody else said, “Go for it.” The reasons varied. Patagonia gear longevity was touted a few times. The “you’ll not regret it” was mentioned once or twice. One person told me to check eBay and Craigslist; another said she’d had great luck in thrift stores and that she “loves the hunt.” (I hate the hunt. Hate it. I need to change this particular thinking but I hate shopping enough that going into a thrift store is my version of hell. That said, I have tried a few times to find this jacket in a thrift store. No luck.)

Most people, though, said some version of “you deserve it.” “Life is short.” A few talked about how I could sell one of my existing jackets (ONE of my existing jackets???) or donate one. A few others hopped on the Patagonia sale and bought a jacket for themselves, or talked about how tempted they were even though they already have a few of these exact jackets in other colors.

My friend Behan (from Sailing Totem) got right to the point. “Why do you want this jacket? Is there a reason for it? Aren’t you planning to head south, where the need for such a thing will be diminished? Haven’t you been warm enough this winter with what you have?”

Her questions helped me really solidify my rationale, a rationale that was echoed by Jeremy when I talked to him about it later that afternoon.

  • It’s a lightweight, packable warm jacket.

  • It will layer well on night passages or even daytime sails in the spring and fall, when it does get chilly.

  • It’s compact and superbly well-made and should last a lifetime.

  • It will fit in our small boat.

  • The price was better than I have been able to find on eBay or Craigslist for a new item, not a used one.

On the one hand, it’s still consumerism. I bought something new, that I didn’t exactly “need.”

On the other hand, it’s a nod to the simplicity of the life we’re headed towards.

In any case, the purchase was made with intentional thought and focus, much like our decision to head off cruising.

How do you make your buying decisions?