I'm always on the lookout for backup Platypus bottles and when I found one at an outlet store on sale for only $4, it seemed like it was a no-brainer purchase--until I saw the design change they made for 2010. What used to be a humble, soft-sided water vessel had turned into a flashy "accessory" that looked more like it belonged on a fashion runway in NYC than in the side pocket of a backpack in the wilderness. My once familiar, Spartan 1-liter soft bottle now had a bright orange retro-looking "wave" splashed across the bottom. I was disgusted by the aesthetics, yet tempted by the price. So did I buy it?
I did (partly out of frugality but more to remind me about a trend in backpacking gear I've noticed recently). "Fashion" has clearly infiltrated outdoor clothing for some time now. It has crept up on us so slowly that glaring logos and graphics seem normal on jackets, hats, and hiking shoes. But water bottles?
After thinking about it, I realized that the same trend in clothing is starting to happen with gear (hard goods).My Peztl Tikka Plus head lamp has a funky graphic on the head band. I remember when you had one choice of headband color: black (The old Henry Ford approach). Now, you several have choices of neon headlamp colors.
Light My Fire Sporks come in a variety of colors. Sigg water bottles have become canvasses for all kinds of crazy graphics:
Even survival tools like firesteels now come in a choice of colors. Look at the Osprey Talon. Those "talons" on either side of the pack add nothing to the functionality but someone in the marketing or design department must have thought it was a good idea.
I'm not saying that we're on a slippery slope to fashion driving gear design (yet). But I think about the implications and wonder what the rest of you think. Do you like "designer" gear or do you like to keep it simple? Or, do you put function over aesthetics so much that you don't care what a piece of gear looks like as long as it serves it's purpose? I think I'm somewhere in the middle: if it's not aesthetically offensive to me and is functional, I can live with it. But I prefer the way the cottage industry does it" plain and simple. What about you?