Starting a Hobby Small

I spent the past weekend getting rained on and frozen in the middle of Algonquin park with my brother on a canoe trip. I really enjoy the middle of nowhere, even though it means I don’t get internet. I like the planning – ensuring there’s enough food, clothes and other gear to withstand nature. The outdoors itself is fun to experience once in awhile, to be away from everything “normal” and to spend my day paddling, hiking, and scavenging wood for a fire at night.

Like most activities, these kind of trips could be really expensive, if you make them that way. High-end canoes made of a carbon/kevlar can cost over $5,000 – they are very nice, but definitely increase the average cost of a trip. Packs and other equipment, like stoves, tents and other accessories are also super expensive if bought all at once.

My brother has cobbled together a bunch of equipment that works fine – it kept us relatively dry in a very crappy 24-hour teeming rainstorm and allowed us to cook dinner. He found most of his equipment used off of Kijiji, having the advantage of being on the road for work and being able to stop all over Western Ontario to pick up the bits and pieces of his kit. His canoe is not a 45 pound well-balanced boat, but it provides a really good workout when you throw it on a shoulder for a 2.5 km walk through a bush.

A mistake that a lot of people (including myself) to get involved in a new hobby and drop a ton of cash, only to find that a couple of months later the hobby isn’t as interesting as they thought it would be. While a $5,000 canoe is one extreme, other smaller hobbies are just as bad for being wastes of money and storage space.

I prefer to start small with hobbies – to buy decent used equipment to start. If I find I enjoy the hobby and continue to do it, I have much less of a problem spending money on higher-end stuff, knowing I will enjoy the higher quality. I have utilized this strategy with beer-making – buying a simple 1-gallon kit for all-grain brewing and using ordinary cooking implements to make beer for the time being. Later, if I keep making beer, I can buy fancy propane burners, kegging equipment, and a fermentation fridge, along with other super-specialized equipment that allows for much more precision in making beer (which would cost hundreds of dollars).

Have you made the mistake of going too big too early with a hobby, only to lose interest in it? Are you “storing” remnants of this hobby?

2 thoughts on “Starting a Hobby Small”

  1. Ha, I was up in Algonquin (North Tea Lake area) this past weekend too – the rain was pretty unforgiving!

    I have way too many hobbies/interests. Historically I had (or my wife would say I still have) an ongoing challenge of buying duplicates of just about everything. Say for example, I need a new tool. I’d find a “decent” entry-level tool on sale somewhere so buy it (justifying it by thinking I’m saving a ton of money by not hiring someone to do the task for me) so I use the tool, usually enough that it either breaks or that I realize I should have bought a better quality or lighter or faster or whatever version of it. So, eventually go out and buy a higher quality version of the same item, usually at double or triple the cost of the entry-level one I purchased. Sometimes I think I should have just bought the high quality item in the first place.

    So being “value-driven” I now try to find the sweet spot in what I invest in gear… never the cheapest, nor the most expensive, but try to find the right combination of high quality with reasonable price. Internet reviews have been a huge advantage when comparing items for purchase. Does it work? I would say yes (but just don’t count the duplicates in my shed).

  2. I’m guilty of having lots of great equipment for different activities that I thought I would be into. In my storage, you will find snowshoes, rollerblades and a snowboard that has barely been used. On the other hand, I use my quality canoe/camping gear and oil paints.

    My rules for starting new:
    1. Buy used: when I’m starting something, I will search kijiji first. Once I found a great starter kit to make beer and wine.
    2. Buy on sale: If I can’t buy used, then I search for new equipment on sale or at a great price. I always look up reviews before settling on a model.
    3. Buy needs only: I’m well aware of my history of starting a hobby and quitting early on. In order to deal with this, I only buy what I need at first. If I prove to myself that I will stick to it, then I go and buy more equipment as needed.

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