This year we decided to try it. Instead of a local park, which closes at sun down, we decided to go to one our favorite hiking spots and find a stand of evergreens. About a mile in, we found our tree and decorated it with animal food ornaments--popcorn, bird seed pressed into gelatin (in Christmas shapes), and some apple bits.
I mention this here as a good example of why we buy and carry gear. I am sure, by now, you can guess that I have a pretty big collection of flashlights. Some are exotic, custom made items like the SPY 007 and others are weird and clunky mass market products like the Maglight Mag Tac. Last night, almost every single light I had was in operation.
My five year old son had the Eagletac TX25C2. My mom had the McGizmo Haiku. My dad was sporting the HDS Rotary. My wife had the 47s Paladin. I had a Deuter backpack filled with a portly nine month old, along with a Black Diamond headlamp and the SPY. We were ready to go.
This, I think, is the reason to bother with gear in the first place. It gives you the ability to do things you normally couldn't and it opens up adventures that you wouldn't even consider. Sure we could have used a Maglight or a plastic 2xD Everready, but it would not have been as easy or as wondrous. With the Eagletac, my son could illuminate tree lines a thousand feet away and shine light on a nearly frozen waterfall (it was around 15 degrees out). Never once did I worry about what would happen if someone dropped their light. Never once did I worry if a light would run out of juice. This is the reason to carry and own top flight stuff--it just works, gets out of the way, and lets you enjoy the world around you.
In the scrum of acquisition we sometimes forget why we have all this stuff. This is why--a frozen hike in the pitch blackness. It will make a memory for me and my family we won't soon forget and though none of them even thought about their lights, I was smiling as we tromped through the frozen forest knowing that we could hike for hours if we wanted to and be perfectly fine.
This brings up a final point, one that we don't think about often. Even with the power out, living in a city is different. In the woods, the dark is daunting. There is a reason it stirs our primordial fear. When I turns out my lights and walked away from the tree we were decorating I realized what our ancestors faced--unforgiving, unrelenting isolation. I have been on night hikes before, but never with a kid or this far from the perma-glow of civilization. A slip and fall could be awful and terrifying. And I also now realize why most religious impulses started out as some variation of sun worship--the Sun was the vanquisher of this deep danger and isolation.
Remember, we acquire gear to enjoy other things, not enjoy acquiring gear.