How to Decide If Bringing Your Own Sports Gear on a Trip Makes Sense
A lot of people ask me, "do you BYO (Bring Your Own) sports equipment on trips?" I usually answer, “it depends.” If you’re like me, and you have a lot of your own sporting equipment, you’re used to having it, and you’re used to how it works. But, when you’re lugging all your________ (insert type of equipment here) through airports, train stations and bus depots, it crosses your mind that, just maybe, you should have left your stuff at home and rented it all when you got there. Still, it can be difficult to forego your own gear for rental equipment that may not be the same quality. If you’re stubborn like me, you may also think, I paid for my gear, I’m gonna bring it! So, after many trips, with and without my gear, I’ve developed a completely unscientific, totally anecdotal, four-part “test” to figure out when to BYO or not, if you have your own gear. Hopefully, it’ll help you decide for your next trip!
Am I doing strictly "X" on vacation?
Sometimes a place is really geared towards one type of activity and there isn’t much else to do besides that one activity. For example, when we go on scuba diving vacations, we often go to places where it’s eat, sleep, dive. There isn’t much else to do besides diving so it’s likely we’ll be diving all day, every day. In instances like this, we’ll bring our own equipment because (1) renting the equipment may add significantly to the cost of the trip and (2) having our own equipment can sometimes make or break the trip.
On the other hand, it may not make sense to bring your own equipment when you only intend to do something once or on an extremely limited basis. On a trip to Italy, we went scuba diving in the Tremiti Islands (see post, “Drive Italy’s Adriatic Coast”), but we only expected to dive one or two days out of our eight day vacation. In that instance, we opted to leave our equipment at home. To some extent, that may have been a mistake because on one of the dives the straps on my fins and on my husband’s fins broke at the same time (really? what are the chances of that happening?). It was a huge pain and we spent a good portion of the dive trying to fix straps and/or figure out how to swim with one fin each.
A completely different situation is when you expect to do a variety of similar things. For example, on a trip to New Zealand (see post, “Adventure in Queenstown, NZ”) we had a long list of water activities lined up – rafting, kayaking, and a three-day stopover in Tahiti to scuba dive. Because we planned to do several water related sports, we packed “cross-use” items such as: wetsuits and dive boots for rafting, kayaking and diving; snorkeling equipment for diving and snorkeling (including extra mouth pieces for the rental regulators we’d have to stick in our mouths. Yuck!).
And, although not water related, we also took bike helmets for cycling because, ew, who wants to put an icky rental helmet on your head?
Is there a specific reason to BYO?
Sometimes, you want your own equipment for a particular reason. Right before a ski trip to Switzerland I had undergone surgery. While my surgeon reluctantly acquiesced and cleared me to ski after my incessant pestering, we agreed that I would bring my skis since I would probably be more comfortable on them, and thus, less likely to get hurt.
But, if there’s no compelling reason to BYO, you may want to consider renting at your destination, or bringing only some of your stuff, like ski boots and helmet, but not skis. Yeah, it can be ridiculously expensive. It’s my recollection that on a ski trip to France, the cost of renting skis for the week was almost half the cost of the skis that I owned! Yikes!
Cost of bringing equipment vs. renting it at your destination
As I mentioned above, the cost of renting equipment at your destination can be steep and the quality may not be the same. Likewise, the hassle of lugging your own equipment can make the decision to rent easy. You have to do that analysis and figure out which option is better for you.
The PITA factor
How much of a PITA (Pain In The A**) is it to haul my own equipment? Sometimes, it can be a giant one. On that trip to Switzerland I mentioned? We flew to Zurich, took the train from Zurich then had to change trains two more times. All the trains were crowded and we were dragging two pairs of skis and two huge suitcases. With nowhere to safely store anything that wouldn’t clock someone on the head, we had to take turns standing in between cars with the skis. It was a nightmare. If I hadn’t had a reason for bringing my skis, I would have left them home and rented in Switzerland. (By the way - the skiing was awesome!)
The "I Don’t Care" reason
Sometimes you just want your own stuff. In that case, definitely BYO because you’ll be happier and a vacation is supposed to make you happier NOT unhappier!
So there you have it! Maybe not the most scientific of tests, but I hope these tips help you decide whether to bring your equipment on your next adventure! Do you have other ways to help you decide? I’d love to hear from you on Facebook or in Traveleidoscope's comment section!