Should I buy or rent outdoor apparel?  A formulaic approach.

Should I buy or rent outdoor apparel? A formulaic approach.

This is a question a lot of people struggle with not just on outdoor apparel, but on lots of high-ticketed items.  Should you own something or rent it?  Each item has a different value of considerations, but I’ve attempted to distill everything down to some easy to solve for elements.  Don’t let the process scare you, it’s not that complicated. 

Here are the elements:  style, technology, durability, retail price, rental price, and amount of usage.

First, we want to solve for (ul), which stands for useful life.  This determines how long the item can reasonably be useful in our lives.   The equation is as follows:

ul = s*t/8

ul = useful life.  Useful life is the number of years your item will be in style, and have relevant technology that will keep you from being on the outside looking in.  The inputs for useful life are style (s), and technology (t).  Here’s how to suss out a number for each. 

s = style.  Pick a number between 1 and 10.  1 being “I won’t be caught dead in this beyond today” and 10 being “my kid’s kids will be trying to wear this and in the meantime, I’ll wear it every day in between because it’s just that cool.”  Style may be a little more difficult to predict and absent a crystal ball you may have to use your best intuition.  Here’s a basic framework to consider:  fit, color, and brand.  Does the item fit baggy, tight, or neutral?  Baggy and tight are at both ends of the spectrum so a neutral fit will probably be in style longer.  How about the color?  Is it bright, patterned, textured, or muted and neutral?  You can probably guess, but the less loud an item is the more likely it is to stand the time.  Last, but not least, is the brand logo prominently displayed?  Believe it or not, the brand may be all the craze right now, but it might not be 5 years from now.  My closet is a graveyard of brands that were cool.       

t = technology.  Pick a number between 1 and 10.  1 being “did the pilgrims bring this over on the Mayflower?” and 10 being, “did Marty McFly bring this back from the future?”  It depends on the category the clothing item is in, but in outdoor gear the technology evolves relatively quickly.  In jackets for example, the layers of Gore-Tex, the materials used for insulation, and customizable fits and vents have all enhanced the capabilities of today’s jackets to keep you dry and at the desired core temp.    

Okay, so we’re ready to solve for useful life (ul).  Let’s pretend we’re evaluating a jacket and let’s say you picked 5 for style (s), and 7 for technology (t).  Therefore, ul = (5*7)/8.  ul = 4.38.  In other words, you would be happy to wear that jacket for just over a four year period.  Not bad!  Now, set aside the ul for a moment and we’ll come back to it towards the bottom. 

We have to figure out how many times during the useful life (ul) it is possible to wear the jacket before it falls apart.  That’s where durability comes in to play.  The equation is as follows:    

d*5 = tw

d = durability.  Pick a number between 1 and 10.  1 being only a 5 use item and 10 being a 50-use item.  So, for example, a 5, would be a 25-use item and a 4 would be a 20-use item.  Durability will obviously depend on the quality of the item to begin with, but that’s not the only factor.  Some people are just harder on clothes than others.  Judge yourself fairly on this criterion. 

tw = times worn.  We’re solving for times worn.  This is the number of times you could reasonably wear the jacket before it starts to fall apart. 

Now that we’ve solved for the useful life (ul) of the jacket to you and the number of times you could wear it before it falls apart (tw), let’s include the retail price and the actual number of times you’d wear the item so we can determine how much you’d pay per time you wear the item (pw). 


p = retail price.  This is the retail price of the item in question.

r = relevance.  How many times a jacket could be worn and how many times you’re likely to wear it are two totally different considerations.  The question becomes how often in that 4.38 year period (ul) would you actually wear the jacket.  For example, if we’re talking about a ski jacket and you live in a warm weather climate, how likely is it that you will actually wear the jacket the 30 possible times?  By contrast, if you ski or snowboard on a regular basis, you’re much more likely to maximize the useful life of the item.  Let’s solve for relevance (r) next where relevance is a percentage of the possible usage you think you’d actually use the item.  For example, if you think you will wear the item all 30 possible times, (r) is 100%.  If over, the ul (4.38 years in this instance) you think you’d only wear it 10 of the possible 30 times, (r) becomes 33%. 

pw = price per wear.  This is the retail price divided by the number of times the item can be worn, divided by the percentage of times you’d actually use it due to its relevance to your lifestyle. 

For example, a jacket that costs you $600 to own, that can be worn 30 times before it falls apart, that you think you’d actually only wear 10 times in a 4.38 year period is worth $60.61 per day you wear it. 

By contrast, you can rent this $600 jacket from us for as little as $30/day.

Here are the formulas again:

Useful life (ul) = style (s) * technology (t) / 8

Possible times worn (tw) = Durability (d) * 5

Price per wear (pw) = retail price (p) / possible times worn (tw) / relevance (r)

Here are some examples of the formula at work:

Play around with the items you’re considering purchasing and contrast that with the price per day of rental from us.  If the price per wear (pw) is lower than the daily rental price we post on our website, then maybe you’re better off purchasing the item on your own.  Of course, these are only the ownership considerations.  We haven’t accounted for checked bags fees charged by airlines, the hassles of traveling with bulky items, or the expense of laundering the item after your trip – all of which our service can alleviate for you. 

If, on the other hand, the (pw) is higher than our daily rental price, what that means is, you bought too nice of a jacket for the number of times you were going to use it and financially speaking, you would have been better off renting the item. 

If you’d like any help with the formula or working out any additional nuances don’t hesitate to reach out at

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