Establishing Equipment Standards

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Having standard equipment is a common practice among big corporations of different sorts, but the concept can be applied to small ones as well as individuals.

We are mainly concerned with outdoor activities and now, with ways in which the notion of common standards of equipment may apply to different sorts of groups dedicated to adventurous sports. Standard equipment may be used by armies, expeditions to the Hindu Kush, a flying club or a company dedicated to manufacturing electronic circuits. Establishing any sort of standard means that a design must be repeatable, and that is intrinsically related to serial production. It is not possible to establish any sort of true standard if what defines the standard cannot be repeated as units are produced. Hence, true standards are the province of technologically-advanced, mass produced items, like the equipment and weaponry of an army.

Standard-issue uniforms, for example, require precise cutting, dying as well as general manufacture; today's uniforms are repeatable down to the way in which things like seams are made, hole by hole. This degree of repeatability was achieved after the dawn of the industrial age but even in the fairly distant past some degree of pseudo standards were made possible, at least to the point of achieving some degree of interchangeability among components, if not precise equality.The Phoenicians, Romans and Chinese achieved such a feat, particularly within their military establishments. Roman soldiers fought using the same weapons and they knew how the blades of their buddies would behave if they had to use them. The Chinese made arrowheads by casting them in the same moulds by the thousands, and they had standard-issue trigger mechanisms for their crossbows, while Phoenicians used standard components for their vessels and thus, their naval war machine as well as commercial fleet were unstoppable for centuries.

Now, in the realm of our activities like trekking, canyoning, overlanding, kayaking and so on, establishing standards for groups of people could help a lotto because every member of the team will soon know what to expect from everybody's gear. If everyone is using the same types of carabiners, waterproof socks, sleeping bags and so on, performance differences and even mistakes will be limited to what each individual does wrongly - something that can be reduced by training a little more - and not to equipment usage criteria, over or underestimation of capabilities and so on. Having a set of standards is a good thing even individually: If mistakes can be reduced in a group, they can be reduced at the personal level too and in the end, they will help you save money.

For example, years ago I began purchasing my outdoor equipment in batches like six or seven pairs of socks of the same make, model and even colour instead of just one or two pairs. In this way I know what to expect from my socks in order to avoid excessive feet moisture while trekking, and even when a sock goes out of service, I can still use the spare one precisely, as a spare. The life expectancy of my socks is thus 100% higher than normally, since instead of having to throw the surviving one away because there is no match to form a new pair, by having a standard set I can use the remaining ones to the last, literally. Now, at about twenty euros per pair, for two fairly good trekking socks these days, that's quite a bit of money.

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