“One of the most common questions I get asked on here is about kit and equipment I use. It’s usually asked by somebody starting off in the industry keen to get the best stuff. While I believe in getting the best equipment possible I don’t believe in telling new starters to do that. You rely on your equipment to do your job and quality is important. Good quality usually means high price.
When you are starting off in the industry go and get the basics you will need. Over time then pick up good quality equipment at a gradual rate. Don’t spend all of your wages on equipment you don’t know how to use in month one. Equipment is the tip of the pyramid. Invest in mindset and training first. Then upgrade your equipment”.
I wrote this on Facebook last week after answering the normal weekend questions about where to buy specific pieces of equipment. I don’t mind these questions and I’m happy to help where I can but I hate to see people waste hard earned cash on these things. I buy top quality equipment. I always have within reason. If I’m going to use a piece of equipment in an emergency I want to be confident that it will work. It’s a balancing act though. I’ve gradually built up my equipment quantity and quality over the years to where it is now. This has been based on need, training and financial situation. That’s what I believe all new starters should do. Having all the fancy gear doesn’t make you any better at your job. Sometimes it makes you worse (see Inspector Gadget syndrome below). Equipment is the tip of the pyramid on top of a solid foundation of mindset and training and that what I want to emphasise.
Inspector Gadget syndrome
This is a mindset mistake I often see with new and experienced operatives. They walk around with utility belts filled with equipment and no idea how to use it properly. When they come across a complex problem then Inspector Gadget comes out.” I’ve no idea what to do but I’ve a Gadget for that on my belt”. Having the right equipment is great but it is pretty useless without the knowledge of its application.
Build on Mindset
Start with the right mindset before even considering equipment. Mindset like a willingness to learn, ability to observe and listen and the humility to accept that you don’t know everything. Watch what other people do and what equipment they use and prioritise those items. Collecting equipment for the sake of it wastes money that could be better spent on training or personal use. No amount of equipment in the world will make you an expert or even good at your job. Being humble and aware will get you a far better baseline to start from than any piece of kit. Don’t be afraid to as for the advice of others when it comes to choosing equipment either. Many of us will have made similar purchasing mistakes over the years.
Layer training on top
The next level to build your skill set upon is training. Well researched training that’s fit for purpose and suits YOUR individual needs and goals. I’ve written before about what to look for in a training provider or a training course. That’s an afterthought though. Your first thought should be about what type of training do you need for your chosen career area. This is where you should be investing your hard earned cash. Investment in training and development pays back multiple times over the course of a career. My own personal approach when I started off was to save 15% of everything I earned and put it towards training and education (books and magazine subscriptions). I know that won’t work for everybody but that was my approach. When you start off in the industry you do not need a €200 full trauma medical kit . You need a €20 medical kit and a €180 training course on how to use it.
Gradually build equipment
Once you have the training to know what you need them you can consider building a good quality set of equipment to supplement it. At least know you know what you are looking for. Spending before this stage is like handing a Ferrari to a learner driver. If they can’t use it right it’s pointless.
I think I was about 5-6 years into my career when I started buying good quality equipment. I started with simple stuff like a decent pair of boots and some good quality wet gear. Then moved onto buying a good quality torch (which I still use) and proper earpiece. Over the next 10 years I gradually built and improved upon my kit. I’ve probably spent well into the thousands of Euro’s on equipment over the past 10 years not only as I needed it and only after spending some time researching the right gear and asking people who know better (back to the mindset of being humble enough to listen and learn) where I should invest my hard earned cash. I know if I’m going to spend €100 on a good pair of boots them I will get 5 years wear out of them. To me that’s a good investment. My LED Lenser torch I think I have 10 years or so. I’ve tried others for small periods of time but always come back to this one. I think it cost €65 at the time (they have come down in price though) but after 10 years it owes me nothing. I spent this type of money only after knowing exactly what I need in a pair of boots or a torch or a medical kit. I see it is an investment in things that keep me safer at work. They are tools of my trade and when I invest I want quality.
For new people into the industry looking to get themselves set up as best they can I don’t want this article to be seen as a criticism. I think its great that you are showing enough interest in your future career to invest in it. It also not my place to tell you how to spend your hard earned cash. That’s completely up to you to decide. I’m simply point int you in the direction I went and away from the direction I have seen others go. You don’t want to be the new guy who shows up with enough tacti-cool equipment on his/her duty belt to invade a small middle eastern country after work and having no idea what to do with it all. Be sensible and build a good foundation of skills and mindset before investing heavily in equipment and you will spend far waste far less over the years