In the business world, people often refer to lifetime value. It means the long-term worth of a customer who will return and purchase several times over the course of their life because they love your products. Take Patagonia for example. The lifetime value of its customers is probably sky-high because the company has built incredible brand loyalty where customers come back time and again for quality outdoor clothing (and to support the other work Patagonia does).
For me, lifetime value has become a handy way to think about the value of gear itself. Instead of thinking about the immediate worth of whatever I’m buying, I like to consider the lifespan and number of times that gear will get used. The longer the potential lifetime value, the more I’m willing to pay.
This metric is particularly useful when it comes to my everyday carry, since I use it on such a frequent basis. There are knives, wallets, pens, water bottles, notebooks, and sunglasses at nearly every price point, so I have to decide how much I value each product and how often it will serve my needs over the next year, five years, or even the next decade. And sometimes you have to pay more for high-quality EDC gear, but in my opinion it’s worth it.
As an example of how high I’m willing to go, I’d gladly shell out $90 for a wallet because that price buys something like the Bellroy Hide and Seek RFID, which should have a lifespan of at least a decade. This durability is thanks to its thick vegetable-tanned leather build that will put up with a bashing in my pocket—and actually look better for the wear over time. There’s also added value, because Bellroy designed the Hide and Seek to be slender. That slimness forces me to be thoughtful about what cards I carry and spurs me to deal with those reimbursement receipts quicker than normal. Less space means more organization. I’m not that worried about people stealing my personal info, but the RFID blocker is an added bonus.
There are plenty of $30 knife options that will open cardboard boxes, slice lunch cheese, and whittle a stick. But I often opt to pay at least twice as much because for $70 I can get something like the Sog Knives Terminus XR. Built with high-quality components like a carbon-fiber handle and a steel blade that holds an edge exceptionally well, I can use this knife again and again and never worry about breaking or damaging it. That’s not something you can say about cheaper models that dull out significantly faster and have hardware that’s prone to breaking. With a three-inch blade and a 4.26-inch length when folded, the Terminus fits perfectly in my pocket, and the linear grooves in the handle improve grip and ensure I don’t have any mishaps.
When it comes to pens, most have a lifetime worth of almost zilch. They get used a couple times and then get lost. One way to increase the value is to buy a more expensive pen that you’ll use frequently and won’t misplace. At $25 the Rustico Tornaco Classic Lacquer Pen ain’t cheap, but it’s not ridiculously priced either. It’s made from stainless steel and is nearly indesctructible, unlike your standard BIC, which will leak if you bash it around too much in your backpack. And like any more expensive pen, it’s also refillable.
No good watch is cheap, but I think the Filson Chronograph strikes the perfect balance when it comes to lifetime value. For $450 you get a gorgeous, simple, maintenance-free quartz-movement timepiece that will keep you on time for decades. Short of crushing the watch with a bulldozer, it will also put up with endless abuse with a stainless-steel case and sapphire crystal face that’s nearly impossible to scratch. As you would expect, it’s waterproof to 100 meters, and the simple but sturdy rubber band looks good dressed down or up.
Speaking of abuse, there’s probably no one item in your everyday carry that gets more beat up than your water bottle. We drop them on the pavement, drag them around in bags, forget to wash out that breakfast smoothie, etc. That’s why I always advocate for the most sturdy bottle possible—something like the Yeti Rambler 26 ounce ($50). The strength comes from—you guessed it—a stainless-steel build and double-wall construction that also keeps your liquids hot or cold for a ludicrously long time.
When it comes to sunglasses, my hands-down favorite is the Smith Lowdown 2. I have regular and prescription pairs, both of which look great (which is important) and both of which have taken a beating. The prescription pair costs a whopping $400, but I plan to have them for at least the next five years because they won’t go out of style (lifetime value) and because they’ll ensure I can always see clearly when driving or riding my bike. I will, however, point out that I also see value in glasses like the Huckberry Weekenders that cost just $35. For less than dinner out for two, you get polarized lenses, a slim fit that stays on during rides, and nice styling that looks good on your way to work. However, if you lose these glasses or run over them with your car—two cases that are not unlikely—they’re easy to replace.