I am agreement with your views and think that the "best" investment in time and money is knowledge. Sure having some of the 'right' gear will help a lot but knowing how to use it and having an idea of how to cope without it beats out all the hardware.

With that - I've kept up my wilderness red cross instructor certifications and have also (due to work) kept up my American Heart instructor / trainer status. Keep learning is my idea.

Paul -