When equipping yourself with dungeon gear, there are several factors to take into account which can both justify as well as temper the amount you spend. Quality, utility, rarity, fetish appeal, appearance, and lifespan of intended use for the toy are all important factors. Also, in some cases, ease of cleaning or of sanitization are important, especially if these items will be used upon multiple people. Ease of maintenance is another thing to consider. Let’s look at each of these points in turn.
Look at the quality of the stitching, the rivets, and the materials it is made of. You usually do get what you pay for in this department (though do take a minute to examine closely for flaws in manufacturing anyway, as even the best companies have things slip through Quality Control once in a while). There is a place in the world for lower quality stuff, especially when you are still just experimenting and exploring and trying something brand new—though be careful the quality isn’t so poor that the item is actually dangerous to use! (We don’t sell such items, but as this is a general guide, I thought I’d make mention of that.)
Utility, or intended use, describes precisely what you’ll be using this for. For instance, in my humble opinion, floggers are great for use on a person’s back and frontal, chest and tummy area, but are too difficult to aim consistently on bottoms or just about anywhere else. (See this very opinionated blog entry on just that subject here.) Nonetheless, for what they are good for—namely, flogging backs—there is nothing that works as good as a flogger works! Floggers come in stingy (thin falls), thuddy (thick falls) and “utility” styles, as well as very soft ones like the rabbit fur and light-weight deer-skin ones for more tickly, sensual (or “sensation”) play.
For those other areas besides the back and front, slappers and paddles are best. (Slappers are great for everywhere!) If using a cane (and you actually know how to, having been given actual instruction), then thin ones are for sting and thick ones are used for a “thuddy” effect. “Sensation play” lends itself well to a slew of electrical (“electro-play”) devices, whartenberg wheels, and lots of other things. Medical toys, gags, handcuffs, and ropes all have their own utilitarian features (for instance, I prefer to recommend rope handcuffs over metal ones, for though they lack the “fetish appeal” of metal, “police” style handcuffs, they never leave bruises that need to be explained at work the following day!!)
The long and short of it is to consider the utility of the toy – what you will use it for – and whether this toy will fill the bill adequately, at least if that is the only thing being considered.
If something is a rarity, sometimes that will translate to its being a bit expensive, in many cases. But rarity is relative to where you are shopping as well as the times we live in. (For instance, quirts used to be rarities, but now they are very affordable.) However, really fine items made by true artisans will always have their appeal – and their price. We see this the most in high-end floggers, bull whips and single-tail whips, but you see it also in glass dildos and other esoteric gear.
Sometimes a toy is never used for more than a prop. (How formidible a Dominatrix does look when slapping that crop against her hand!) But beyond that, the look of a toy can add that psychological extra-edge that transforms a mere topping session into a full-blown, drive-’em-wild dominance and submission scene!
As mentioned above, how sexy the toy looks—or how intimidating—can be all that matters for “scene” play. But beyond that, some items are simply so beautiful to look at that they become as much artwork as playtoy. MANY glass dildos are like that! From the realm of sheer utility to that of stunning beauty there is a spectrum, and sometimes the two realms intersect in surprising ways!
In New York, I often heard the advice, “Buy once, buy quality!” Though that certainly may be true once you really know what you like and need, there are occasions where this does not apply. As mentioned above, if you are just trying out a new type of toy or style of play, there is a chance you won’t take to it at all, of course. So, if that is the case, do not go all whole-hog and buy the best version of such a toy that you can find – yet! We suggest that approach with dildos all the time: buy cheaper ones before buying a last-a-lifetime silicone one so you get what you will cherish for just that long!
Especially if you will be using a toy on more than one person, you want to be able to clean it completely between sessions. For this reason, most leather toys are less than ideal for using on multiple persons, at play parties, for instance. Most party-goers lately have adopted a policy that the “bottoms” must supply their own leather or other porous and hard-to-clean toys. Conversely, anything made of hard-plastic, high-quality glass or metal, or finished with some other non-porous coating are fine to use, as such items are easy to clean and sanitize.
Ease of Maintenance:
As with the considerations over cleaning and sanitization, leather goods need to be maintained with some kind of leather cleaning/conditioning product. Spandex and “pleather” hoods can be machine washed, of course, but leather must be cleaned properly, at a dry cleaners, for instance (or Bed Bath and Beyond has leather cleaning materials you can use). Metal must be dried thoroughly if it has any chance of rusting. Etc. Etc. The point is: take ease-of-maintenance into consideration! (That is why we give condoms away with soft, porous dildo-like and anal toys—instant clean-up!)
When making purchases of new dungeon gear, just keep these items in your head while making your decisions. If buying a couple less expensive toys means you will make the best decision on a truly high quality item that you will cherish for years later on, then it is a very good path to take. Interact with your salesperson, as these questions are on their minds when they are leading a customer towards the best purchase that will keep them a very happy customer—which means that you will keep on coming back for more of your dungeon gear purchases! Pick their brains! They are only too happy to have their brains be “picked” in this way!