Paying a quick tribute to both the rucksack in general, and my four (current) bags for the assistance they provide.
The humble backpack, the bag of choice for travellers and hikers the world over, and in my opinion, a bag that is not given enough praise.
Whenever I see someone carrying a backpack at a tube station, or walk past them in the street, the chances are I will ask myself a silent rhetorical question: ‘where are they going? what are they going to see?’ These internal questions never occur when I see a person pulling along a trolley bag. You know the sort, a kind of suitcase on wheels, a functional yet bland and uninspiring option and certainly impractical away from a hotel suite or an airport. My thoughts increase – the bigger the bag, then, by logic, the longer the person is going away for?
I love the versatility that a backpack offers; the best backpacks seemingly having a huge range of functions, hidden pockets and add ons to serve every purpose, as and when you need them.
I currently have four backpacks – all serving a variety of needs; from daily commuting and day trips, to weekend trips, to longer holidays and trips away.
This may seem strange to say, but I do sometimes think that a choice of bag is almost an extension of your personality, a chance to show the world your interests without having to say so aloud. Hopefully by having a backpack on your shoulders (and hips) will show that you’re up for adventure, and enjoy spending free time outdoors.
In chronological order, I would like to pay a quick tribute to both the rucksack in general, and my four (current) bags for the assistance they provide on a hill or even just walking to work.
I bought my Karrimor Jaguar 55-75 probably about 15 years ago now, it was my first ‘proper’ large backpack, I think a present from my adventurous mother at the age of 14. I can’t remember exactly when, but it would have been before I completed my first introduction into the world of multi-day expeditions, via the popular Duke of Edinburgh award scheme that is run for young adults here in the UK.
Although rarely used these days, it’s still in good condition, bar the odd unidentified stains and a few small tears from airport luggage carousels, the original black colour faded over time. This bag was with me throughout many trips both home and abroad, during a failed attempt to conquer Mt Kenya at the age of 15, aborting the attempt after altitude sickness only a few hundred metres from the summit. It was with me when I went around Europe by train in 2004, and then again by car in 2009. It helped me move house, firstly to Bristol, then to Edinburgh, and then finally back to London. I’ve had the bag for nearly half my life, and it’s certainly been with me during some genuinely great times.
Shifting forward ten years or so, past the history of bags no longer in use, my current day sack is a Lowe Alpine Onyx 15 bag, just about usable as an overnight bag when staying at my girlfriends house, certainly with enough room to hold items such as a bottle, a jacket or a book for commuting to work or shorter day trips. It’s only about two years old, but I’ve not been impressed since the top zip broke about a year ago, and on the hunt for a replacement.
Thirdly, is a cheaper red Karrimor bag, an implusive purchase from the famous Lillywhites store in Piccadilly Circus just over a year ago. It’s a budget bag, bought for £20 in what was once an iconic sports store, the demise of the shop from quality to quantity reflected in the demise of the shared ownership with Karrimor. Still, the bag serves a purpose for me when I’ve got too much gear for an overnight trip, but not enough to fill out a 40+l bag for longer trips. The bag squeaks and rubs when wearing it, the mesh pockets and stitching already broken after little use, the lack of quality in the design and material reflected in the price. More infuriatingly is the pocket on the top of the bag, which opens downward when the flap of the bag is fastened, time and time again resulting in items falling out of the top packet when opening the zip. It’s a poorly thought out function, and really annoying to use. Although it’s not uncomfortable, it’s certainly the one I’m longing to replace sooner rather than later – if you have any suggestions for a mid range, cheapish 25-35 l backpack, please let me know!
Finally, my newest addition – my Osprey Kestrel 48. Genuinely one of the best bits of kit I’ve ever had, and a near perfect mid to large size pack for multi-day trips or longer. I’ve had it since summer 2014, for a walking expedition to the Swiss Alps, and I’m still discovering newly found features, nearly six months on. There are so many flexible pockets, with little additions such as straps to tie trekking poles, or pockets big enough to carry maps or guidebooks. The obvious work of a design team with experience and care. I can’t recommend it enough, and can’t wait to use it again, in a few weekends time when walking part of the South Downs Coast path.