Friday, November 20, 2015

When a Simple Tool Will Do

Old Faithful
May God forgive me -  I am guilty of the love of gear.  I was into my thirties before I could even pretend to have good gear, and almost 40 before the term "backup gear" came into my lexicon. The lack of either (good gear or backup gear) made a smarting wound at times - like the time I "fixed" a wobbly spinning reel with a machine screw (15 cents) instead of the factory pin ($18.00), resulting in a sheared machine screw and the catastrophic failure - explosion, really -  of the reel while trying to haul a sting ray to the boat.  Or the time I "fixed" my KMart frame pack by hand-sewing a gash in the bottom of it, only to have the bottom of the pack tear entirely off during a weekend hike on the Appalachian Trail.  Luckily, only my entire water supply was sent bouncing back down the trail, and ultimately, down a cliff.  Good times, good times.

So now at age 41, I - like so many other outdoorsfolk - have basked in the gloriousness that is gear worship.  Let's call it what it is.  I'm not proud of it, but I am proud to have worked hard enough to own stuff that doesn't break down all the time or cause me to have open sores on my body.  Good boots, good knives, and good underwear are among my most praised deities, it would seem.     One interesting gear item has really escaped my worship, though - backpacks.

New and improved version, 13 years later
We hear a lot about the $650 billion outdoor industry; honestly we don't hear enough about it.  But I'm pretty convinced that $350 billion of that industry is in the sale and marketing of GoPro backpacks.   And there are some awesome ones!   But in 2002, about 4 years after my Kmart Pack flamed out hysterically, my mother in law asked me if I'd like a new pack for Christmas.  I pointed her to what passes for a technical pack at LL Bean (her vendor of choice), and on Christmas, I had what I thought was a passable backpack.  It's the ancestor of what's now the LL Bean AT 55 Pack (owners give it 2.7 out of 5.0 stars), which sells for $159.00.  I think mine was cheaper; then again, it was 13 years ago.

I still use this pack several times a year, and recently I somehow was tempted to replace it.  I made an inspection of the pack, only to find that there is nothing wrong with it.  Then I thought of where it's been with me:  Barbados, Costa Rica, Florida, Mexico, Oregon, camping trips in at least 8 states, and road trips to at least 15 other states.  I used it for a recent overnighter in Pennsylvania, and it will be my carry-on bag for an upcoming hunting trip to Nebraska.  And then again for a two week trip to South Florida.   Is this the best bag for all of these uses? Probably not.  But it's been a good piece of gear that refuses to give out.   And it's interesting to think that this might be the last pack of this type I might ever own.  Good on you, LL Bean.

Why choose an expensive tool when a simple tool will do?



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