My Old Blue Backpack

My backpack is in its final days. The buckles are mostly replacements at this point. Some of the zippers only open half way. A few gashes in the side have been sewn closed. The straps have to be opened all the way just to fit onto my body. The blue coloring is stained a motley of browns, yellows and blacks. The bottom of the pack is worn see-through in most places, and held together with duct tape in the worst spots.


It’s been my backpack for 10 years now. When I was seven years old, about to head out on my first real backpacking trip with my family, we visited the Denver REI and I was told to pick out a backpack. Almost arbitrarily, I choose one. A Deuter Fox 30, blue. It was a little big at the time, so I would have room to grow into it.

To my best count, the backpack has been to 20 countries, everywhere I can remember visiting. It has skied, biked, hiked and kayaked. It has flown around the world, and been to hundreds of days of school. I believe a 30-liter pack like mine is perfect for the life I live. It fits school stuff, enough gear for a day in the backcountry on my bike or skis, a light overnight kit or everything I carry when I fly. This pack only saw so much use because it was truly the right pack for me.



My backpack was a possession like any other for the first few years I owned it. It only became significant as my family left Colorado and moved to New Zealand, around my ninth birthday. My life, for most of a year, was contained in that backpack and a small suitcase. I began to view the backpack as the useful tool that it is.


At this stage in my life, my memories of the backpack revolve around independence. Going to school alone on the bus for the first time. My first flight alone. Carrying the first salmon I ever caught home, and learning to cook it.

In these pre-high school years, I began to loosely define the things I love. They revolved around two things; speed and the outdoors. Preferably together. Skiing was central in my life. My backpack, I discovered, could hold my skis, one strapped to each side. Doing this allowed me to be the first to reach hidden chutes on powder days, and so my backpack gifted me many of my favorite memories. For winters, the pack’s brain was dedicated to holding my tuning gear, the side pockets to snacks, and the main packet to holding an extra layer or two.


Biking was little more than a form of transportation to me back then. I would bike to fish, to go camping with friends, to explore waterfalls and creeks and old mines. My backpack joined me on these escapades, and as I began to venture further afield, I learned how to fit overnight gear into it for the first time.

Then, at age 14, everything changed. I became a high school student, and started at a boarding school in Southern California. Skiing was suddenly a much smaller part of my life. However, this was not all bad. In many ways, this disappearance of snow forced me to discover other things I love.


Camping became more important to me. I’ve worked the last two summers at a camp at in the High Sierra, spending days off exploring lakes, climbing mountains, and just simply getting lost. It was on one of these days off that one of my favorite scars was added to the pack, as a marmot chewed its way into the brain of my pack while I took a nap.

I have also found something to replace the hole skiing once filled. Biking, I have discovered, is a truly amazing way of appreciating the outdoors. There is the obvious adrenaline, the search of speed and air, but that is not all of it. There is a beauty in the simple capability of a mountain bike, the ability to spin the pedals for a few hours and suddenly be miles away from everything. My backpack, when paired with a stuff sack strapped to my handlebars, gives me the ability to camp and travel with little regard for distance.


And so that brings me back to the backpack. I use it literally everyday. When I travel home, it holds my passport. It carries my books to class each bike. Friday, I turn it upside down, shake out textbooks, calculators, pencils and notebooks, and fill it with climbing shoes, bike tools or a sleeping bag.

But more than that, my backpack has become one of my most valued possessions (perhaps only exceed by my pride and joy, a mountain bike). It is a token of my most powerful experiences, having been there for all of them. Getting dropped off at a homestay in Beijing, one of the biggest cities on earth, and feeling utterly alone. The ecstasy of dropping into a chute on a powder day. The sheer terror of narrowly avoiding hitting a bear while biking at night. The relief of finding water half way through a southern California bike packing expedition.quandary-1024x685

My first camping trip with the backpack was up McCullough gulch in Colorado, overlooked by the fourteen thousand foot Mt. Quandary. In a somewhat fitting adventure, I carried my bike up Quandary last summer. It goes without saying that my backpack was along for the ride. The descent began with a gentle ridge, before the trail dropped down what felt like a vertical boulder field. As I set off down that trail, I could not help but be struck by the perfect symmetry of it all. I was staring down upon the place it had all began. My backpack was a little worse for the wear, and I much older, but I still had the same dumb smile on my face.

Like any high school student, my eyes are set on next year’s ever-distant summer break. I plan on biking the Colorado trail with a close friend from school. Three other friends and I just secured permits to hike the John Muir Trail. Unfortunately, I don’t think my backpack is going to be joining me on either trip. It’s just a little too worn, and way too small, for what I hope will be my next great adventures. My backpack first met me as a seven year old city kid from Denver, who was nervous heading on a walk in the woods alone. My backpack has witnessed me become the person I am today. It has allowed me to discover the outdoors.

I don’t think I ask much more of a


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