Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend, My Former Backpack

When I moved abroad right out of university, I brought a few backpacks—knapsacks, really, that I’d used in high school. I don’t think I realized there were different kinds, so I hiked with them, packed them on planes and brought them on day trips. They got dirty. The zippers broke in a year.

Two years later, I bought my first “travel” backpack, a 35-litre neon-orange no-name brand, for about $90. I loved it. It had zip-up pockets on the hip straps, numerous compartments inside, a chest clamp I didn’t feel like an idiot for snapping up, a stiff mesh backing so my spine could breathe (I’m not sure if any of these features have proper names) and enough space to cram in three T-shirts, one button-down, one pair of shorts, two pairs of pants, six pairs of socks and underwear, my tablet, my chunky SLR and whatever else I needed on my four-month round-the-world trip.

Those zippers looked as if they’d bust open at any moment as I heaved that backpack onto grungy Indonesian buses, on the floor of Istanbul’s airport (where I used it as a pillow, by no stretch for the first or last time), under Icelandic hostel beds and, of course, across Thailand, when my wife and I rode the train from the country’s slender southern tip to the cozy town of Uttaradit in the north.

That backpack’s been everywhere I have. I don’t think I’ve ever washed it.

The author in 2013 with his old travel pack.

So I have mixed feelings about letting it go. Osprey Packs has outfitted the Tan Your Mind team with Fairpoint 70 and Fairview 70 packs, truly state-of-the-art travel gear that blow my ashen orange whatever-it’s-called out of the water. I’m thrilled for the upgrade. The Farpoint 70, the men’s pack, is a labyrinth of pockets zipped up within other pockets, packs within packs. I’ve only worn it around my house so far, but it slips on perfectly, measured to fit my spine as per Osprey’s sizing recommendations.

Maybe I’m a backpack philistine, but when I realized the entire front pouch unzipped into a day pack, my jaw dropped. The back zips up, too, hiding the shoulder straps and effectively transforming the whole thing into a secure briefcase. Locking clasps and hidden pockets keep documents safe. The mesh is soft, the zippers are sturdy, the whole thing just feels comfortable and right.

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The new Osprey pack, waiting to be used.

When I’m wearing the Farpoint 70, it’s hard to remember why I might feel sentimental about my old backpack. It’s not even a competition. This one strikes me as a more secure, refined pack—and ultimately, the older you get, the more I’ve found comfort and security worth the investment.

In that way, the progression of my backpacks has followed my evolution as a traveller: from high school wannabe to rugged and cheap solution, and finally to a professional-grade unit. It’s what I’ve been leading up to, and I can’t wait to wear it in the field.

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