My little blue LL Bean backpack has been my constant travel companion since my first international trip to Montreal in the summer of 1989. Along the way, it has been my day pack through nearly 20 trips to 22 countries, on five continents.
As backpacks go, it’s pretty basic. It has a main compartment and two outer compartments for smaller things. I originally got it to carry my books in graduate school, but it has shined at carrying my cameras, rain jackets, guide books, and water bottles on trips. It’s also been my computer bag and briefcase throughout much of my writing career.
Being basic is what I like best about my backpack. It is incredibly flexible. I can roll it up and stuff it in my main rucksack, so I only have the one bag on airplanes. And on the way home, full of souvenirs, it still fits easily under the seat.
Twenty-six years is a long time for a backpack. I’ll be lucky if a new one lasts half as long.Sure, my backpack isn’t waterproof. The rains at Bokor Mountain and Iguazu Falls went straight through it.
In fact, over the years, it’s been through a lot and it shows. For the last decade or so, the zipper to the main compartment has been stuck on one side. The fabric of the outer compartments constantly becomes frayed like long, fine hairs that must be cut before each trip. The straps lost all their padding and had to be repadded and recovered with the world’s worst homemade fabric patch.
The upside of this is the backpack doesn’t look valuable. No one wants to steal it. It gives me a sense of security through obscurity.
Alas, the time has come. In Norway and Denmark, I noticed the fabric was becoming uncomfortably fragile for toting things on long trips. I’m afraid the bottom will rip apart at some point. So this has been the last trip for my old friend.
Twenty-six years is a long time for a backpack. I’ll be lucky if the new one lasts half as long. For now, it’ll be my beach bag for my local beach days. A nice Florida retirement.
Cover photo: Fort Qaitbey, Alexandria, Egypt, 2008