My jealousy started to bubble up when the sales guy reached his hand deep into the backpack to fluff it out to its full 35-liter capacity.
“It’s a nice technical pack,” he murmured, sliding his hand over the thick Ripstop bottom and gear loops on the used backpack.
“Yeah, it’s ironic that it never actually carried a piece of climbing gear,” I laughed.
“It’s been around the world with me, but never on a technical climb.” He obviously understood. But I suddenly imagined myself tearing it out of his hands and running back out the door with it in my arms like an overprotective mother. Could he ever possibly grasp the true value of that dear, special blue and black nylon backpack? Ten years earlier, it had roamed the streets of Paris and Munich with me on my first trip to Europe, stuffed to capacity with the most fashionable clothes I could afford as a fresh liberal arts graduate. A year later—and newly decorated with French and German patches—it carried my camera and super-fat parka on hikes from the Antarctic research station where I worked. I’ve shaken sand out of it from California, New Zealand and Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes. Through long layovers and grueling treks, the backpack had earned my trust. And, apparently, my affection.
It’s funny how objects sewn of nylon and leather or welded of steel can pull our heartstrings so. The gear that helps take us to the most amazing places in our lives hold such powerful memories, they can be difficult to let go of, even when they’ve been worn to shreds or long retired.
How could you throw out the boots that climbed your first fourteener with you— even if they’re blown out with holes? Tossing them in the dumpster just feels so cold and heartless. Or maybe it’s that old steel road bike in the back of the garage that’s collecting dust, but you can’t bear the thought of selling. Your new carbon frame is so much faster, but there’s something special about the frame that took you on your first road rides—the bike that really made you fall in love with cycling. Putting it up on Craigslist would feel like pawning your grandmother’s wedding ring.
The night before I took my backpack to the consignment shop, I carefully loosened the threads on the European patches and peeled them off. For a few minutes, seam ripper in hand, I lost myself in memories of New Zealand rainforest treks, German beer halls and Antarctic glaciers. Maybe I’m a sentimental chump, but as the fond memories surfaced, the backpack began to feel much more like a cherished keepsake than a discarded piece of gear I hadn’t touched for months. The climbing pack had been collecting dust in storage for the last two years— while a newer, slightly smaller and more dialed pack accompanied me on trips and climbing days instead. Attempting to pare down my storage unit, I had gathered a load of neglected gear for a trip to the local consignment shop. So proud of myself for finally checking that pesky task off my to-do list, I admired the storage shelves I’d emptied. But later, as I leaned over the stickered and scratched glass counter in the gear shop while the salesman looked over my wares, my heart tightened.
He wrote up prices for each of the items. They seemed fair. Maybe someone else would buy my beloved pack and give it a new life, bright with adventure and beautiful places, instead of a dark, dusty garage.
But then again, I thought with a tiny glimmer of hope, maybe somehow it will go unnoticed, nobody will buy it and I’ll get a call to come back and rescue it in a couple of months.