It is with great sadness that today I bid goodbye to My Backpack, faithful companion all over the world for the last six or seven years. I don’t tend to get that hung up on physical objects, but it is the best bag I’ve ever had, a perfect 32 litres of black and grubby feldgrau, with a padded central pocket for laptops, a spacious mainbay for general goods, and a little top pocket right at my shoulders for wallets, phones, keys, headphones, batteries, memory sticks, train tickets and all those other little things. It’s been with me on every one of the travelogues I’ve written; it’s probably spent more time with me than any other person or object in the last decade. Friends, phones, countries, pairs of spectacles have all gone and come, but the bag has remained, eternal.
It has hauled heavy sixth-form textbooks with a heavy heart and university materials with a joyful one; it has taken laptop, charger, spare shoes and spare tie to Her Majesty’s crown courts and hard drives full of declassified material back from military archives.Its side pocket has carried Christmas presents from one end of Britain to the other, water bottles across warm days in Budapest, Vienna, Copenhagen and Delhi, and my dinged-up steel thermos flask to and from the University of Birmingham campus day in, day out. Its grey-green fabric has carried the dust of Rajasthan and Alpha, been stained by the grime of the Moscow Metro and the Berlin U-bahn, and washed back more-or-less presentable by the midsummer rains of Cairns, the snows of Yamagata prefecture and the endless drizzle of Yorkshire. It has taken bro-picnics to Lenin’s tomb, and carried my material life out into the lonely heart of the Queensland outback and back out again.
It’s falling apart now, has been for a while; the interior lining is going to pieces, the shoulder seams are strained, a couple of the zip toggles are missing. So when my mum presented me with a bigger, blacker replacement this un-Christmas, I looked sadly at The Bag and agreed that, well, it really did need replacing. The new bag was perfectly nice: spacious, well-made and chosen with love… but it didn’t have the laptop enclosure, or the shoulder pocket, or even the bottle holder, and when I started packing everything up to go back to Harrogate it was clear that it wasn’t exactly ideal; we could both tell what I really wanted was the same again.
And after a little googling and a phone call it turned out the Kathmandu at the top of Park Street had a “V3” of the exact same bag, with some very slight improvements (new zip toggles, a little internal sub-pocket, fewer dangly straps), only in black, and half price in the January sales.
So hopefully that’s me sorted for the next few years and countries.