*Editor’s note: As you’ll soon find out, this isn’t exactly a shopping piece – but I must say I wanted to go buy Isabel’s backpack after reading about their special relationship.
Travel gear comes and goes. But the memories associated with it remain. If there’s one piece of gear that to me holds my dearest memories it is my 15L Dakine Wonder backpack. Yes, that is really the name of the model. Or should I say was, because to my great disappointment it is no longer with me today.
But that doesn’t take away from the myriad of memorable tales it still has to tell. Let me start from the beginning:
What makes my Dakine Wonder backpack different from most of my gear is that it wasn’t meant for me; neither did I buy it myself, nor did it come as a long-awaited birthday or Christmas present.
When my sister went off to college, she was going to donate her old high school backpack to charity, along with many of her clothes. She was heading to design school, not on a trek with an adventure sports company. In my opinion, there wasn’t a reason in the world the backpack couldn’t be useful for carrying her printmaking utensils, but she was not to be argued with. The backpack wasn’t coming to Rhode Island and that, to her, was the end of the story.
To me, however, the tale begins here. Seeing the backpack lying on the pile of clothes like a homeless orphan, I decided to take a closer look. Black and grey, it had two zip-up pockets, a net pocket on each side, and an elastic on the front to tighten it. Well, I thought, before it goes to charity, I’ll take it.
I saw that the seam on the upper pocket had come undone, and that same day, polished up my sewing skills to mend it back together. It was by no means a professional job, and any seamstress would have pulled her hair out, but it sufficed. The backpack had the equivalent of a pirate’s eye patch, but to me that didn’t matter. I had found a companion for my travels.
And a loyal one at that. After a year of schlepping my university books, the backpack was ready to come with me on a real adventure: my post-college gap year.
Together, we soon became a well-rehearsed team. In the top pocket, it would carry my SPF 50 lip balm and other small objects I needed to get hold of quickly. At the outset, I also kept my keys and wallet here, but already during my first week in Madrid, I learned my lesson. This pocket was reachable not only by me, but even faster by pickpockets. From then on, I became used to carrying my Dakine on my chest. It was as if our relationship was getting more intimate.
Whether teaching English at a bilingual school in Buenos Aires or attending a sustainable tourism seminar in Morocco, my backpack was always there for me. During my countless day-hikes in Patagonia, it came in particularly handy. Here, the nets on the sides held the essential: my two water bottles. In the large pocket were my extra clothes, topped with snacks to keep me going. Once, I even strapped a sleeping bag to the bottom, but my backpack soon told me that that was hitting the limit. After all, it was only a 15L, not a 30L.
I quickly realized that an overnight trip really required a larger pack, but I guess I still pushed it too far. Continually stuffing even more in the large pocket, the zipper broke. With a trip to Brazil next on my itinerary, I needed a solution, fast.
Since my sewing skills weren’t good enough to replace an entire zipper, I searched around the entire town of El Bolsón for some safety pins. Finally, I found some, and though I ended up paying way too much for them, I justified it as a necessary investment.
Holding the zipper together with ten small Argentinean alfileres de gancho and one oversized one, I was ready to hop on the overnight bus to Buenos Aires. From here, I was to take a plane to Rio. My bags were packed and I was waiting for the taxi to the airport.
It was then that it occurred to me: there was no way that I was going to be able to board the plane carrying a backpack with eleven safety pins. Security would surely not understand that this was the only way the backpack was going to hold together.
Scrambling for yet another solution, I sought the help of a friend I was staying with. In the last minute, he gave me a backpack that he no longer needed; it was a green, promotional backpack that he had been given when working for “Bayer.” As I repacked, I realized that it was time to take leave from my Wonder backpack. It hadn’t gone to Rhode Island with my sister, and now, it wasn’t coming with me to Rio. This time, I, too, had to say goodbye, and finally, donate it to charity.
* Editor’s note: Neither Isabel or The Travel Belles received anything for publishing this incidental product review. (But we really want one now.)