Some random thoughts as my approach to versatility with carrying evolves
Our world is becoming increasingly specialised. You can no longer easily win attention by being reasonable at lots of things. You need to pick your area, and shine. To do that you typically narrow your focus and go deep.
So why is this approach no longer working for me with bags?
Maybe a touch of background…
Patagonia is a pretty rad hub for talent. In a world of excess they repeatedly cut through the mess and help us see a better way. Years ago they influenced me to buy a fancy waterproof jacket. It’s not a ski jacket, or an ice-climbing jacket, but rather a versatile shell that can protect you during all sorts of outdoor pursuits. It was designed to be versatile and to replace 4 specialist jackets with the one generalist. And I love it. It’s plain black, lightweight enough to take anywhere and versatile enough to fit in with work or play.
Now doesn’t that sound like a good brief for a bag?
Let me describe how it currently works with most bags. We’ll start with something fairly specialist like a mountain pack for skis or a snowboard…
If you select a mountain pack purely on its back-country ability, you’ll get these incredible features for ice-axes and snow saws and all sorts of specialist tools that few people ever use. What you’ll miss out on are basics like a spot for your laptop and sunglasses and all those bits that most of us use and carry during our travel to and from the snow.
Then if I’m combining a snow trip with a work or surf trip am I meant to take multiple backpacks on my measly airline luggage allowance, with each backpack only servicing the specialist task it was designed for?
But even more than these missing basic feature sets, if I’ve forked out $200 for a kick-ass backpack why do I leave it in a cupboard for most of the year?
This approach to versatility is hard to get my head around. With mountain packs it’s easy for me to picture being way out atop a remote couloir, stabbing the wind lip and picking my line, needing every bit of specialist awesomeness a pack can deliver. It’s much harder to think of all the days and detours in getting to that moment, and what I’ll need from the pack in those random moments. But I need to try.
So now when I look at a bag I try to think about versatility. How might I use it now, and how on future trips, and how when I’ve got rid of my current laptop and am sporting some tech thing I can’t even imagine yet? Can I use modules with the bag, which get swapped over depending on the activity I’m doing? Can those pig snouts actually hold a lash and do double duty?
There is still totally a place for specialist carry, it’s just I’m slowly figuring out that most of us aren’t actually as specialist as we like to think we are.