- Buyer's Guide
Bag Collectors :: Greg Davis
Greg Davis can be considered somewhat of an accidental bag collector. Like many carry collections, his started with a simple quest: locate a functional all-rounder that could serve as both an EDC and adventure bag.
But Greg’s numerous activities, from mountaineering and surfing to cycling and skiing, ignited a spark to find the best bag for each activity. Fanned by his 15-plus years in the outdoor industry – with easy access to a variety of heavily discounted or free (carry jackpot!) bags – that spark became a flame and eventually an inferno. More than happy to add fuel to the fire, we asked Greg to tell us more about his hot collection…
What was the very first piece in your collection? And do you remember where and why you picked it up?
Well, if we’re talking my first carry piece, it would probably have been a long-gone book bag for elementary school. Most likely a JanSport or Eastpak bag. If we’re talking about the piece I’ve had in my collection the longest, it would have to be my Zo Messenger Bag or Great Pacific Iron Works early 70’s climbing pack. I picked both up used at yard sales because I recognized the labels as being a rare find and just liked how they looked.
When did you begin to feel more than what might be called an “average obsession” for bags?
Not too long after starting to work in the outdoor specialty retail business. I had access to tons of amazing products at serious discount, or sometimes even free. The first shop I worked at sold used goods as well as new, so the opportunity to get hands-on experience with unique carry options was really amazing. I started to regularly rotate out one pack, duffel or bag for another, always looking for the ideal option. For a while, I would give away, sell or exchange a bag for what I deemed an improvement, keeping things in balance and owning just a few. Eventually, I found myself justifying keeping a few more. I was beginning to see the need for diverse carry options for my many different activities. That’s when the problem really began. My varied interests include (or have included) extensive traveling, cycling, fly fishing, surfing, backcountry skiing, snowboarding, climbing/mountaineering, drumming, backpacking, paddling, and raising a family. It’s easy to justify a specific carry option for each activity, right?
What do you look for? What makes a bag a must-have?
Over the years, what I look for in a bag has changed in some ways, and stayed the same in other aspects. I used to go for more technical options, and then lighter-weight options, but always gravitating towards US-made product with carry comfort taking priority (that’s when the messenger bags started to go away). These days, I still lean heavily towards durable, US-made backpacks, most often built with classic 500/1000 denier Cordura. I really dig the aesthetics and unique design of some of the more cycling-specific oriented brands (Road Runner, ILE, BaileyWorks).
“It’s easy to justify a specific carry option for each activity, right?“
Necessary features include a decent sized, easy-access outside zip pocket for quick-grab items (keys, wallet, sunglasses), bottle pockets, comfortable harness system, and relatively clean look. Historically I have preferred panel-loading bags (zippered main compartment) for quick and easy access, but have been favoring top loaders and flap packs lately. I appreciate the simplicity and lack of things that can go wrong with this sort of design. Not too much to ask for, right? But, as you folks at Carryology are well aware, this can be more challenging than one would think.
Do you have a certain fetish? A brand crush?
Fetishes, well, I already mentioned classic Cordura materials in bags. I love how amazingly durable these materials can be, as well as the character it takes on over time. Brand crush, well that’s always changing as well when I discover brands along the way. BaileyWorks out of New Hampshire is a long-time favorite. Their bags are about the most bomber bags I’ve ever come across, and still a small, made-to-order operation. I recently discovered Road Runner bags out of LA. They are also producing extremely tough products on a small scale, with smart design and looks. Topo Designs out of Colorado is another favorite.
Was there anything from the past that you hesitated on that you would kill to have now?
Ah yes, the “Why didn’t I grab that bag when I had the chance.” There have been a few, but a Dana Design pack when they were still made in Bozeman stands out. I had a number of opportunities to pick up one of their bags, but never did, and then they were gone. I know Mystery Ranch keeps the tradition alive, but there was something about some of those classic Dana packs that I miss.
“[I] have been favoring top loaders and flap packs lately. I appreciate the simplicity and lack of things that can go wrong with this sort of design.“
How many bags do you have in your quiver? Can you run us through an itemized list?
ROAD RUNNER ANYTHING PACK, MED (ALL OPTIONS) = My current EDC/bike commute bag. Custom-made in LA, waterproof, great organization, materials and looks.
GREAT PACIFIC IRON WORKS “FISH PACK” = Early 70’s pre-Patagonia brand rucksack. Named for the odor that still permeates it.
ZO BAG MESSENGER = One of the original messenger bag brands from the mid 80’s, I think. Simple, practical, indestructible and all made by Erik Zo.
BAILEY SUPER PRO MED = Messenger bag. Great over-the-shoulder carry system
BAILEY CITI PACK = Larger capacity bike commute bag. Bomber.
BAILEY POUCH (My camera bag)
BAILEY WHALEMOUTH DUFFEL, CAMO MED = Weekend trip bag in cool pattern
TOPO KLETTERSACK 22L, all-black Ballistic Cordura = My go-to do anything pack
GREGORY TARGHEE 25 = Backcountry ski pack
BLACK DIAMOND BANDIT = Small ski pack
CAMELBAK MILSPEC M.U.L.E. = Mountain bike hydration
BLACK DIAMOND QUANTUM = Multi-day backpacking pack made with Xpac fabric
PATAGONIA BLACK HOLE DUFFEL 60L = Go-to gear hauler
PAT HYBRID FISHING PACK/VEST = Unique specialty rig for fly fishing
PAT FISHING DUFFEL = Dual compartment duffle. One side waterproof, the other mesh so wet things can dry out during transport.
PAT MLC = Go-to carry-on luggage piece that converts to a backpack
MOUNTAINSMITH BIG-ASS ROLLING BAG = Everything goes in it for extended travels.
MOUNTAINSMITH WORLD CUP = Unusual design US-made late 80’s Cordura 500 daypack
SEALLINE URBAN PACK, MED = Great waterproof pack for bike commuting and paddling
ILE SADDLE BAG = Holds the essentials for flat tire fix, plus its Multi-cam pattern is cool
OSPREY DAYLITE (40th ANNIVERSARY PROMO EDITION) = Great for day trips on the road
MYSTERY RANCH SWEET PEA = Bomber daypack/overnight bag
PATAGONIA SURFBOARD BAG = Padded and made with reflective metallic fabric so wax doesn’t melt
JANDD SNOWBOARD BAG = Long discontinued, bomber bag carries two boards and converts to a backpack
How do you store your collection?
The collection is mostly stored in large Rubbermaid containers and on hooks in my “gear cave”. The hooks are mostly occupied by bags that are in frequent rotation, are drying out, or contain gear that gets transferred to whatever I happen to be carrying that day. Most often daypacks, fishing setups, cycling and ski packs. I always keep my current EDC bag loaded up near the front door.
Can you tell us a favorite carry memory? Or a memory garnered whilst wearing a particular piece?
I lived out of one relatively small pack for a month on my honeymoon in Ecuador. It was a 30L Arc’teryx pack that I had used for years on climbing and overnight camping trips. During this amazing adventure, the bag experienced backs of pick-ups, roofs of buses on very sketchy roads, shoved under seats, dog attacks, stomach bugs, near altitude sickness and dehydration, SO much mud, sandy beaches, rotten taxis, amazing hikes, rainy mountain bike rides, ornery pack horses, riot police, volcanoes, over-friendly Alpacas and local children, culinary delights – all the while stuffed to seam-breaking capacity. It had to be permanently retired after that trip. I believe it made the voyage home in a plastic garbage bag. That’s not a criticism of the pack, but is a testament to its amazing durability and comfort after the intense abuse it suffered. Like letting go of some very well used, high-quality socks that have seen all the trail they can take, and well, just need to go away.
“I lived out of one relatively small pack for a month on my honeymoon in Ecuador.”
If your house was burning down and you only had enough time to grab one bag, which one would it be and why?
When you’ve lived through disaster that destroyed your home, you don’t really want to imagine another one, let alone what bag to grab. I suppose it would be whatever bag I was carrying that day, as it would be near the front door.
What’s next on the wish list?
Wish list, well I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m pretty darn satisfied with my quiver options at this point. But, I’m always on the lookout for that elusive unicorn…