- Buyer's Guide
Bag Collectors :: Regan Chernish
There are people who love bags…and then there are people who REALLY love bags. Exceptional enthusiasm, obsession…call it what you like, but there’s no denying they have seriously awesome collections. And we figured what better way to celebrate these collections than by sharing them with fellow bag lovers? Yup, we thought you might want to see them, which is why we’ve put together our new Bag Collectors series.
Our first bag nut is a professional geologist involved in early stage exploration and prospecting programs for diamonds, copper, gold and silver or other minerals that strike the markets’ fancy. Regan Chernish has been working in the bush for over 20 years and still loves the wilderness and the excitement of exploration. His work has taken him to Canada’s north (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut), British Columbia, Newfoundland, Senora State, Sinaloa State, and Chihuahua State, ample and arduous testing ground for his impressive collection of bags…
What was the very first piece in your collection? And do you remember where and why you picked it up?
My first real backpack was a Lowe Alpine bright purple 35-liter top loader that was purchased from Totem Outdoor Outfitters in Edmonton. It was initially purchased for bike commuting to university but soon became the field pack of choice for summer employment working as a geology summer student in Northern British Columbia. The work was a lot of prospecting, soil sampling and staking all over the northern part of the province. The pack lasted over ten years of abuse before dying on a prospecting job. It was given a proper Viking funeral in the field.
When did you begin to feel more than what might be called an “average obsession” for bags?
For the first ten years or so of my geology career, the Lowe pack held its own. In 2001, I struck out as a consultant to three exploration companies with projects ranging from the Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Sierra Madres in Mexico. Each of these projects had quite unique logistics, terrain and job aspects that required different loadouts as well as differing styles of carry. The quiver began to fill at this point.
I realized a few years after this shift in work that when I would take a group hiking back home in the Rockies I could supply all of them with packs. That is when I knew. The knowledge that I was a collector (addict?) just seemed to feed the passion for the ultimate backpack.
What do you look for? What makes a bag a must-have?
I look for a good fit, ability to stabilize the load and organization for particular activity, hence all the packs. I must admit though that unique features have been known to also tip the scales as I am a bit of a gear head.
Lately, with all the airline travel to get to project areas, the must-have has been the ability to carry and organize the maps, electronics and computer gear that is part of all projects these days. The 5.11 line of Rush 12 and Rush 24 are my favourites for this purpose. They have even done double duty on the odd prospecting trip and have performed very well.
Do you have a certain fetish? A brand crush?
My carry fetish is for fast and light daypacks that can handle anything from ultra marathon training to hiking/scrambling and mountain biking. While I have many that fit this category, I realize that the Gregory Stimulus has been on my back for over a dozen ultras and thousands of training kilometers. The First Ascent Bacon and Alchemist 30-liter packs are a close second as they are the hiking/scrambling go-to packs.
“My carry fetish is for fast and light daypacks that can handle anything from ultra marathon training to hiking/scrambling and mountain biking.”
My brand crush is threefold; Eberlestock, CamelBak and Boreas. I had an Eberlestock Halftrack, which was recently stolen, and have never had a pack that fit so well empty and loaded. Boreas sent me one of their now discontinued packs and it is so well thought out and designed it simply blew me away. I have several 15-year-old CamelBak cycling packs, the HAWG sent to me by CamelBak back in the day, and they simply refuse to die no matter what abuse they receive.
Was there anything from the past that you hesitated on that you would kill to have now?
I had an opportunity to trade with a friend, who is a Canadian Ranger, for an Arc’teryx Arrakis 50 (fully waterproof bag) and passed it up. Uggh HUGE regret as this is still an amazing bag that would be useful across so many of my activities.
How many bags do you have in your quiver? Can you run us through an itemized list?
My wife will kill me once she reads this but here goes. I have approximately 25 different backpacks and at least eight travel duffle bags. This feels more like a confession at this point.
Starting with the travel duffles, I have the full range of the North Face duffle bags and they have held up over the years of in and out of aircraft, helicopter slings, snowmobiles and pickup trucks with hardly any visible wear. The weather resistance of the bags goes a long way for piece of mind when schlepping gear all over the place.
“I have approximately 25 different backpacks and at least eight travel duffle bags.“
I have two of the Arc’teryx Covert bags, 50 and 80-liter, for general travel and shorter term contracts.The attention to detail and durability of these bags is impressive. Additionally, they hold a lot more than I would have thought due to design and the internal compression straps really help keep it all together. The lonely large RAB duffle has been beaten on for over ten years and has yet to look tired and soldiers on quietly. It is a solid design with huge zippers and double bottom so it is built to last.
My prospecting/work backpack is primarily the North Face Spire 38 and it has carried hundreds of pounds of rock and soil samples over the last ten years. While it has a few minor worn through areas, it refuses to yield no matter what I throw at it. The ice tool attachment setup holds a long-handled Estwing rock hammer perfectly for help on the long humps. The bag has traveled from work in Sinaloa to Nunavut and back again on multiple projects. Last Fall I did a prospecting contract for diamonds in Nunavut with many days requiring up to 100lbs of till samples in the bag. The bag did better than I did as trying to get that on my back was something to see, but as I often work alone it was just the random Caribou that might have had a chuckle at my expense.
I have utilized the First Ascent 30-liter Alchemist as a prospecting bag and it is bombproof and carries a heavy load very well. The 30-liter size is a little limiting so it is only used on quick day jobs or when the primary work is not sample collection. It is a great pack for kit on regional prospecting map jobs as it fits like a glove. The durability of this pack is amazing as I have had it overstuffed many times with rocks and it has yet to rip or tear.
“I have utilized the First Ascent 30-liter Alchemist as a prospecting bag and it is bombproof and carries a heavy load very well.“
My primary travel packs and administration packs are the Rush 12 and 24 made by 5.11. The well-thought-out organization in these bags allows for paperwork, GPS, camera, laptop, hand lens, compass and other tools of the trade to be easily accessed. The added bonus is that the bags fit under the seat on planes, meaning no fight for overhead bins and reducing travel stress.
My running and mountain bike list is a little long but there are some real stand outs. The aforementioned Gregory Stimulus and larger Iso are the packs of choice for any long run or race. The Stimulus holds a 2l bladder and the running essentials for most distances. This pack has done all of the ultra marathons except for the Yukon Arctic Ultra and the now defunct Rock and Ice Ultra, both winter ultras, as the required gear required the larger Iso. A great feature on both packs is the accessory pouches on the waist belt which hold gels, M&M’s and a small camera.
For biking, my first bike-specific pack was the CamelBak Mule which I purchased in 1998 I believe. The HAWG joined in the early 2000’s. These packs are well thought out and have a great cycling-specific fit. Lately I am using a smaller Mammut Neon Light 12 for less than two hour rides and the climbing pack does great double duty as a cycling pack.
There are three Black Diamond bags in the quiver, old versions of the Magnum, Bullet and Flash. These lightweight bags are often used to organize some gear in larger duffles and are then available on project for when the need arises for a light quick carry.
A mention should be made of the Marmot Ultra Kompressor pack that I used for a season prospecting in Newfoundland. It rained almost every day and the bush was thick but the pack made it through with flying colors. It did not have the capacity that I would have preferred but I was able to cache samples for later pick up. Alas, this would have been perfect for the Arrakis 50.
How do you store your collection?
I store many of the packs on a daisy chain hanging in my garage that allows for grab and go when required. The compressible bags are stuffed into one of them and hang from the same daisy chain. The duffles are simply stuffed into the largest bag and set on the shelf of work gear.
Can you tell us a favorite carry memory? Or a memory garnered whilst wearing a particular piece?
My packs all have many big and light-hearted memories. A heart-warming favourite is associated with the Gregory Stimulus. I had never run an ultra marathon before I signed up for the Lost Soul Ultra in southern Alberta. I excitedly prepared and purchased the Gregory Stimulus as part of that preparation. Loaded with a 2l bladder and pockets of mini Snickers and gels, training progressed well. Just before the race, my daughter who was nine made me a little stuffed figure with a hard candy sewn in for emergency. This figure has joined me on every run over 20km I have ever done.
On race day, my family met me at every aid station to help refill the bladder and provide a lot of moral support. Nearing the end of the race, there is a short but steep hill climb then 800m to the finish line. My daughter and son, 9 and 11, were there and ran the last distance with me. That is why I will never get rid of the pack and it is the right size for a bottle of O2 for when I am a senior☺
A light-hearted memory is linked to a heart-stopping moment when I was wearing my North Face Spire 38 and prospecting in the Kootenays, located in southwest British Columbia, in very extreme terrain. The helicopter that set me out had to toe in, in order to get me on the ground, as it was too steep to land and then rotate the machine around so I could open the back compartment to get my pack out.
I was making poor time due to terrain and was intensely focused on hand holds and footing while still trying to note the geology and structure. My focus was briefly broken when I saw a ledge above me and all I could think of was ‘finally a spot with room to pause and sort things out.’ I slowly and carefully worked my way up and finally could get a hand hold on the lip of the ledge. Just as I pulled myself up, an enormous eagle, disrupted from its marmot dinner, leapt off the ledge passing just over my head and screeching its displeasure. The screech and enormous shadow snapped me out of my focus, nearly causing me to lose my grip and take the long fall. Catching my breath, I heaved myself up and I was able to sit next to the remains of the eagle’s dinner for a few moments while I waited for my heart rate to slow down.
“Just as I pulled myself up, an enormous eagle, disrupted from its marmot dinner, leapt off the ledge passing just over my head and screeching its displeasure.“
I moved on quickly though, not knowing how possessive the bird might be of its meal. The rest of the day passed remarkably without further incident.
If your house was burning down and you only had enough time to grab one bag, which one would it be and why?
I would grab the Gregory Stimulus as it is full of great memories and sweat.
What’s next on the wish list?
I am seriously looking at the Mystery Ranch Snapdragon or Swift as an eventual replacement of my trusty North Face Spire 38 as it draws to the end of its life. A number of designs by Boreas, CamelBak and Triple Aught look amazing and are on my lust list, as is another Eberlestock Halftrack.
*If you’ve got a collection that you’re proud of, let us know, we’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org