- Buyer's Guide
What’s In My Bag Collection: Sylvain Paley
Sylvain Paley has always been passionate about bags. However, even more than bags, he’s obsessed with all things packing. A race skier when younger, each weekend would involve packing all his gear to participate in races in different resorts. Later on he developed a love of travel optimization and flexibility. And as part brand strategist consultant and part documentary filmmaker for the French government, he’s used to traveling between many countries while keeping his carry as light as possible. Sylvain’s passion for bags even finds an outlet on his YouTube bag review channel Still Drunk From Yesterday. And with an enthusiast this keen on carry, we couldn’t wait to delve deeper into his personal collection…
What was the very first piece in your collection? And do you remember where and why you picked it up?
The very first piece isn’t pictured in the photos as I stopped using it a long time ago. But it was what made me a bag collector in the first place. It was a very flashy orange ski backpack made by Salomon, the type of bag only the people living in the ’90s could imagine. I won it at a ski race and the teenager I was at the time saw it as a sign: I should carry this backpack at every ski race if I want to win every time. So even five years later, when the fabric had worn out, the straps had broken and the zippers were completely out, I still insisted on repairing it, patching it and carrying it over and over.
Years later, as an adult with a paycheck, I bought my first proper backpack during a holiday trip in SF: The Commuter Briefcase by Topo Designs. It’s still my everyday bag today.
When did you begin to feel more than what might be called an “average obsession” for bags?
It’s not really the number of bags you own that makes you a bag fanatic. It’s the face you make when you enter a store with a wall covered by bags, it’s the weird questions you ask your friend who just bought one and it’s the time and science you put into the packing/organization process. But the first time I realised that I must have more than an “average obsession” is when random strangers on social media began to ask for buying advice. That’s why I opened a YouTube channel!
How many bags do you have in your quiver? Can you run us through an itemized list?
Okay, first, the bags I use when I’m on a film-making assignment:
WANDRD PRVKE 31L
Topo Designs Field Bag
A cheap equivalent of a Pelican 1510 hard case
Then, the bags I use for commuting/day trips between Paris and London/weekends:
Topo Designs Commuter Briefcase
Topo Designs Rover Pack
Chrome Industries Barrage Cargo
Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 21L
Porter-Yoshida & Co Tanker 3Way Briefcase
The travel bags for longer trips:
Cotopaxi Allpa 35L
The North Face Base Camp Duffel S
Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote (as a stuffable daypack)
A backcountry ski bag:
Black Crows Dorsa 27
And the bag with my boulder climbing gear already packed (it’s like my gym bag):
How do you store your collection?
Great question. I used to want to show off and set a pegboard to display all my collection on a wall but unfortunately, I don’t live in a castle or have a garage. In fact, as a bag collector, I developed a storage obsession as well. When you are into packing stuff, you like that all your things have a dedicated place in the house. Easy to get, easy to remember. I was Mariekondo’ing before knowing who Marie Kondo was. So all my bags are laid flat and stacked onto each other in a drawer under my bed. I still hang one or two in my bedroom: the ones I use on a daily basis. It’s like a coat, really.
What do you look for? What makes a bag a must-have?
Quality first. There’s no fast fashion in a bag. A good bag lasts a lifetime or two. It has to be made ethically as well. Bluesign certification, B-Corp and all that stuff always have my preferences. Then modularity and “hybridation”. The do-it-all bag doesn’t exist but a good bag should be used for different purposes. That’s why I like bags like the Commuter Briefcase (half backpack, half briefcase) and bags like the Dorsa 27 with a lot of straps and loops which make it easy to customize (skiing, camping, hiking, strolling in the city, etc.). Finally the look. I’m not into the military stuff but I like outdoor brands and hiking looks. That’s why Topo Designs is one of my favorite brands.
Tell us more about your filmmaking carry setup? Any tips and tricks for traveling and working?
It really depends on the assignment, but recently I had to film a documentary in different locations in France. I had to shoot interviews on the go, some landscape and aerial shots. In that situation, I put all my accessories into the cheap equivalent of a Pelican 1510: wireless lavalier mics, batteries, chargers, cage, external monitors, cables, lights etc. Then, the camera, lenses and shotgun mic in the Topo Designs Field Bag. And finally my clothes, drone, tripod and laptop in the WANDRD PRVKE. When in the field, I leave the hard case as a charging station in the hotel or in a special room, and I only use the Field Bag to carry all the stuff (mics, lenses etc.) while the camera is in my hands. So far it works well!
Was there anything from the past that you hesitated on that you would kill to have now?
Not really, no. Maybe some rare colorways (the Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote in Yellow and Grey you see in the picture? This one is like a rare Pokemon) or vintage stuff. In fact, sometimes the biggest frustration when you live in Europe is the shipping fees of some American brands. I was really interested in some Alite Designs items but I never bought them because shipping is half the price of the actual product.
Can you tell us a favorite carry memory? Or a memory garnered whilst wearing a particular piece? You were wearing your ––––––– when this happened…
Well, I was hiking to Glacier Point in Yosemite with my girlfriend, wearing the brand new Topo Designs backpack I just bought in SF, when suddenly I popped out a ring from the front pocket. One year later she became my wife and she still supports my insane obsession.
If your house was burning down and you only had enough time to grab one bag, which one would it be and why?
This question should be illegal. I’d say the Commuter Briefcase since it’s my first.
What’s next on the wish list?
Funny thing: I’m trying to get rid of some of my collection because I want to try a more minimalist approach in the things I own. I’m planning to do a giveaway or a contest on my YouTube channel but I really struggle to decide which items I could get rid of. I like them all, I use them all. It’s really, really hard. So before planning the next buy, I’m gonna have to say goodbye to some of them.
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