When I was a tenderfoot scout, my troop invested several weeks making pack frames. One of the fathers cut strips of thin plywood which we soaked, shaped and laminated into frames. We then carefully cut the stitching on the straps of standard Boy Scout canvas backpacks, attached the straps to the frames with screws and washers, and attached the canvas bags to the other side of the frames. When we got done we were proud of our pack frames. The bags could be removed to be washed and the frames could be used to pack other heavy items. We imagined ourselves hauling tents and cooking gear to remote locations, setting up hunting camps and packing out our game on our backs. We used our pack frames for a couple of campouts, but our Boy Scout trips in those days were mostly only one night of camping and generally we camped within a mile or so of the cars that had taken us up to the mountains. I had a compact cooking kit, but my sleeping bag wasn’t exactly small. Of course we didn’t need much for clothes.

I think the longest trek that I made with that pack frame was a three day, two night trip up the Horseshoe Lake trail, across to the Rainbow Lakes and back down that trail. At our farthest, we were probably less than 10 miles from the road.

A few years later I acquired an aluminum pack frame and pack that weighed a fraction of what my old homemade frame had weighed. The straps were more adjustable and I added a waist strap that really helped when carrying loads of 30 to 40 pounds.

Through mot of our backpacking days, we saw tents as rather expensive luxury items. It isn’t that we didn’t want a good backpack tent, we just didn’t want to spend the money required when a simple groundcloth could be made into an adequate shelter with a bit of cord. I remember one trip when I went to sleep with my head tucked into my sleeping bag wishing I had a real tent with mosquito netting, but the mosquitos calm down as soon as it starts to get cold and I soon forgot about it and drifted off to sleep, waking a few hours later to listen to the coyotes sing and wonder if I was smart enough to know what a wolf sounded like.

It wasn’t long before car camping was our most common form of excursion. We spend a few nights in campgrounds during our drives to and from Chicago and I refined my skills of camp cooking, sticking to the basics of bacon and eggs, hamburgers, beans, fried potatoes and warmed up canned stew. Of course we nearly always ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. We obtained a nice four-person tent when our kids were very young and it served our family well until their teenage years when we updated to a tent trailer.

Along the way, I’ve owned a lot of backpacks. Most of them have been simple packs without frames. I’ve had specialty backpacks designed to carry several generations of laptop computers. I’ve been sorting through things and I have a small pile of luggage that we’re ready to donate to the rummage sale. Among the items is a nice computer backpack that is way too big for my current lifestyle. My computer is not much bigger than my tablet and I no longer carry a computer back and forth from work. My work computer is portable and I carry it to meetings, but I hardly need a great big backpack to carry that slim device from place to place.

I still have a hard-sided briefcase that I once treasured as a symbol of my having arrived as a professional. It is the second one I’ve owned. The first was received as a gift around the time I completed my graduate education. It was damaged by a burglar who visited a hotel room were I was staying on a trip to New York City. I had left it locked in the room. The locks were damaged and the case was slashed by the burglar’s attempts to get inside. Once inside, the burglar found nothing worth stealing and the case was deposited in a dumpster where it was recovered by hotel security. My only loss was the case, which was replaced by another gift. I never carried a briefcase as a daily item and I don’t think I’m going to start now. I don’t think I’ve used that briefcase in the last 20 years and wonder why I’ve kept it this long. The pen that was inside of it had long ago dried up. The papers were of no value whatsoever.

I think that my days of needing an expedition backpack are over. I still have a very nice backpack that has dividers for my camera and lenses and room for a tablet or laptop in a padded area. I have a much smaller bag that I use to carry my notebook and a few other items back and forth to work. It has a pocket with room for the various ID cards that I need for some of my volunteer work and another space large enough for a compact bible and book of worship. There is room for a pad and pen and a stack of business cards. I rarely need more than that for going back and forth to work. I still like reading about expeditions to remote places, but I’m thinking that other than some simple canoe camping I’m not likely to need much in the way of a backpack and a simple dry bag with shoulder straps is sufficient for portages in the length that I’m likely to attempt. I do have a nice dry bag with very comfortable straps filled with survival gear that i keep in my vehicle during the winter. The next time I get caught out in a broken down or stuck vehicle, I don’t intend to be cold or hungry. I’ve got enough supplies in that bag to last a long time.

Still, yesterday, I found myself looking at backpacks on the Internet when I had a few spare moments during the day. I don’t need a backpack. I wonder what it is about them that fascinates me so. Still, there are some really neat features on those new packs . . .

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!