Sarca’s Got a Brand New Bag

I was raised in an environment where you hang on to something until it breaks or wears out, or it no longer has a useful purpose. My Mom had the same living room furniture for 30 years until she decided to reupholster it. She never felt the need to replace it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Mom is an extreme example of preservation, and here I find myself living by her example. I have used the same backpack for the last 24 years and until recently, never saw any reason to replace it. It has seen me through all my degrees, diplomas and certificates, it has seen me navigate jobs, and trips…and up until last week, it carried my lunch, work shoes, sweater and anything else I needed to take to make my workday more comfortable.

Backpack from 2013

I remember the day in April 1994 when I bought this bag. I had just finished up my last painting studio class of the Winter semester at the University of Western Ontario, and what I would often do is reward myself with a jaunt to downtown London to decompress and do some browsing. I hit up City Lights Bookshop on Richmond St. I then rounded the corner down King St to Novacks, known as London’s most interesting store back then. It was an army surplus camping store that was indeed a very interesting place to shop. That day, they had a Spring sale on day packs – 40% off. I wasn’t on the market for a bag, really. The one I was using was fine, if a little small…Call it an impulse buy, but one of the day packs on the rack caught my eye, and that was it – I bought it. $60.


The make of the bag was Pine Ridge, a London, Ontario company that gave a lifelong guarantee on their bags. If something broke like a zipper, they would fix it. Unfortunately, Pine Ridge no longer exists, much like Novacks. A damn shame.

No matter, that bag and I were inseparable, and I never had a problem with it. I loved it! This was the first hiking type backpack I ever owned. It had two large openings, travel mug holders, a sernum strap, a waist strap and enough room to accommodate everything from a week’s worth of stuff for a trip on the bus to Sudbury to all my big heavy art supplies.

As the years went by, my bag took a beating, but a little run in the washer would fix it right up. Like anything, however, it wasn’t getting any younger. In February 2013, I brought my famous* chili to work for lunch and carried the container in my bag. What is now known as the Chili Lunch Explosion of ’13, I arrived at work to find most of the lock top container that housed my food unsealed and leaking all over the interior. It was bad. Having a 19-year-old bag at this stage, I thought for sure this incident would have been its demise and I’d end up pulling the dead pieces of my bag from around the agitator in the washing machine. Nope! To my surprise, the bag cleaned up nicely. Aside from some fraying around the straps – which I fixed – the bag was good to go for another round of trips and adventures.

The bag today, and the material I am left with

Nothing lasts forever. As the years went by, the bag started to look its age and people were beginning to notice. The straps I fixed were slowly fraying more and pulling away. The left strap had less than an inch of material holding it to the rest of the bag. It was time to face it: I needed to locate a replacement.

The search for a new bag actually started a couple of years ago, but I struggled to find anything comparable. Speed it up to six months ago, I was very actively searching for a new bag. I aimed high, budgeted realistically, and looked for similar features as my present bag. Still, I could not find anything. I went more expensive, and aside from paying a ridiculous ransom for a bag, I still failed to find anything. The trouble was I got used to having a bag with both a sternum and a waist strap. These features are important to me to better distribute the weight of the bag on my shoulders. Sure, I could find both these features in a bag, but the bag would be too big, or there would be no cup holders, or the inside was too small, or I’d be spending $400 for a bag. I’d give up the search, pick it up again, and give up again. I was a veritable Goldilocks of backpacks! The Hubs finally said that I need to just decide on something. It would be alright. “You may not get what you’re looking for, but that will be okay. Just make a decision. It will be the right one.”

*SIGH.* “O-kayyyy.” *Pout*

In the light of day, it occured to me: you know who says that about decision-making? Sarca.

…Jesus, I need to start listening to ME!

Two weeks ago I took a weekend and pounded it out. I finally purchased a bag. I honed in on one from Mountain Equipment Co-op, a Canadian company that sells outside gear. A Patagonia Refugio 26 Litre backpack. It ticked all the boxes except for there having no waist strap. Meh, what are you gonna do. It has the sternum strap and the cup holders. Quite a generous-sized body, with a place inside to put a laptop, and inner pockets for other junk. The Refugio has a slender fit for women, and a lot of padding on the straps and back. And, unlike my old bag, it sits upright on the floor. This bag has been in my life for over a week, and it’s turned out to be pretty damn good. I made a decision; it ended up being the right one.

The sad remnants of my old bag currently lie on the floor of my living room. I am not sure what to do with it now. It seems sad to throw it away. Maybe I’ll burn it ceremoniously in a funeral pyre? It had a lovely life, saw me through my shit while carrying my shit. Now this ol bag gets to make new adventures with a new bag.

*Famous in four Ontario cities. #truth