I made a decision pretty early on that I wasn’t going to by just any gear. I wanted to get the stuff that the hardcore hikers said held up the best, was the most functional, and would carry me not only through the AT but over any trail adventure I would want to do (Everest excluded as I’m not sure all of this gear would handle the Himalayas). I know people change their preferences as they backpack more, but I didn’t want to start out with shoddy gear to taint the experience. I want gear I know I can rely on and leave the variables up to my skill level.
With that in mind, I went to my first REI garage sale at the end of the year. It’s where Adventure Club members can come and by overstock and used gear at ridiculous prices. It worked out that the Conshohocken location started an hour before the King of Prussia location so I was able to hit both pretty early. I was looking specifically for an Osprey backpack at this event. I had done a lot of homework and they kept coming up as one of the top brands used by thru hikers. They have this Anti-Gravity support system that shifts nearly all of the weight from the shoulders to your hips and makes it feel like you are almost not carrying a pack at all. It’s all adjustable and the construction is incredibly reliable. I also knew I wanted somewhere around 50 liters. While my gear will be light, I’m a big guy and some of it may be more bulky than normal as I need a long version of this or wide version of that. I didn’t want to be cramming everything into a pack every day when with a little extra room and discipline to know fill the empty space up with useless junk I could make my life a lot easier.
I get to REI in Conshy about an hour before the open time and here is the line:
I knew it would be crowded but OMG! What was fun about the wait, though, is that it was my first truly hiker experience. What do I mean? I mean it was the first time since I started this journey that I was around like-minded people who loved the outdoors and the hiker experience. Everything I have done up until this point was just me in a bubble listening and learned and doing some texting with folks. THIS was an in the flesh culture bomb moment for me. Everyone around me was talking about their favorite gear, their trail experiences, or their next great climb. It felt kinda cool to feel for the first time like I might actually be a part of this community. Is this really happening?
Doors open and it looks like black Friday. People are scrambling to bins and climbing over boxes. I knew what I was there for and head to backpacks and tents. Nothing I’m looking for. Ugh. I had hoped to find a real deal here. I wandered around and what they had (a lot of clothes and shoes) I just wasn’t looking for. Feeling a little disappointed I was out of there inside 20 minutes and headed over to King of Prussia to get in line.
Same deal outside there. Lone wrapped around the building. I stood behind two young guys talking about their next rock wall speed climb tournament. Whole new world. We snake through the store as the doors open to an outside area in the back. Looks like a lot less stuff but well organized. Then I see it. A rack with packs on it. GOOD looking packs. I dash over. I see the name. OSPREY. What?! I grab it and check it out. This is used gear. What’s wrong with it? Some grime on the bottom from being sat on the ground. Ok. That’s going to happen anyway. A little scratch on the material from probably catching a rock or branch somewhere. Not huge. Everything else looks really good. I check out the model and size. 65L. Little bigger than I planned. Wait… that includes the outside add on’s. The price: 30% of retail. WHAT?!!! Merry Christmas to me!!! I grab the pack, I take it inside. The backpack guru there custom fits the pack for and I bring home this amazing pack. Now I REALLY have to do this trip since I have the perfect pack for it. Right?! I did a shake down run with it a week ago. Cut 2 minutes of my climb time and I’m sure that it had at least a little something to do with the comfort of this pack.
Not a bad way to end 2019. Now to fill it!
Here is the official website for my pack: It really is as cool as it sounds.
Thanks for checking this out. See you on the trail!!