Charlie's Blog: Backpacks



Backpacking makes you realize how little you really need to be happy.

I have been using backpacks since I was a kid back in elementary school. I had to lug books back and forth to school along with notebooks, pencils, pens, and whatever else they need to mess up a kid's spine. I can't remember all of the backpacks I have used over the years. I know two of them came from L.L.Bean. One was worn out before I left high school. The second one lasted me until the end of college. I don't know what became of the second one. I liked it because it had a leather bottom.

My current backpack is a cheap camo bag from Walmart I bought in the sporting goods section. It's supposed to be used for hunting, but I have never hunted anything in my life. I bought it over a decade ago to carry books, notebooks, pens, pencils, and my Walkman. The load is lighter than my schooldays, but the point is that I have never stopped being a student.

I have never used a backpack for hiking because I am not a hiker. I have never used one for traveling the world and sleeping in hostels. I have also never served in the military and used a rucksack. Basically, my backpack has served as a portable office to feed my mind. It carries my world with me.

The backpack is a versatile bag, and it struck me at how it is the most useful bag you can own. There are different versions depending upon the task, but they are all basically a bag with two straps that go around the shoulders turning the wearer into a human mule.

Backpacks vs. messenger bags

The biggest competitor to the backpack is the messenger bag. There are different versions from the slim versions bicycle messengers use to the briefcase versions of office workers to the large satchels you see on postal workers. The messenger bag has an advantage over the backpack. The messenger bag is easy to access. You have to take off a backpack to get anything out of it.

I have used a messenger bag a couple of times in my life. I got a lot of insults about carrying a "man purse." I had to remind myself and those idiots that Indiana Jones carried a man purse. I don't care what others think about me as most of the population are blithering idiots. If I want to carry a man purse, I will.

I don't use a messenger bag now because it has a drawback. You can't carry much stuff in it. If you did carry a lot of stuff, the weight of the thing hanging from one side of your body can't do much good for your posture. This is why students shun messenger bags. They can't get the job done for you.

The messenger bag is only good for the office worker carrying papers and a laptop computer. If you wear a suit, you can keep it looking unwrinkled with a messenger bag. I would opt for a messenger bag over a briefcase. But I'm not an office worker.


I became interested in rucking as I was reading up on the benefits of walking. For those who don't know, rucking is simply walking with a weighted backpack. Rucking is very popular among military types who hate running. My research into rucking has shown to me that the extra calorie burn is not worth the increased risk of injury or the hassle of carrying that pack. The touted benefits of rucking are overrated and can be achieved by walking a few more minutes each day. I will break all of this down in a future post about walking versus rucking.


I was interested in hiking in my younger years. I never actually did any hiking, but I dreamed of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. Then, I got old and wise. I don't care to do any outdoor activity that requires me to sleep on the ground overnight. I will do it in a survival scenario, but I would never choose to do it for "recreation."

My time outside is followed by a hot shower and a warm bed. I do have a ratty old backpack I bought from Goodwill. It looks like an old book bag used by a schoolkid. I bought the thing as a way to get into rucking until I changed my mind about rucking. I keep the thing now to potentially carry water and food if I ever go walking in a state park one day. I used to do that sort of thing before my accident, but it is beyond my capabilities right now.

Some people might call this a day hike, but I don't. I think hiking is more serious than anything I do. Hiking is essentially walking except you carry more gear on a hike. What I would carry amounts to lunch. I am not a hiker which is why I can get away with that ratty bag. I would use my camo bookbag, but I don't want crumbs and water messing it up and getting on my books later on.


My two backpacks came from Walmart and Goodwill. I can afford better, but I don't bother. If I did bother, there are three brands I find recommended online. These brands would be LLBean, JanSport, and Eastpak. Those three brands are great for students who put more use and abuse on a bag than any soldier or mountain climber. They are also typically less than $100. I would go with any of those three bags if I was back in school.

I can't recommend anything over $100 from the makers of military backpacks or outdoor packs. This is because I don't do those activities. My personal opinion is that these bags are overpriced. Over the years, I have learned that any specialized gear pales in comparison to a general purpose product in terms of both quality and price. The specialized gear is mostly marketing and hype.


That's it for my discussion on backpacks, At the end of the day, a backpack is just a bag with 2 straps. As long as the straps and the zippers are good, you have a quality bag. Even the ratty bags will do if you don't care to spend a lot of money. Try the thrift store before the department store or online. I have seen those brands I recommended selling for a couple of dollars and in excellent shape. Overall, I think a backpack is the best bag you can own and use for lugging stuff.