Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Backpack Lust & a Series of Unfortunate Choices

I made a series of mistakes over the past few days. What to do, what to do?

It started out innocently enough. I gave in to the compulsion to wander into the local REI. For me, a visit to the REI store is much like a visit to the animal shelter: temptation is all around and emotions run high. I should avoid these places at any cost.

I lovingly refer to this grand camping, hiking and sporting goods behemoth, as an adult toy store. It is delightful to while away the hours wandering through the aisles examining all the specialized equipment. Most of these clever items are pricey and extravagant and frequently pretty useless in the end.

In the course of poking fun at foolish extravagances and over-the-top equipment, my spouse and I found ourselves in the backpack department. That’s when the dragon reared his ugly head. Yes, somehow the equation, of needs versus desire got transposed when I breathed in the heady air inside the store and saw the array of beautiful backpacks lining the walls. (There is a scent, almost like a new-car smell!) I love bags of any kind, so this was a dangerous place for me to be.

I was casually examining the tags on a lightweight pack, when the cheerful saleswoman, on the scent of a possible sale, grinned at me and said, “Just try one on.”

It is true that I NEED a back pack. In fact, for several months I have been researching and getting recommendations on lightweight backpacks. I intended to order a Gossamer Gear pack and was planning to place that order following the Gathering of American Pilgrims next weekend.

But hey, why not just try one on? So, I slid my arms into the embrace of the backpack as the saleswoman chattered on about how to adjust the various straps. My heart began beating faster. Not a good sign, but I was already oblivious to most of what was going on. (Pack-lust!)

My sweet spouse, the voice of reason, pointed out that this pack had a very agreeable price tag.

Furthermore, we had a coupon for 20% off. By now, the saleswoman had me securely strapped in and had loaded the pack with 20 or so pounds of weight.

She smiled again, and said, “Just wear it around the store while you window shop a bit. See what you think.”

I was clearly not thinking.

If my spouse had any training in emergency medicine, he might have noticed my dilated pupils, my racing heart, my flushed face. But he did not.

In fact, he said, “Look at the weight of this pack – only 24 ounces! That’s not much more than the Gossamer Gear pack.” (Post script: the GG Miniposa weighs 14 ounces)”

That is when the rationalizations really began to fly.

My husband and I began an enthusiastic discussion on the relative merits of this pack over those of the GG Miniposa. This pack has a back pad while the GG Miniposa pack has none (because minimalist hikers strategically place their sleeping pad there instead…this shaves off weight. But since I would not be using a sleeping pad this was a moot point.)

I could not try on the GG Miniposa pack since it is available only online. Could I be sure the mail-order pack would fit me as nicely as the pack I was happily toting around the store at this very moment? (Hmm, mail-order spouse versus the guy I met at a dance?)

On and on the rationalizing (disguised as logic) went.

“Great price, great fit, great weight…let’s do it!” I said, pulling out my credit card and leaving the store with a brand new backpack.

Once home, I immediately made the pack my very own. I carefully and happily snipped off all the labels and lopped off the extra cords, and eliminated anything extraneous. All this in the interest of shaving off ounces of weight.

Then I began to stuff my down sleeping bag into the top-loading pack. This was the start of a long evening of entertainment for anyone who might have been watching. I wrestled with that sleeping bag, trying to find a good way to pack it into the backpack with any space remaining for my two changes of clothes and the other few items on my checklist.

By the end of the night, I was exhausted physically and emotionally. It was clear I would have to strap my sleeping bag in a compression sack on the outside of my tiny pack. I was not amused.

In the clear light of day, after a restless night agonizing over this matter I must admit, I somehow bought an 1,800 cubic inches/ 30L pack, weighing 24 ounces. In all my research I had been looking at packs with a volume of more than 2,000 cubic inches and most around 35L. The more suitable GG Miniposa’s statistics are: 2,800 cubic inches/45L and 14 Ounces.

What was I thinking? (Slap to the forehead and big sigh!)

All this from a notoriously frugal shopper… (Another big sigh.)

As I tap this note out on my keyboard, I can almost hear my mother’s voice saying “Buy in hast, repent at leisure.”

So what’s the next move?

Do I live with the mistake and the consequences?

Or do I spring for another backpack?

Stay tuned for further misadventures on Peregrina Pulver.

Despite everything - Life is good...


Amawalker said...

Oh dear Ginn!! Can you try packing your sleeping bag flat, rather than rolling it up? I fold my Altus into a zip lock bag so that it is flat rather than try to squeeze it back into that ridiculous, red condom it comes in. Once unrolled you can never get it back in again!
30L isn't tooooo..... bad but it will mean a tight fit.
Let us know how it turns out.

Virginia said...

I feel pretty foolish...but it is good to have humbling experiences from time to time! 8-)

The sleeping bag just poofs back up to strain the sides of the pack. I tried the Zip-Lock bag and sat on it too...

I really should video-tape my attempts to cram that lovely sleeping bag into various bags and shapes.

Love the crack about the red condom!

Heading off to Work

Erica Pionke said...

Girl. I read your thoughts on REI and you could not have been more right on. God bless that co-op.

Virginia said...

Yes - I love rambling through REI...but it is kinda like alcohol to a member of AA! 8-)

Suffering Buyer's Remorse

CarolineMathieson said...

Hmmm, well I normally have a backpack that has a top compartment and a bottom compartment and the sleeping back and some socks etc go in the bottom.

With a smaller backpack, I would be using that sleeping bag as padding around all the other items in my backpack. I would also use the sleeping bag as insulating material for instance to keep things warem or cool as required.

Does that make sense?

In the end, if it cant be made to work then bite the bullet and buy a bigger backpack and put it all down to experience.

You will laugh at all this in a year's time m'dear!

CarolineMathieson said...

....or donate the backpack to a worthy cause....

Anonymous said...

If I were you, I'd just take it back to REI. They have the most generous return policy of any place I've ever shopped. They WANT you to be happy and they sell all this returned unused and unmarked stuff at big annual "garage sales." I am sure they will not bat an eye.

Virginia said...

Anonymous - Since I snipped off the hydration pouch and the REI patch and clipped off extraneous cords and straps, it is unlikely REI would take it back. I doubt if REI's generous return policy would cover the pack now.

The pack is fine, it is I who made an impetuous decision.

In Santa Fe, Watchin' the Sun Rise

Teri said...

I sooo remember trying this and that, and re-buying this and that. You'll find your sweetspot for everything. The longest part of the journey is preparing.

I'm so happy for you and enjoying watching your excitement build!

Buen Camino - Teri

Virginia said...

Thanks Teri - I think I may have resolved my "dilemma" in an unexpected way. Solving challenges often has to do with letting go of the percieved solutions and beig open to change...and new persepectives.

Life is great for character building!

You are correct about the preparing being the longest part of the journey...