The pack I’ve been living out of for the last 2+ weeks with another 1+ weeks to go, is a Granite Gear Stratus Access 4500. I bought this in 2001, maybe 2002, from an outdoor gear store in Orono, Maine, called Alpen Glow. I think it’s still in business.

This giganto pack hasn’t seen a ton of use, but when I have needed it, it’s been perfect. It’s size means you can put a lot of crap in it. Meaning, it gets real heavy real fast and it’s easy to overload because there’s so much room and extra gear straps to lash things to it.

It’s first major use came when I was doing research on Maine islands for grad school. I remember it being so heavy with my research and personal gear that I couldn’t pick it up and just put it on. I had to lift it to a chair or something then get into it that way. Once I had it strapped on, I was good to go.

So for this UK trip, I was careful with my packing since I would be wearing it a lot more traveling place to place and being on foot for primary transportation. Plus, there is a right way and a wrong way to pack these things. Infrequently needed items go in first, on the bottom. Fast-access items like rain gear get lashed to the outside of the pack or placed in the very top.

This pack has a great feature where you can completely open up the front of the pack to access the contents and pull stuff out without it being only a top load. Top load means if you have something packed at the bottom, you have to pull EVERYTHING out through the top first to get to it. With this pack, you just undo the exterior straps, pull down the bilateral zippers on the sides, and undo the interior straps (as needed), and you can pull out what you need. LOVE this feature. I used a smaller top load pack for Germany last year, and I developed a powerful dislike for top loading packs.

The publicist suggested I bring five copies of Echoes of War with me to the Ireland WorldCon. The last thing I wanted to do was schlep five novels around with me in that pack for three weeks before ever hitting Dublin, but that is exactly what I’m doing. Yeah, that pack is freakin heavy with those books in it, but I’ll be able to finally unpack them in a few days when I arrive in Ireland. Five books doesn’t sound like much. Strap them to your back and walk around with them to train stations and bus stations and through the grocery store and then let me know what you think.

In my UK travels I’ve seen a lot of Osprey packs. Osprey is a great, well-known brand and one I have shopped before. I was sorely tempted to get a new pack for this trip, but I had to keep reminding myself that I already had one. I know mine is aged and heavy, but there’s nothing wrong with it. The new rucksack framing is much lighter in the newer models (especially on the Ospreys I’ve been stalking) and they’re designed for better airflow across your back. Mine does get hot and there isn’t much airflow, but again, it’s pushing two decades.

Overall, I love the giant rucksack. I feel much like a turtle when I put it on because it is very close to me wearing my house on my back right now in these travels. I may eventually upgrade to a newer pack, but I’ve fallen in love with this pack all over again from the day I first saw it in the shop. Bonus points for the pack because I do love the black and yellow combo.

–images taken by me, 2019, Scotland