It’s a proven fact.  Studies show that spending your hard-earned dollars on experiences makes you happier than spending those same dollars on “things”.

Is that always true, though?  I mean, there are some objects that open doors to future experiences.  I’d argue that makes them worth a lot more than the amount on the price tag.  Classic example: the backpack.

A brand new backpack with no dirt on it doesn’t immediately provide happiness. It incites dreams of future adventures, the freedom to travel anywhere, the ability to get away from it all, independence.

Soon enough, that sparkly new pack will earn its first flaw.  Maybe a rogue spark will land on it and melt a little black hole in it as you bond with your buddies around a campfire under the Milky Way in Yellowstone. The fabric might snag as you shimmy your way through an 18-inch slot canyon in Utah, fighting off claustrophobia.  Maybe a chipmunk will gnaw through it to get that one stupid peanut you accidentally left in the hood of the pack overnight.  However it happens, Congratulations!  That is now a memory that will come back to you every time you see that hole or stain.

Sitting around a campfire

It gets better (or worse, depending on your point of view).

That weird smell coming off your pack?  That’s the smell of the leftover spaghetti that you lugged around for 3 days because no one could finish it and you are a master at Leave No Trace ethics.  Or maybe it’s the remains of the dirty socks you had to carry around for a week. Ew. Either way, that weird smell becomes a bit…charming.  Nobody else will appreciate it, but that’s okay.  They just don’t understand.

After working in outdoor retail for over a decade, I can attest to the fact that nearly everyone develops an emotional attachment to their pack.  The older and grittier the pack, the more this rings true.  Customers would stop by the shop and gaze in awe at the wall of brand new backpacks, then run out to their car and bring in their old, ratty pack in just to show me what they had put it through.  “Can you believe that this pack once looked like those?!” they’d say, pointing at the pack wall. I completely understood – my own dirty, smelly pack was sitting in the gear closet at home, luring me to the next big adventure.

6 backpacks lined up against a tree in Utah

So yes, experiences ARE greater than things.  However, some things open the doors for you to have incredible experiences.  For this, we salute the humble backpack.  Eventually, we’ll forget how much we paid for you, but we’ll always remember the giraffe that tried to eat the shoulder strap in South Africa.  How could we forget?

What is the greatest experience you’ve had because of your trusty backpack?  Share in the comments below!

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