Many years ago, while visiting corva
, she took me back-pack shopping, and I found a wonderful Camelbak pack that was everything I was looking for. Small enough to be a good every-day take with me bag and to fit under the seat in front of me on an airplane when fully loaded, yet big enough to fit everything I wanted to have within easy reach while traveling, including my laptop computer (which is rather large as laptops go).
It had handy side pockets that I could reach (awkwardly) without taking off the pack, in which I kept little plastic boxes of food (never leave home without some food! a single serving of muesli, another of nuts, or dried fruit, or hais, etc.), and my wool leg and ankel warmers (one box and one set of warmers on each side. It had a large main compartment in which I kept a wool sweater for if I got cold, and at least one sewing or nålbinding project (usually one of each) in case I needed something to do with my hands, and more recently, also half a dozen kosh balls for juggling practice.
It had a slightly smaller front compartment which had a variety of small sub-pockets, and a nice flat internal zippered compartment just big enough to keep plane or train tickets and a passport. My hearing aid box fit perfectly in one of the sub pockets, my wallet fit in the depths of that compartment, I kept a pair of chopsticks, a pen, a needle case, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc. in there.
There was a little tiny pocket at the very top of the pack in which my old sunglasses case lived, back when I didn't need glasses and so didn't have expensive prescription sunglasses. That pocket also was large enough to keep my hand-lens (a geologist should never leave home without one), a handkerchief, a silk scarf to tie around my ears if they got cold, and even a washable flannel menstrual pad, because one never knows when one's cycle might start while one is away from home.
And, being a camelback, it also had a compartment with a plastic water bag that held three liters of water. Even when fully loaded with all of the above take-with-me-everywhere everyday stuff, there was still plenty of room in the pack to add other things at need and when traveling. The computer, change of clothes, a larger sewing project, books, whatever.
However, time passes, wear and tear happens. When I was in Australia in 2011 waiting for my visa to move to Sweden I had put the emergency food in plastic bags in the side pockets, rather than plastic boxes, to cut down on bulk/weight. Sadly, some mice were living in the house I was staying at, and they thought it was easier to chew through the fabric of the side pockets to get at the food, than to pull the bags out of the tops of the pockets (the pockets didn't fasten shut, but were made of stretchy fabric, and had elastic at the top, which made it easy to access while wearing the pack). Ever since those pockets have had ugly patches over those holes made from a heavy duty string kind of nålbinded over the holes, so that it would still stretch, but not leak from the holes.
More recently the zippers on the main compartment started to die--that slow way plastic zippers have, where if you zip past a certain point it starts to open up behind the zipper, but if one pulls the zipper back down to the bottom and zips up again but not past that point, then the teeth will probably hold. Eventually there were two such spots, one on each side, meaning that often the bag would open itself up, unless I were very careful how I zipped it.
In addition, the plastic water bag was getting really old and in bad shape, and kind of gross, and I started thinking of replacing it. I checked the local camping stores early last winter, on a day I had to be in town anyway, and they had nothing like this. All the camelback packs were tiny little sports bags for athletes who want to carry water, and perhaps one energy bar. There was nothing big enough to carry even a small nålbinding project, let alone anything else.
A couple of months ago I got frustrated enough with the steadily worsening condition of the pack to look on line. Sadly, there is nothing on the pack that mentions any sort of product name, just that the manufacturer is Camelbak. So I checked their web page anyway, and looked at photos of everything, and couldn't find anything even remotely like this wonderful pack, and I gave up.
Have I mentioned that I really hate shopping? In my experience shopping goes like this:
Me: I know exactly what I want, but where do I get it?
Store #s 1 to n: here are 100's of products that are totally unlike what you are looking for.
Me: but do you have object X with features Y & Z?
Store #s 1 to n: Look! We have object W with features P & Q, and object D with features F & G.
Me: But no one caries X with feature Y, even without feature Z? I give up!
It doesn't seem to matter if I look in real stores, or on line--I seem to be the only person on the planet who wants what I am looking for, and so stores don't carry it.
This week the worsening condition of the pack became frustrating enough that I checked the Camelback web page again, and saw three packs that *might* do, even though they didn't look nearly as nice as my poor dying pack. Clicking their "where to buy" button and selecting "Sweden" gave me a handful of Swedish merchants, one of whom not only carried one of those packs, but had it in a better colour (black) than the main Camelback web page had (a shade of blue a bit too pale and too turquoise to suit me).
It claimed to be a "perfect balance of cargo and hydration in a feature-rich design", and one of the photos showed some internal pockets. So I went ahead and ordered it, and it arrived today.
I can report that it is much smaller than my old, beloved, and really kind of dead pack. I managed to transfer over almost all of the stuff that had been in the old pack. But the new one is stuffed to the gills, and it won't be possible to add anything else, ever. Even though the current nålbinding project is a fairly small one. There are no handy large mesh side pockets--instead there are two tiny ones, one with a zipper, and one without. By transferering my nuts and hais from the square plastic boxes in which they had been stored into smaller plastic spice jars, they just fit in the side pocket with a zipper, and the little wool hat and gloves (that I think I forgot to mention from the little top compartment above) completely fills the other one. I was forced to put the plastic box of muesli in the main compartment, with the kosh balls, the sweater, and the nålbinding. The leg and wrist warmers and the wallet completely fill the smallest outer most compartment, and the middle compartment, which does have some internal pockets, but no wonderful zippered passport compartment, is full of the hearing aid box, comb, tootbrush, etc.
I am going to leave the stuff in there for now, and see how I go with such a small, and over-full pack. If it really doesn't work, I suppose I could try to replace the zippers on the old one, and try to find some new mesh fabric to replace those old dead side pockets. Or perhaps add mesh side pockets to this one. Or be cruel to my future self by not carrying things with me that I might need. Or something.