Gear is a sentimental thing. It gets tied pretty easily to the big trips, events, and memories of our time outside. Whether it’s the camp stove you’ve had since your first backpacking trip, the boots you wore through on a big thru-hike, or the jacket that you had to patch after a fall during a hike, it’s hard to get rid of the gear attached to so many memories (even if, realistically, you probably should have thrown those boots out years ago).We asked goEast readers to to share the story behind the item they’ve had the longest for the chance to be featured and win an EMS gift card. Interested in sharing your story for next week? Submit it here! 

The author’s daughter checking them in at the Ranger Station before beginning their hike. | Courtesy: Philip C.

In 1979, I bought myself a brand-new external frame backpack. I was 15, and about to embark on a three-week trek through Baxter State Park with the Boy Scouts. Since I knew I’d be living out of this bag for the next three weeks, I carefully chose the best one I could find. After that hike, I continued bringing this pack on a dozen other trips, and even reluctantly allowed my cousin to borrow it. Later still, I kept it, thinking I could always use it as a potential go-bag in an emergency situation. I had no reason to get rid of it, and as time passed, I knew it wouldn’t have been worth more than a few dollars to anyone else anyway. It was still a perfectly good bag, for me. It even survived my family moving across the country—twice.

A few years ago, my daughter pointed out the old backpack in our garage, where for several years, I had kept it hanging on the back wall. While she saw it as a dinosaur of a pack, she inquired about where it had been, as if she could see the stories it held, and listened excitedly to them as I explained to her the vastness and beauty of Katahdin and my adventures in Baxter. Those stories must have stuck with her. My daughter brought up my backpack one day and asked for the specifics this time, wondering where in Maine had I hiked with that backpack. She wanted to climb that mountain, too. We began making our preparations, mapped out which trails we would take, and realized we needed to shop for some gear. While she found her first hiking backpack, one of those newfangled ones with an internal frame, I tried on several but decided not to replace my trusty pack after all. I’d used it before, and I would use it again. So, I dusted it off and packed it up. We finished our preparations and before we knew it, the day of our hike was here. My backpack became the conversation piece as we met other hikers along the trail, and the millennials seemed impressed with my “vintage” backpack, as they called it. Each time someone mentioned it, I proudly explained I had climbed this mountain with the same backpack, 42 years ago. My daughter and I made it up to the breathtaking summit of Mount Katahdin, and my backpack served me just as well as it did when it was brand new. It’s hanging up in the garage again, until our next adventure. Philip C.