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 (L) with his friend on the first backpacking trip with his new pack. | Courtesy: Gabe Messercola

I waited until my first really big three-week backpacking trip before upgrading out of my dad’s old external frame pack. It was a blue Osprey Aether 85—the previous years version because I found it on sale. It didn’t have a lot of the now-standard bells and whistles that the pack had upgraded to the following year, like hip belt pockets or an external hydration sleeve. And, realistically speaking, 85 liters was far larger than I needed, but it speaks to the packing habits of an 18 year old backpacking novice. I filled it to the brim pretty regularly and learned pretty quickly how to carry a lot of weight comfortably. It survived that first 210-mile backpacking trip, saw the summit of Mount Rainier a few months later (my first mountaineering objective), and stuck with me through the most trying trip of my life long enough to join me on the summit after first ascent in the Alaska Range. For three weeks in the far north, its volume might have actually been a little smaller than I would have preferred, but I made it work. In between all that, it’s been on backpacking trips across in the Adirondacks, Whites, Cascades, Colorado, and more. These days, I have other packs to do the majority of my heavy lifting. Smaller, more reasonable packs for most backpacking trips, now that I know better how to pack. Bigger packs for the burliest of mountaineering expeditions. My blue Aether has holes, which I’ve patched. Hip belt pockets and hydration sleeves are staple for me, now. But whether it’s the design or just the countless days and miles my hips have had the force the pack into submission, I have yet to find a pack that is as comfortable as that Aether. Someone could give me a brand new one tomorrow and would still hold onto that old pack. Ryan W. (@ryan_climbs)