This weekend, I went to check out this year’s edition of the AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) show at the Park Avenue Armory, and like any event in this city that includes the word “art,” the characters in the booths ended up being almost more interesting than the art hanging on their walls. Of course, that’s not to say the show wasn’t great, (I actually wish I’d been able to get there sooner so I could recommend it to you all, but unfortunately it’s now over) it’s just that aside from the sepia-toned coma that I had slipped into by the last row, the show also left me with a bizarre desire to run out and buy a backpack.
Now, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve even worn a backpack, but just as I entered the show, I happened to spot an elderly gentleman wearing an outfit that looked straight off of Mister Mort’s homepage – A navy gold buttoned blazer, worn over a pale yellow OCBD, with a pair of wide legged khakis, and Made in the USA New Balances down below, and a beat up forest green Kelty backpack slung around his shoulders. In a sea of “priceless works” (that also happened to have real prices the size of Park Avenue apartments) that Kelty backpack, with a label so faded and stained that I could barely even make out the name, was one of the best things I saw the entire day.
While Kelty packs have an East Coast staple for over half a decade, their shape sort of reminds me of a backpack I had in grade school, and with a backpack already being a bit “elementary” in every sense of that word, I figured it’s best to steer clear from any “fat-guy-in-a-little-coat” connotations. So, it might be because I’ve been daydreaming about finally getting a chance to head upstate for some rock climbing this month, or maybe it’s simply because I’ve been spending too much time on the Hickoree’s website, but the second I even considered buying a bag, Epperson Mountaineering came to mind.
Epperson Mountaineering is one of those great holdover brands from the heart of the seventies American adventuring movement, back when people still ordered these sorts of items from hand-drawn catalogs that were thicker than most of the paperbacks that we read today. Mark Epperson founded the companies decades ago and since it’s inception, not much has changed. All their bags are still made at their workshop in Libby, Montana and Epperson endearingly holds a title so rare in this day and age – they are a brand without a website. Epperson knows what it does best and leaves the rest alone. And so with ample storage and trail-ready attributes, their bags place function first, yet they still capture that playful vibe of the “wild-west” days when rock climbing was just coming into it’s own.
My personal favorite from Epperson is the Climb pack, which is constructed out of Cordura nylon, finished off with military webbing, and features a unique carabiner closure for the main compartment. While the rainbow colored model is best left to those with a bit more chutzpah than I, the moss model reminds me of the bag I saw this weekend, and might just be on my list for summer. Who knows, maybe in a few decades I’ll be the aging trad wearing it at a show when some kid will spot me and thus the cycle will continue.