Last fall, I planned a four-day trip to New York. I ended up staying 13, and during those extra nine days my life expanded; I pulled out a book and the seasons changed. My small suitcase couldn’t fit the new sweater, sneakers, coat and extra copies of edible flowers that I had acquired. My friend gave me this bag to help me store everything, and he took it all in effortlessly.
The large collapsible tote is from Epperson Mountaineering, a company founded in Montana in the 1970s by an outdoor enthusiast who saw a void in the market for a bag that suited his needs – who, looking at the collection , seems to have been equipped with a loose form of utility, practical but not limiting. The company was recently revived by a team of Japanese designers who took simple designs to the extreme, offering an endless combination of colors and patterns. As a utility item, the bag works as intended. It’s made from a slightly sheer, windproof ripstop nylon and packs down into a built-in zippered pocket that weighs just five ounces. When opened, it can contain as much as a travel bag and its rectangular shape remains as structured as its contents. When used to full capacity, it is perfectly blobby. Its main device is its drawstring, which can be pulled tight or left open to use as a tote bag.
The simplicity of a drawstring is something I learned to appreciate this year thanks to another favorite bag, the Porto Studios Pouch, which is designed to pack the little mess of everyday life into a tote. in neat and buttery leather. I never liked the built-in compartments, and the more I use these bags, the more static other bags seem. But a cord feels reliable, active, ready for anything.
The friend who gave me the climbing bag recently started learning rock climbing. He explained that the routes one climbs are called problems. The act of climbing a boulder isn’t Sisyphean at all, it’s actually incremental: a set of movements, repetitive bending and expanding of the body, clinging to things, trusting the threads you’re attached to. I thought about it in relation to travel and how we now approach the world outside of our small, tucked away spaces. I once approached the world as a vast place where the limits of exploration were endless. But the previous year I was, like everyone else, quite small. I was in Savannah, Georgia, away from my friends, immersed in flower history and photography. Lately, as things have started to grow back to full size again, the past year’s delays, cancellations and changes have been a fitting reminder that it may just be a case of showing up for what is before us.
Packing the Epperson tote with precision is impossible; the bag forces you to be comfortable with moving things around, an awkward readjustment along the way. But you can be sure it can hold anything. Whatever. Thinking about how my own life will unfold, whether to expand or travel in the future, I let go of the idea that things had to be perfectly organized. A tote is preferable. As just introduced.
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