Why I’ll Never Stop Exploring with The North Face

As I was packing up to leave work Friday afternoon, I grabbed my North Face Recon backpack from the corner and threw in my personal belongings – reading glasses, portfolio, Hydro Flask – along with my work laptop. Suddenly an overwhelming sense of excitement welled up inside me. Maybe it was the anticipation that Friday afternoon brings or maybe because I was watching “Congo” when I wrote this or perhaps The North Face does that good of a job with storytelling, but I felt like I was preparing to head back into the field on some important mission, grabbing nothing but the essentials and hurriedly stuffing them away. When I finished zoning out, backpack zippers in hand, it occurred to me that I’ve now owned this pack for over ten years. Queue the nostalgia…

When I graduated high school, my dad thought it was also time for me to upgrade my backpack. The old, trustworthy JanSport still had some juice left, but my dad and I both felt like it was time for me to adopt a newer, mature companion for my next journey to adulthood. So, we took a trip to REI to purchase my first North Face backpack (and first TNF item for that matter). Combing through the aisles of myriad product and eyeing every hang tag, I couldn’t believe packs could cost that much; this was no longer a $30 trip to Target! Though I was but a naive teenager at the time, I now realize that it was a lesson in investing. Not only did this pack take me through college, it carried me through graduate school, a two year stint in Mammoth Lakes, numerous road trips and day trips, and 10 countries not counting the re-visits (that’s more than one country per year that I’ve owned the pack!) During the summer months, when it wasn’t serving as my book bag or carry-on, it sufficed as a beach bag. For the short getaways, my overnighter. Now, as a responsible adult and family man, it’s my office bag (but still a trustworthy carry-on). And to think, I considered getting something else for work. For shame…

Earlier I said this was my first TNF backpack, but it was also my last. In actuality, I haven’t needed another one. Sure, I’ve purchased a couple of different packs here and there, but they haven’t lasted nor lived up to my expectations set by TNF. However, a couple of years ago I purchased my second TNF pack – the Base Camp duffel. To a good extent, and sometimes to my wife’s discontent, I can be a brand-snob; I really care to buy products from specific companies. Maybe it’s my consumerist habits or that I worked for a company who taught me about proper brand management. In most instances, I simply appreciate quality – and the companies that “get it” and do things right, those that respect and help to progress the industries of which they’re a part. That said, I was very particular and intentional when purchasing this bag, so much so that I had to sell a heap of belongings, including an Ikea futon, at a local swap meet just to make enough money to purchase this specific duffel. And just like my Recon backpack, this bag has carried its weight (pun intended). It’s my go-to when traveling  – locally or internationally, overnight or week-long. Keeping with tradition, it now serves as the family beach bag in-between camping trips. I even convinced my brother to purchase his own, and I’m pretty sure his has been promoted from daily gym bag to Ragnar relay supplies carrier.

I hoped to write this letter in another decade, when 20 years seems more significant than ten, but I felt compelled to share my story and express my affinity for The North Face. I can’t say for certain that I’ll still own these packs by then, though with their track record I wouldn’t be surprised. Besides, all that’s been damaged to my backpack so far are the zipper tabs for the main compartment and the elastic draw chord for the beverage holders. No other rips, holes, or tears.

So, for the loyalty that my backpack (and, as an extension, The North Face) has shown me, I am grateful and hope to return the favor. In 17 or18 years, when my daughter graduates high school (and God willing any other kids we have), I hope to take her to REI to purchase her own TNF backpack. Maybe we’ll do it sooner, maybe not. Either way, I’d like to think that this little trip will act as a rite of passage where I, too, can teach my kids about investment, value, and quality – and to never stop exploring.

Why I’ll Never Stop Exploring with The North Face