Only Buy It Once: Mountain Hardwear Backpacks
Stop messing around.
These words, said to me at age 12 while picking out my seventh-grade backpack, have never left me. My dad told me to stop what I was doing and select a Mountain Hardwear from the rack. Seventh grade's no time to have a backpack that's going to fall apart. You're going to want one that lasts the whole year, and you can use it for baseball practice, he continued.
Well, dad was off. Just a bit.
The backpack in question (the '98 version; the bag linked here is one I'd recommend) did not just last me through seventh grade. It's lasted me until age 29—carrying books, sports equipment, clothes, food, camping gear, even a dog once, who kept his head out the top.
Aside from these love handles, not one thing I owned in seventh grade is still in my possession—except the Hardwear backpack.
"Mountain doesn't really design stuff for some dude carrying books to class," says Ethan Wolff-Mann, the most technically-savvy outdoorsman I know, who has hiked and climbed with MH gear. "It's designed for people who do stuff and need technical equipment that can keep up. These guys design stuff for the Himalayas."
Ah, so that's why mine has lasted this long, and probably will for another 17 years. Not designed for that, but will certainly stand the test of time because of that very fact.
California-based Mountain Hardwear has 21 years of experience selling all the sturdy, long-lasting outdoor gear—gloves, coats, tents, jackets—but its backpacks are what put people in the seats. Many weigh in at just one pound, and average around $100, which is what dad shelled out for mine. (The more technical Mountain backpacking bags can range up to $300, but they're 100% waterproof, secured with strong nylon thread, and still only weigh around three pounds.)
Mountain's warranty process appears generous, also. To quote its site, "Products should be returned to us for evaluation and will be repaired or replaced at our discretion. Damages due to improper care or accident will be repaired at a reasonable rate."
It's always a good sign when companies want to repair their products, not replace them. I may be inquiring about this reasonable rate soon. When I'm 46 years old.