I recently went on another trip to the Boundary Waters and was able to use my Dad’s old #4 Duluth pack. He dug the pack out of the garage from a special area separated from the usual camping gear and handed it to me. A solid look in his face told me to take care of the bag even though nothing was said. He knew that I would. Of course it worked great for everything. That’s not the focus of this review because everyone already knows how great the product is. When I returned home, I received some of his stories. These stories are what I will share. He bought the pack when he was sixteen with money earned as a paperboy. His family was poor and the bag was very expensive for him back then. In his words, “probably 20 dollars.” He used it often as he evolved into a boyscout guide and led countless trips for hundreds of young canoeists. He shared stories of canoe games on a hot summer day and raising a sail to easily pass everyone paddling feverishly to keep up. There were scary stories of heroic rescues, harsh weather and what he calls “the black mist.” He told of surprising bears on trail that quickly led to the addition of a bear bell to the pack, especially when he started bringing my mother. One rescue in particular always seemed hard to believe until I was at a graduation party for the son of one of the kids (now father) that my Dad took on a trip. This stranger to me took me aside quietly and said, “let me tell you a story about your father” The same story that I had heard before was told from a different perspective about a canoe flipped over and wedged in a rapids filling with water as a trapped canoeist underneath was beginning to drown. People around trying to lift the filled canoe unsuccessfully while another person cupped his hands around the mans mouth to block out the rising water. My Dad grabbed a large post and used it as a lever to break the back of the canoe. The canoe folded and headed downstream while the person came up choking on fresh air. The pack comes with a tradition that has been passed down. It carries food, gear, and all the stories that you can fit. It may look old and worn, but it carries a lifetime of Boundary Waters history. Over the 45 years that it has been in my father’s possession, only a small hole has worn into the bottom corner of the bag. I took it to the store in Canal Park and reluctantly removed my Mom’s bear bell and old rope in order to place it in your hands for repair. Please take good care of it. I know you will patch it up well to prepare it to hold a second generation of memories.
(Branden – Your pack is in good hands. We will take good care of it and return it post haste. Thank you for your incredible story!)