My InGear Backpack is Now 20 Years Old and Going Strong ( Sort of)

It was August 1998 and I was starting the MSW program at the University of Pittsburgh, with a concentration in Community Organizing. I had been out of school for 3 or 4 years, but as a commuter in a graduate program I was pretty sure that I needed a sturdy backpack.

I think I bought this at Dick’s Sporting Goods, but I’m not 100% confident of that. I do remember it was under $30 which was still a fortune on my income as a PT counselor for a domestic violence agency.

This bag was a grownup decision. It had lumbar support. It had slots for water bottles and umbrellas and newspaper sleeves. And I put it to good use. I took the bus for my first semester and switched to my car the rest of the time. So I spent 3 semesters trekking up from Panther Hollow parking lot with the backpack loaded down for multiple classes. Panther Hollow to the Cathedral of Learning was no mean feat. It’s basically 2 miles uphill both ways.

And I packed it full. Text books, note books, library books from the Carnegie which was right there. All the extras. Sometimes clothes and usually some sort of snack/meal. Water. And I fit my purse in, too.

After graduation (c/o 2000), the bag took on a more secular role of helping me go to events and overnights. The bag moved with me four times. It has been to Pridefest every year. It became my carryon bag for all flights and most road trips. It has had buttons that lasted for years. It is a righteous bag and a really good deal for $30 in 1998.

I took it out today to prep for the flight to New Orleans. That’s when I realized the shoulder strap was tearing.

I thought it should be fine for awhile, especially if I just one-shoulder the other strap. And after 20 years? Not too shabby.

I’ve used my share of pins on this bag. They were all removed for a wash. I started this trip fresh with a pin from HMR Apparel’s feminist line No Means No.

Unfortunately, the tear worsened during the first leg of our trip, so I think I’ll need a replacement soon. I wonder if I can find another bag to last this long.

Thanks, old friend. You will be relegated to storing other bags from a peg in the kitchen. Maybe we’ll take you out for old times sake on a light trip.

Please don’t break until we are home. I promise to buy another In Gear bag.


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