Friday, July 29, 2011

Trapper Nelson Number 3

Photo: Patent Pending Blog

When I was seventeen, my father had a buddy who lived next door. Dad had been in the navy and Dennis in the army. Even though Dad seemed to feel the navy had a bit more cachet, it made no difference.

They drank rum together in our kitchen. Dennis was mild- mannered and unfailingly polite. Dad could be loud, but Dennis never raised his voice, at least not in my hearing. He had about him a puzzled air. As I listened to his slow speech, I imagined him wondering why nations had wars instead of being good neighbours.

I was in a camping phase. One day as I packed my gear, I complained that my pack was too small for the three day hiking trip we were planning to Sleeping Beauty Mountain.

"Say," said Dennis. "I've got a pack you can have." He went home and brought over the Trapper Nelson. I thanked him for the loan, but he said "You keep it. I don't need it any more." I was overwhelmed by his casual gift of a capacious canvas bag on a wooden frame with one outside pocket. Just what I needed.

I'd seen the smaller Number 2, but never the Number 3. Though I had to lean forward like Ape-man to carry it, I loved that thing. The new well-designed lightweight aluminum-framed nylon packs were very expensive, and I was a student. I stuck with my Trapper Nelson.

I didn't know it at the time, but when Lloyd Nelson developed this pack in 1920, It was the last word in comfort and design. Now it seems laughably primitive.

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