Actually, TWO MEC bags.

One of the ways you can spot Canadians on the road is by keeping an eye out for MEC gear.  MEC stands for “Mountain Equipment Co-op” and while it is a legit co-op where you need a membership, joining is a token $5 ‘for life’.  I’ve only ever gone a handful of times, but it’s been well worthwhile.

About a thousand years ago I bought a MEC schoolbag I don’t even think they make anymore that was ubiquitous amongst college kids and about 20L fully loaded, though it looks much smaller.  It has a divider that functions as a velcro laptop sleeve, is relatively water resistant, and padded by frame-less.  I think it has a lifetime warranty.

No matter what I have done to it, it refuses to die.

I’ve jammed it too full of heavy books as a student, overfilled it as a carry on, washed it, checked it as luggage, lent it to people, lived out of it as my only bag on extended trips, and other things that should normally cause a bag to start to bust at some weak point.  It has been so dirty and gross that I assumed on washing it I would discover underlying damage, but no, it washes and comes out looking oddly new. At this point I am just going to write it into my will so that when it outlives me it can keep going.

I think the modern version is probably this.

My other long term bag is also from MEC.  I’ve gone through a bunch of luggage and the soft-sided rolling bag they make is by far the most durable and maneuverable (although the straps they give so you can wear it as a ‘backpack’ are a bit of a farce if you’re not Paul Bunyan – I’ve done it, not optimal at all).  This is the bag I use when I uproot myself and move coasts or continents.  One of the things I like the most is that I know, fully packed with clothes and gear, it’s going to come in at roughly 20-22kgs, AKA the checked limit on most airlines.  Because it’s soft sided, it collapses flat enough to tuck away in whatever accommodation I’ve ended up in until it’s time to Littlest Hobo out.

I’ve taken these wheels bumping down stairs through international public transit, seen the bag fly through airport luggage abuse, and have seen it survive where lesser luggage has failed.  It has really well placed straps for lifting, and a frame that Will Not Buckle.  There is a modern version but not every reviewer is happy they moved away from the original design, although I think dropping the “backpack straps” was a good choice.