Do you have a backpack that has accompanied you for years and has almost become your best friend? Then you should like this story from EXPED client Julie. For once, backpack TORRENT gets a voice here and tells what it has already experienced. Lean back and enjoy the long and beautiful story of Torrent the backpack.
How it all began
Torrent is my name, the first one I got when I was still hanging out in that lovely little mountain gear store with magnificent view over the green parks of Geneva. It was a swiss french guy who took care of me in that store and who called himself Lens. I think he was probably obsessed with me, but an obsession I took actual pleasure in. On a daily basis, he approached slowly, looked at me for a while, moved me into better light and presented me and my essential, genius functionalities to everyone entering the store: “30L capacity, a waterproof "easy-to-clean" material, super light-weighted shape - that can even change into a small sack…..” It was like a daily speech and a fun game to watch.
Seriously, I was convinced I’d end up with Lens, who would take me for himself somehow, but the day I saw him take down my twin brother instead, well THAT hurt! But I should have not been worried. Just a few days later this girl shows up in the store, apparently a friend, and she literally doesn’t stop staring at me - kinda like Lens did all this time. He definitely seemed to have something in mind. He wanted me to end up with her (or her to end up with me?), I smelled it. I witnessed how Lens gave everything, putting his highest efforts and most convincing arguments into this one, all mattering sales-pitch.
I am almost sure he had this plan all along, to reunite me one day again with my brother by helping me end up with his friend. But let’s be honest, I know in the end it wasn't his sales-pitch that made her take me down the wall. It could have been only me. Me and my extraordinary qualities! I had moved my best parts into the little sun-rays that hit the store interior, and I knew my resistant skin and color would look perfectly like that. I could say, she was almost in an instant ready to take me home. At that point I was already outrageously excited to go outside, to leave this place and dive into new adventures with my new owner Julez.
Challenged by the city life
I don't know where to start, because Julez literally took me everywhere she could. She would fill me up with all sorts of things you can’t imagine. Food, drinks, picnics, a mass of slackline and climbing gear (so often I had to bare chalk bags, which made me inhale powder for days and I am really too airtight for this - ai), she stuffed stinky climbing shoes, wet towels from the lake, blankets, yoga-matts and many many extra layers of clothes inside of me. Books, mini backpacks, laptops, six-packs of beer and even stuffing in her dog didn’t seem like a challenge to her. I could create an endless list, but let me tell you when I really started falling in love with the idea of spending the rest of my life with this girl.
It was the moment I realized she had understood my true, deeply rooted desire was to be outdoors as much as possible, no matter the weather! So I got to spend hours with her, flying in the wind on her bike, taking all in that I was originally made for. It was an overwhelming experience to make immediately contact with every weather condition that could test my limits. But nothing made me seem useless, no rain, hail, snow, wind, not even the intense sunshine or enormous heat that rises during Geneva’s summer days did me harm.
I didn't really had to worry about the impact on my skin, I knew I was made to be long term resistant to any kind of weather. When it was pouring for example, it became more like a big, awaited shower for me, my chance to get rid of all the beer that had ended up all over me on many nights out in bars, clubs or at house parties. So even during those intense shower days, I managed to keep her stuff dry, always. It was my constant goal - do not disappoint her of your qualities!
We got to enjoy so many fun things in this city-life phase. Endless concerts, dance nights, never-ending slackline sessions in the park, wonderful campfire evenings where we were having dinner up high, on our favorite mountain “Le Salève” and even hot summer days by lake and river never got boring. That one summer day was special though.
A tough test
She and her friends decided, we should all go and float in the Rhône (one of Genevas’ city rivers) to get to our favorite summer bar “A la Pointe”, and well honestly, I got a bit scared...Julez is a photographer and that day she had her big camera baby with her, well with me, so this would be my full responsibility, a real test. I panicked a bit - will I be able to resist all this water around me? Will I be able to resist the stream, heavy water pushing all over my surfaces, while floating 10-15 minutes in that river?
I couldn’t contemplate for too long, she had already closed up my head top super airtight and plop…I found myself already floating in the Rhône, head out to see at least where she was going. I really didn’t want to lose her in this challenge. But wow, even after being quite paranoid, we arrived as a team by the river-exit and I didn’t disappoint her after all. Even though I couldn’t manage to keep all my stitches 100% dry. Yes, only a few drops had entered through my bottoms, but all that mattered was her camera - and she was dry and well! My day had turned out perfectly, I felt unbeatable and so proud and I could feel how her love for me had just again grown a little bit more.
*Exped does not recommend using the Torrent as a floating bag in the water.
Our last, most memorable moment of city-life was definitely when Julez had decided to get a little puppy for her future vanlife adventures. We both had started feeling a bit sick of babylon life, we wanted to see so much more, more adventures and more nature around us. So when she brought home this little puppy “Karma”, he became a perfect addition to our family. I took enormous joy in carrying this sweet pup in my warm, spacious arms, while Julez was riding the bike for us through town. He put full trust in me and I didn't let go of him, in the end I had the impression he actually seemed to enjoy those rides a lot.
Roadtrippin, Mountains & The Extreme
After a very pleasant two years in this quite lovely mountain lake town and plenty of fun bike rides with Julez, we were ready for the van she had built out and a life of freedom outdoors. I tell you, even in that new Citroen Jumper van home, she gave me my proper own space and all my hooks and loops allowed me to be a useful and not just a “hanging around using too much space” kind of backpack! The following part of my life became even more active and exciting, but these were also times that were the truly challenging ones. Not only did she load me up like crazy when it was time to go on a tour, yes I thought a few times I would just give in, ripp open and crash...but no, all climbing gear, ropes, metal and even the extra stuff like keys, grigris, slings and full bottles dangling on my outside, even with all this I managed, I resisted and didn’t let her down.
But this was not the biggest challenge of all - the weight. It was the way Julez likes to mount and « hike » in general. It is rather unconventional and I tell you it doesn’t make a lot of sense but it’s what they do, and so it’s what I do with them. Julez and her lover / mountain life partner, they both just all of a sudden go full on bush/tree/rocky no trail direction and I got no choice..I gotta go with it and fight the challenges that I sometimes believe I was never actually made for. I admit, it’s the most fun way of moving around in the mountains, even if definitely the most challenging way. Sharp rocks within those cracks and tiny pathways scratch me constantly and those spiky bushes and trees pull me back from moving forward..
I don’t know how it is possible, maybe because I am still not ready, but I am far from letting a hole into my precious skin. I simply don’t want to disappoint her.. All I want is to be continuously chosen to be with her when we arrive on top of those beautiful mountains at sometimes almost 3.000m altitude, or when we get to climb up some huge,impressive cliffs. Most of the time it’s the views that simply get me.
During all these times of travelling through Portugal, Spanish famous climbing cracks like Siurana, Margalef and Chulilla, the ocean sides of Catalonia and even to hot springs in the South of France, I had my true highlight in the beautiful, so called “Thaurac” of France. A viaferatta was the only access to a highline spot Julez and her crew had discovered. Highlining is the practice of slacklining, but instead in the park on the ground, it’s practised up high in the mountains, wearing a climbing harness on a tensioned slackline in order to pass it.
We needed to go down to the highline anchor and our buddy Karma wasn't so enormously good on metal steps. He started trembling like a washing machine just seeing the edge we've planned to descend. So Julez and I remembered those bike days with little Karma and thought let's give it a try. I swear, in the moment Julez opened me up, he got almost excited climbing into my arms, finding safety and getting nicely secured by my top loop, still letting him enough space to breathe, to then carefully climb down all three together!He loved it, I loved it and Julez, well she couldn't have been happier to have chosen me back then in the store in Geneva.
Today, 4 years later, I can feel how my exposed and strained skin is aging visibly, starting to crack badly in places I am supposed to serve as a waterproof and resistant backpack. But even my buckles broke from overuse last month. After all this fulfilling and amazing time and life I got offered, I know there is nothing I can do about it. I know in her heart she knows I did my best, I resisted many adventurous encounters with nature, gear and weather and I served her well, every day she needed me. I know Julez is not gonna retire me after all we went through, not immediately, even if I m getting less and less useful - but we got a bond, a bond that both of us never thought could exist between a human and a backpack. My days are not over yet.
Written by Julie Engelmann,May 2020