This is a long post about Chores, Coveralls, and a Carhartt Backpack.
Growing up as a product of the inner ring burbs in the 80’s and 90’s, we played football in the street, rode BMX bikes until our moms yelled at enough neighbors to find out where we were, and at times walked to the grocery store or gas station to buy Mountain Dew and Starburst.
Summer nights would be full of pulling our trampolines under the 10′ basketball goal so we could dunk and Be Like Mike, and then pulling them under the deck so we could jump from the deck, to the trampoline, to the ground. Oh, and then launch water balloons from the three-young-man-slingshot into our neighbors’ yards.
Of course, this was only after we got our chores done. The super hard stuff like loading the dishes, watering the flowers, being sure our rooms were picked up, and maybe, if it was a super tough day, dusting or vacuuming or heaven forbid, mowing the yard.
I loved my upbringing, and despite my best avoidance tendencies, I learned to work hard enough to survive out here in the big, scary world.
But “chores”, the ones my aunts, uncles, and cousins did looked a bit different than mine.
Choring is a verb I’ve never quite experienced fully, at least for not any significant amount of time. With parents who were both raised on farms, in the country, in the heart of America, the wheat fields and dusty lanes speak to your soul.
I have this memory.
It was Thanksgiving morning. A freezing cold, windy one.
In my aunt and uncle’s three-car garage, the wood stove burned. Cards were on the folding table from the night before, the checkered, vinyl tablecloth the backdrop from a late night, or early morning depending on how you looked at it. The mostly empty bottle of Crown fueled laughs, stories, and connection.
Along the wall, a dozen or more heavy duty hooks hung on the wall. Boots and socks littered the ground. But on these hooks hung these dusty brown, ski bib looking things. Some even looked more like jump suits.
“Hang on, I’ll be right out, I gotta get my coveralls on. City boy, want to come chore with us?”
“Nah, I’ll sit here where it’s warm and look through the Black Friday ads by the fire.”
I’d heard of and seen overalls. And surely knew what a coat was, especially my Fab-Five bandwagon inspired Michigan Starter jacket.
But this brown, glorious, heinous combination of the two?
“Real work” got done by those men and women, boys and girls in those coveralls. Splitting wood, feeding the animals, jumping in combines, fixing the fences, and a million other things.
Those coveralls were used on Tuesdays, but also Sundays. Typical days and also Thanksgiving Days. Early mornings after a great sleep and early mornings after a Crown-induced just a little bit earlier morning bedtime.
I’ve always admired the heritage, honor, work ethic, and way of life my mom, dad, and most in their family experienced deeply.
Raising our own kids in a little bit further out ring suburb, I was surprised (and at first, annoyed) to find that Carhartt is a brand that’s popular far from the fields and cattle pens.
Maybe it’s like me owning a truck that quite literally doesn’t do what it’s designed for, but it felt a little like cheating, or maybe pretending.
But when my work backpack (and by work, I mean a laptop, some note cards, some chargers, and a place to take a few things wherever I want) fell apart because it was cheap and crappily-made (yes, I know that’s not a real word), I wanted my next one to accomplish three main things:
- Organize – it’s not my spiritual gift, so I wanted a bag that forced organization on me, not one with a couple giant pockets where you dump everything (like my last bag).
- Travel – I’ve been on a slow march towards simplifying my stuff, and when I travel, I wanted a work bag that could double as a weekend bag.
- Durable – I’m not splitting wood or feeding cattle each day, but at the same time, I wanted a bag that will last longer than the year or so my last one held up. It’s a pretty rough life for my bag to go from my home office, to my backseat, into a client’s site or conference room, and back.
I’ll spare you all the searches I did, and show you why I ended up landing on this pack, in its old school heinous brown (though I literally couldn’t decide for days between the brown and the gray, and almost bought both): The Carhartt Legacy Deluxe Work Pack.
With the “real work” shame out of the way, I mean, come on, it’s a gorgeous pack.
This particular version is pretty big, but I got it because it accomplishes #2 beautifully. We took several 1-3 night trips this summer for kids’ sports stuff, out of town funerals, a wedding, small trips, etc. and I crammed everything I needed into this. It’s got a ton of space in three different big compartments.
There are smaller models if you primarily want #1 and #3.
Top Front Pocket:
I use this for adapters, SD cards, and of course, gum for my coffee breath. But it’s big enough to be treated like that drawer under your coffee pot if you want.
Bottom Front Pocket:
This is my favorite pouch by far and forces me to be organized (#1 on my list). Highlights:
- Key clip that tucks behind the flap so I don’t have to stuff them in my back pocket or dig in a sea of randomness
- Airpods sleeve
- Mouse sleeve
- Pen holders (gotta have multiple colors and buy all the Staples Optiflow Fine Point Pens you can, they’re the best)
- Sharpie hiding out there in the back
- I don’t use the space behind the flap but would be great for notecards
First Big Pocket (closest to front):
This is where I wind up the obnoxiously long Macbook charger, tuck my journal, and zip my notecards into. It’s got room for way more, but again, trying to be organized, simple, and minimal.
The second big pocket I didn’t take a picture of because until I travel, there’s nothing in it. It’s a giant abyss of amazingness though when you do need it.
Back Big Pocket:
Big enough for a 17″ Macbook, my 13″ one tucks in there nice and neat.
Top Sneaky Pocket:
The perfect spot to tuck sunglasses or other small items into (I use this for keys on occasion when I don’t want to clip them). Has a super soft inside to keep your glasses from getting scratched.
If I’m honest, this part is kind of annoying. It’s cool when you travel to zip up toiletries in, but day to day, I’d rather have an elastic sleeve instead of being sure I zip my Yeti up enough to be sure it doesn’t fall out. Since my choring work is sooooo thirst-inducing.
I’m a very average sized fella, and if I was custom designing these in the Carhartt factory, I would have made them slightly smaller. But they for sure accomplish #3, they’re sturdy as hell, and when we were hiking in Colorado a couple months ago, these loops would have been perfect for a carabiner for extra water or bear spray or fly rods or whatever.
There you have it. And while I’d welcome a call from Carhartt (we’d love to produce videos or other content for them if you happen to know their marketing team 😀), this isn’t a sponsored post, just thought it might be helpful if you’re in the market for a “real work” or laptop and travel kind of pack.
Just don’t show this to my extended family.
They’ll litter my phone with texts that start with “Hey City Boy, wanna come chore with us?”