By: Blonde One

I learned the phrase of the title from my lovely nephew you once said (of a brussel sprout, I think): ‘I can’t like it.’ It’s a good phrase and fits perfectly with my latest purchase of outdoor kit. As you will know, the Two Blondes only ever buy kit that is perfect in every way, so this deviation from the norm is a little unsettling for us all.

Many years ago (at least 12) I went to a new shop in Tavistock. It has become my favourite walking shop and I always spend lots of money when I go there. Kountry Kit is a maze of tiny rooms and corridors full of the most excellent gear. The reason for my first visit was that my rucksack had broken and I needed an emergency replacement. I chose the replacement based on price: I didn’t have time to browse properly so I chose the cheapest one thinking that I could get a proper replacement at a more leisurely pace another day. I spend the grand total of £27 on the bag – bargain. I didn’t expect to like it but it didn’t matter as it was a ‘one day only’ rucksack. You’ve probably guessed it but this turned out to be a most amazing rucksack. I very quickly realised that it was in fact perfect. It had everything: the right amount of pockets in the right place, the right size, a most excellent comfortable back system, straps that were just the right width and in just the right place and most importantly it was the right colour – red. This rucksack has since been on every adventure with me. It has covered almost every part of Dartmoor, been on every DofE and Ten Tors training walk, helped me to pass assessments, carried important objects including champagne and posh chocolates, and climbed a few mountains including Mount Toubkal in Morocco. Almost every outdoorsy memory includes this bag. Here’s one (indulge me): when Little Miss Blonde was Ten Tors training with her team a few years ago and I was training my own teams, we used to look out for each other on our walks. (It is surprising how often you bump into someone on Dartmoor.) Little Miss Blonde used to recognise me first by my bright red rucksack with its yellow whistle attached to the strap. So you see, this bag is very important and I have become very attached to it (not literally!) and it has been a sad realisation this summer that it is not really up to the job anymore. It’s straps are becoming frayed and are close to breaking point, the zips are quite cantankerous and the elastic strapping has most definitely lost its ping. Blonde Two and our Young Leaders will tell you how long I have been in denial about the imminent retirement of the bag.

It has been a long and arduous process finding a replacement. The new bag needed to be even better than perfect! It needed an airflow back, hip fin pockets as well as other handily placed pockets of varying sizes, it needed a top lid pocket with several dividing pockets, I insisted in it being compatible with a hydration system, it must not be any smaller that 36 litres and most importantly it had to be red. A tall order I think you’ll agree?! After many months I finally found a replacement which was acceptable. It isn’t perfect but I was running out of time. It has all of the things that I need, as well as being a bargain price, except the colour. It is not red! This is a major flaw and one which made me take a long time to make the purchase.

It was only after a third trip to the shop to investigate the rucksack that I discovered North Face’s very, very clever secret … the rain cover was red! That was it – decision made. So I, once again, have a (almost) perfect rucksack (as long as it’s raining).

Despite all of this, I can’t like it – yet!