Back in late November of 1999 I purchased a backpack without giving it much thought. I was about to leave for Southeast Asia and I needed a backpack. I walked into an REI store in Boston, wandered up to the grand wall of backpacks, unhooked the first one that caught my attention and tried it on.

Moments later I walked out of the store carrying my new friend, a Kelty Redwing 2900. At the time, my only hope was that the backpack would survive a few months of traveling around Asia. I expected nothing more than that.

Grayish in color with a bold black trim, my Kelty Redwing 2900 has more than proven itself over the years. At the time I bought it, I had absolutely no way of knowing how dependable, practical, fearless, faithful and wise this backpack truly was. And now I simply refuse to go anywhere without it.

Since that first day, we have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles. We have journeyed together by plane, bus, train, jeep, camel, elephant, taxi, tuk-tuk, rickshaw, bicycle, motorcycle, metro, helicopter and a variety of different ocean-going vessels to almost 60 countries.  From Australia to Afghanistan, Croatia to Chile, Jamaica to Jordan, our strong bond has held firm through every challenge and every obstacle we’ve faced.

I remember when we were both kidnapped late one night by a gang of taxi drivers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was Redwing who actually saved us. Here’s what happened. While we sat locked up in a crumbling, cockroach-infested room in the slums of Dhaka, I refused to sleep as my mind raced back and forth, trying to come to terms with the situation. But when I looked to Redwing for advice, he just sat there on the floor in silence. At first I was frustrated by his response but before long, I understood the complexity of his message. So I concentrated on quieting my mind as well, a tactic that did in fact help me fall asleep and get some much needed rest.

And I believe that it was this rest that kept my mind sharp enough to take advantage of the first opportunity we had to escape two days later.

After we did escape, I decided never to travel without Redwing by my side.

And this past May, after my backpack suffered two violent knife slashes at the hands of an Austrian customs official, it still refused to quit traveling. (As a side note: I am offering a $500 reward to anyone who can bring me the official that attacked my backpack. It happened on May 25th, 2009 in the Vienna airport.)

In fact, this backpack is by my side this very moment right here in Mexico after surviving our recent travels through Central America.

I now wish to raise my glass for a toast to Mr. Kelty Redwing 2900, a travel companion, protector, guru and friend. As long as he is willing to accompany me on these adventures, into no other backpack shall I pack my possessions.