Yesterday I went to the Cumberland show.
Mostly to look at cattle and sheep breeds, take some photos with my shiny new Nikon D5000 (Aren't fathers brilliant!) and pretend that it was 'veterinary work'.
And so I pottered about, meeting and catching up with friends, human and animal.
But then a stall caught my eye. Millican.
Full of beautiful vintage bags, that inspired their own contemporary classics. Looking around the stall I couldn't help but think that if Indianna Jones was looking for a pack, he'd have one of these.
Now anyone who knows me is familiar with what my family affectionately call my 'bag fetish'. Since I was tiny I've been looking for the perfect bag. So of course I had to look around the stall!
I ended up chatting to Nicky and her Mum who have been up and running with Millican for around a year now.
Millican is named after Millican Dalston - quite a well known figure in Cumbria who in 1897 quit the rat race in London to live in a cave in Cumbria. Well actually he stayed in huts and camped in home made tents for a bit first and then moved into his cave on Castle crag.
Millican is remembered for his eccentricity, intelligence, and humour. Outside the wall of his cave he carved the words "Don't waste words, jump to conclusions" but my favourite quote is "You can't feel lonely with nature as your companion.". In fact I'm so interested I've ordered a biography on this 'gentleman of the hills.'
Anyway Nicky and her husband Jorit met whilst back-packing in South America, and once they came home, got jobs, and got sick of jobs, they decided bravely to embark on their own business. For them, a brand name isn't just a name, their location, philosophy and approach to business shares much with Millican Dalston. And in my opinion they are better for it.
Now one year down the line and they must be so proud!
They are as sustainable as possible - the cotton is organic and the wool for their cooler bags comes from a local farm in Cumbria who have a flock of Herdwicks. Millican pay a fair price for the wool, to help the farm with the costs of shearing (As in it would normally cost you a whole lot more to shear your sheep than you get back on the fleeces.)
I love this, a Cumbrian business, based in Keswick, supporting other local people and being supported by them too.
The range of bags are fantastic. Day pack with a zip down the middle? Check. Modern Gladstone? Check. Waist packs, wash rolls, Messenger bags? Check check check.
And all the bags are named after Nicky and Jorit's friends.
So the new friend I went home with?
Dave is named after a sheep farmer, and is a roomy back pack with some very nifty design features.
The fastenings are some rather nice press studs - suitably robust and simple to survive life with me I think! The top has a drawstring opening, and there's a useful pocket at the back for phone/ipods or for walkers I reckon your gps would still get signal stuffed in here.
On the front is a organiser pocket - and on either side there are side pockets. Now this is where it gets clever.
Each side has a robust 'small' side pocket which also has a well behind it to fit a drinks bottle (they also make stainless steel bottles on 0.5l and 0.8l sizes) But there are larger pockets behind even these. One side opens up to reveal another organiser pocket - helpfully with a pouch designed to fit OS maps in!
The other zips around to give entry into the interior of the pack.
I think this is brilliant because:
You can unpack stuff from the bottom with out messing it up.
You can stick a dslr holster in the bottom and still have the quick but secure access you see on some lowe pro bags without your pack screaming 'mug me!'
You can stash and retrieve files / folders/ laptop quickly and easily on the go.
And the zips are all protected by a rain guard.
Inside Dave there's a pouch for paper work / water bladder, with a port to the back of the bag in the top.
Dave also has adjustable and removable sternum straps (perfect for the more vertically challenged ladies like myself), straps for people who walk with poles (I intend to adapt them for use with a tripod) and a built in waterproof cover that stashes away in the bottom nice and tidy, but also helping pad the bottom of the bag, for people who like me, sling a pack down and then cringe as they remember they're beloved laptop has also just bounced onto the ground. There's an extra handle on the front panel and adjustable and removable waist straps too.
The cotton canvas has also been weather proofed, and the leather on the backs is vegetable dyed.
Can you see now why I couldn't resist? Add to that the superb guarantee and a discount voucher for a later purchase and even the most staunch stall admirer was reaching into their pocket.
And rightly so.
If you want to talk to some practical, friendly, ethical, people on the end of customer relations, you want to talk to Millican.
If you want a bag that will age slowly and gracefully (I suspect much more so than I will), a bag that is as at home in Marrakesh as London, and a bag that has been produced locally, sustainably and ethically you want a Millican.
The weather today is just too questionable for a someone relatively new to hill side navigation, so instead I dug out Alfred Wainwright's Northern Fells to have a look at Castle Crag. It seems like a fun idea to take Dave to see Millican's Cave!
In fact I can see many adventures ahead of Dave and I.
I think Dave might just be the last day pack I ever buy. He might just be 'the one'.
Adaptable to vet school, traveling, camera carrying, fell walking, and all the adventures in between, I couldn't ask for more.
So check them out. You won't regret it.
Above: My old gladstone, a recycled canvas army kit bag that was a gift from my father, with Dave his contemporary new companion.