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Clean is a relative word on the road.

A baby wipe can feel like a spa on a plane or in the woods.

But I’d feel an embarrassed, grimy mess showering with nothing but on the way to class.

At Eastern Mountain Sports last summer, the kids heading to camp didn’t care about the soap, while their moms fretted about never getting the smell of the great outdoors out of the kids.

The solution: Dr. Bronner’s. It’s an all natural soap sold at camping stores. At home, I probably use a half dozen soaps to clean my hair, face, dishes and clothes, but Dr. Bronner’s claims to do it all. How this works I don’t know, but somehow it does. And it sells, despite a label with terrible design (two colors, all text). Being all natural means it’s acceptable for environmentally delicate areas, such as state and national parks.

I’ve shopped our local coop for years, but just learned they carry Dr. Bronner’s in pump jugs for wholesale refills.

I have a new baby. She’s an Osprey, Ariel 75. Oh so pretty.

I hadn’t planned on getting a new pack. Too cost-prohibitive for a grad student researcher salary. But this summer I worked part time at Eastern Mountain Sports. I couldn’t resist.

My old pack, a workhorse Kelty, dates to 1996. My mom bought it for me, in honor of my pending semester in Jerusalem. We went to the only outdoor shop in our little town. The place had a tiny backyard on a major street where a rickety fence tried to hold up a host of kayaks and canoes, which looked like they might topple onto cars at any minute. The shop itself looked like a glorified shack from the outside. Inside, all I remember is my Kelty, a purply-blue and black. It was one of the first packs made to fit a woman. The straps hugged my shoulders, the hip-belt my waist, like the other packs didn’t.

The pack has weathered Patagonia and Lapland, the Alps, the Negev, the Adirondacks, Gibraltar and Machu Picchu, to name a few. The fabric has held up brilliantly. A few years ago I lost a screw thingy that kept a stay in place. Sometime before Peru a couple of plastic brackets fell off, so I had to tie some straps together to keep everything in place. I ditched the chest staps years ago, before I knew what they were for. All those little things added up to big annoyances – and possible safety hazards. In the Adirondacks last summer, the top of my pack refused to stay on straight. In a thunderstorm, on slick rocks, I fell and reinjured my bad shoulder. My fault and the weathers’, but an unbalanced pack didn’t help.

And then I started selling packs. The new versions are so lightweight, they shed pounds from my Kelty. I slipped on an Osprey and knew I had to have it. Could my Kelty have sufficed? Sure. But the Osprey’s high-tech features sang a siren’s song. Like the ventilated back. The differently-size hip belts that can be heated and molded to my frame. The light construction that felt like carrying air.

Working at EMS gave me a mad discount, so here I am – with my my new baby. See the extra thick plastic clasp on the chest strap? That’s an emergency whistle. Clever. Totally freaks out the dog.

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