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Ben was an early adopter of Last Chance Textiles . Still in my first year of business, I was over the moon when he sent me a photo of an LCT bandana on one of his family’s backpacking trips. I want to send these durable little textiles out in the world to be really used, to get dirty, and to prove themselves dependable. Ever since, I’ve enjoyed following Ben and his family on their adventures. I think you’ll enjoy what he has to say about embracing the real value of utility.

Words and photos by Ben Popper

My seven year old son knows the purpose of a vice is to hold onto things tighter than he ever could, but when you ask him what one is used for he will answer, “Crunching Cans!” It’s only natural, growing up I was convinced they were best used for smashing pennies. You could ask him in the same breath “What are tools?”, to which he will promptly answer, “Not toys.” And so he and I work with them together, respecting the beauty, power and inherent danger they possess, but also understand they get dropped in the mud, covered in grease and banged around in order to get the job done.

It is funny how I need to re-evaluate from time to time what I consider to be a tool and why I might be taking too good a care of it. Sometimes it is downright silly. My brand new chainsaw looked pretty good all shiny and polished off the showroom floor. It looks quite a bit nicer now after a weeks worth of work, laying in next winters firewood. But cutting into the first tree I honestly had the thought, “but isn’t it going to get dirty?”

There are others times this is not so obvious because we don’t think of certain things as tools any longer. I own a pretty fancy and expensive bicycle that friends seem surprised I leave locked up all over the city, all day on the street at work, or late night at the bar. I’ve never second guessed those decisions because as far as I’m concerned, regardless of how fancy, it is why I own the bike. If I wasn’t riding my bike, I’d be on the train.

As our family has gained experience backpacking we’ve learned what we need to bring and what is nice to bring. Our cook set has been pared down to make more space for a few other bedtime niceties. This means that for multiple meals, each of us has one cup. Coffee, oatmeal, cocoa, bourbon, chicken and rice, cobbler, it all goes into that cup.

We have always been conscious about washing dishes in the backcountry, so a swish of water and a wipe of the finger is all the cup would get in a weekend.

Until I figured out a not quite so eloquent and all too obvious solution. With a little left over hot cooking water and a quick swipe from my bandana I was already packing along there isn’t any of last night’s chicken flavor in your coffee or bourbon in our kids cocoa when cups are switched.

It wasn’t obvious at first because I wasn’t looking at my beautiful bandana as a tool. In my mind it was to wipe my face or maybe blow my nose if I was willing to get it messy. Once I stopped worrying about getting coffee stains out of it, all bets were off as it gets whipped out of my pocket at every opportunity and is suddenly seeing its full potential and the light of day. The funny thing is, now that I use it all the time- instead of just the special times- I think I like having it more than ever.

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