Judy walks in to Busboys and Poets today with a new backpack; it’s a brilliantly colored pink and purple North Face daypack with yellow zippers and pull tabs.

Judy's new pack.

My current daypack is an insipid hospital-corridor green color. Immediately I start planning – can I get to REI today before my Pilates class? All the time that Judy chats with me, “Must. Have. New. Pack,” is running through my head. I’ve been infected with gear envy.

Judy and I are planning a weeklong walk from Spoleto to Assisi, Italy this fall with 29 other people from All Souls Unitarian Church. It’s the second “pilgrimage walk” for the church; two years ago we walked the last hundred miles of the Camino Portugues to Santiago Compostela. It’s not a coincidence that I’m walking with a church group. My friend Claudia and I instigated the last walk, and, along with Rob Hardies, our senior minister, we’re coordinating this one too.

On our church trip, there will be many hikers who’ve never before owned a pair of trail boots. We meet together every so often to talk about the meaning of pilgrimage, about the art we’ll see along the way, and about what gear people will need. On that last topic, I’m highly opinionated. Characteristics of a good daypack are:

– a hip belt so that the weight of the pack doesn’t strain the shoulders

– padded shoulder straps

– a dedicated space for a Platypus water bladder, so that you can drink from the connected hose without opening the pack for a bottle of water

– an ingenious assortment of zip pockets that allow you to organize the contents, which include, at a minimum for me (always in Boy Scout “Be Prepared” mode), lunch, sunscreen, Gore-Tex jacket, gloves, wallet, passport, dried fruit and nuts, hat, bug repellent and massive supplies of Ibuprofen.

None of the elements above have anything to do with color.  “Form follows function,” I remind myself…as I wonder what other new colors are in the REI store today. Gotta go now; if I hurry, I can be browsing the pack section in  45 minutes.