The Most Useful Useless Thing


Hi, I’m a harness bag. You know – one of those thin, mesh bags with a zipper or Velcro that package new harnesses at the store.

I realize I seem quite useless, and perhaps even a waste, but it’s exactly that sense of guilt over waste that has helped me change the scene at the crag. Ah, you see – look at all the climbers who repurposed me to hold their snack bars and apples, their rolls of tape and brushes – whatever makes sense – because they don’t want to throw me away.

One look at me, and most any climber knows he or she will never use me for my designed purpose, which is to contain the harness I came with. Maybe some clueless lumbersexuals* still use me, clipped to the outside of their North Face backpacks with a Day-Glo carabiner and a Nalgene, as they ride their single speed with the mustache handle bars downtown for a Moscow Mule in a copper mug at the faux dive bar. I suspect it was these people the company had in mind when I was invented, but in reality, I have become handy for a much more important task.

What did you do with your orange peels and bar wrappers before me? How did you keep your tape and tools so nicely compartmentalized among the four racks of cams and two ropes you schlepped across the desert for a scant three pitches of climbing? You didn’t!

Sure, you probably have a backpack with a lid and a few pockets, but you know what – those pockets are so overstuffed with stuff, you would open a zipper and have your apple roll out into the dust when you pulled out your sunglasses. Now, voila! I, the humble harness bag, am now with you, a pocket within your pockets, keeping your subcategories categorized so you may pull them out, one by one, and set them aside as you dig into your burden of gear that is all so necessary for your silly addiction.

That’s right – I called your climbing habits silly. They are. Indeed, when you look at it from a broader perspective, your climbing is just about as silly as my existence. So it seems we are well matched, my friend. You never asked for me, yet you have me and I am here, weighing on your conscience should you throw me in the trash upon opening your new harness.

How many of me do you have lying around? Too many, I venture. Or perhaps, never enough. In one house alone, versions of me hold the kit for an air pistol, tape, snacks and extra clothing, plus an empty one that hasn’t found a purpose yet.

Like I said, some of us are more cheaply made, and many of us succumb quickly to the teeth of marmots, mice and squirrels. As you can see, I have several holes in me already. The cheap ones quickly fray from such abuse and end up in the trash almost as soon as they get to your gear closet anyway, for even car keys can wreak havoc on such thin mesh. Others, like me, have held up, and I even have a nifty little handle stitched on (though sometimes the zipper is oddly positioned in relation to said handle, which only enhances my charming goofiness).

So here I am, the harness bag, staking claim to my place among the more revered articles of gear. I may be scorned and joked about, even detested as a waste of material and over packaging, but you can’t deny, I’ve changed the scene at the cliff.


You might be searching for me even now, for I contain those fancy Ray-Ban shades you haven’t found since you got home from a week of camping and climbing. You swear you remember putting them in the little grey mesh bag with the zipper … but which one? There are so many of us, hiding in your closet. Or did you leave me in your car? Or were your sunglasses in the one you so callously threw away after being chewed on by a mouse the other night; the one you filled with trash the rest of the trip and tossed into the bin outside the Moab Wendy’s without a second thought in the throes of your weary stupor?

You want to find me so badly now, don’t you? Yes, you do. You need me, the admittedly stupid harness bag, filled with trash and your expensive eyewear. But even if you dug through that festering, far away bin of half-eaten cheeseburgers, you wouldn’t find me. A raccoon already dragged me into a ditch and splayed my contents. Perhaps a dirty bum – almost as dirty as you were at the end of your trip – will be lucky enough to find your nice shades. And you deserve it for how little regard you had for me until now!

In the future you might pay more respect to the cheap bags that hold so many of your valuables. Ha! The Harness Bag has spoken!

*Lumbersexual, as defined by Outside Magazine: A fashion-conscious male urbanite whose clothing and accessories project an aura of rugged manliness. Lubersexual staples include plaid shirts, work boots, axes, and craft beer** (preferably served in mason jars).

**Or Moscow Mules in copper mugs at faux dive bars.

Derek Franz writes for every month. See more of his writing at

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