Backpacks and Jackets

Two things plein air painters use a lot are a backpack and a good jacket. I personally get very attached to my few possessions, and I like it when they last a long time.

plein air landscape painting in Telemark, Norway.

My set-up in Telemark, Norway

Reload Bags.

The backpacks and messenger bags I’ve been using over the years have fallen apart pretty quickly, so after the last one went I decided to spend a bit more for a brand recommended on reddit’s ‘buy-it-for-life’ subreddit. I went with the Small Flight Pack from Reload Bags in Philadelphia. They are expensive, but as someone who also creates hand-made works of art to be sold at a premium, I don’t mind paying for quality.

Reload bag for plein air landscape painting.

My cigar box in the outside pocket.

It’s a beautiful bag to look at. By far the nicest one I’ve ever used. If anyone out there uses a Partagás cigar box for their palette as I do, the box fits perfectly in the outside pocket. One side pocket works great for my brushes, held at the top by a strap for a yoga mat. The other side pocket holds my medium and turpentine bottles, as well as pencils and palette knives. I like having it all open and easy to reach when it’s hung from my easel. A metal tripod easel can also be held with the strap from the side with the bottles if I’m hiking.

Plein air landscape painting in Telemark, Norway.

Another plein air location in Norway.

Overall it’s a great bag so far. My only complaint is the inside pocket could be a bit bigger. It will barely hold my small moleskin sketchbook. I assume it’s for a cellphone?

Next I need to make a wet-painting holder to put inside. Something with foam – cheap and simple. I saw Marc Hanson had a clever looking one he posted to Facebook earlier this year.

Patagonia Jackets.

Plein air painting in a Patagonia jacket in London.

Painting in the rain in London.

Fourteen years ago I bought a Patagonia jacket in New York. I’ve worn it pretty much every day in the Spring and Fall ever since. It’s been a fantastic jacket for traveling as it breaths beautifully when it’s hot out, but keeps me really warm when it cools down, and I’ve slept comfortably in it on a few occasions. Once in India we had to take a night train in a windowless third class compartment through the desert in Northern Rajasthan at night. I slept like a baby in the wind and cold while my painting companions were freezing.

Plein air landscape painting in a Patagonia jacket, Big Sur, California.

Painting in the sun and wind in Big Sur, California.

Patagonia Jackets also have a lifetime guarantee. This year when I went into a store and asked about getting the worn collar replaced they said they no longer had that material but they would give me the full 1999 retail value of my jacket off of anything in the store. Pretty good deal.

It’s a company that takes it’s commitment to environmental issues seriously, and I try to support that when I can.


  1. Hello. Thanks for the amazing information! I am just wondering about the easel that you use. Is it aluminum or metal? Zecchis sells both and I recently bought the aluminum one because it is so lightweight… But is it too lightweight and I should have gone for a metal one? Or can I get away with weighing it down some other way? Thanks!

    • Hi Jennifer, the steel one is better. You can try exchanging it, otherwise hanging a bag with something heavy (rocks, waterbottle …etc.) could work. Some people prefer the aluminum ones since they have trouble carrying the steel one.

  2. Hey Marc,

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a week and have found it very useful for my own work.
    I was wondering how you go about travelling with oil paints. Do you have any tips for
    taking oils on a flight?
    Also, could you recommend a good brand/model of metal sketching easel?

    best regards

    • Fome makes the easels I use. But any steel easel should be fine.

      For flying with paints, I just leave a note saying it’s a vegetable-oil based painting kit and there is nothing hazardous or flammable in it, and hope for the best.

  3. I love the pics you got of the re-load bag. I’m waiting on one in the mail and it’s nice to see someone beating it up and taking it hiking. I wish I would of gone with the wax canvas after looking at your pics!

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