How many of you have wandered into a gift shop and purchased a souvenir that maybe, for at least most of you, has sat in a box somewhere, long forgotten?
I’m here to change that habit and give new life to these novelties-turned-afterthoughts. Its time to rise up and be proud of your nic-nacs, your cheap t-shirts, your fridge magnets or that stuffed moose plush you bought in Canada. Well, for me its patches…
I think I can thank my dear cousin Walter for starting me on patches. A few years ago, Walter criss-crossed the country on a photography project, picking up patches at various souvenir stands and gift shops along the way and pinning them all on a bulletin board back home.
I loved it!
My parents had purchased decals and patches for me as a child on a few of my early adventures, but it wasn’t until Walter’s inspiration led me to purchase my first patch at the San Juan National Historical Site in Puerto Rico (actually, I probably have to credit my girlfriend, Breeah, for picking up both that one and No. 2 – White Sands in New Mexico – and kickstarting the habit).
At first, I didn’t have any specific rules. I’d buy patches for parks I really enjoyed (or patches I deemed worthy). Nowadays, I almost always pick up a patch at the various national park sites I visit throughout the states and Canada. I’m not limited to just national park areas, though, as my collection includes other parks, trails, countries and notable locations. In other words, if they had a cool patch for sale and I saw it, I probably picked it up.
The only rules to this hobby are that the patch must be purchased at the site (or close to, and while on the same trip). I don’t order patches later to fill the collection, if I missed it, I’d theoretically have to go back and get one if I was so inclined. If there is no patch to be found, I’ll sometimes settle for a magnet or decal. I do buy postcards on occasion, but I don’t consider them as substitutes in this particular collection.
I do get a bit of a ribbing from my girlfriend (who says she’ll be sewing these all on what would then be quite an expensive vest, considering the approx $5/per investment per patch). To be honest, I consider the $5 as my donation to a lot of these parks where admission can often be free (or at least quite low). I also don’t open the packaging, keeping it all together as new for now (many patches have a nice little info card clipped or bagged with them anyway)
I’ve put up a separate page (that you can also access from the top menu on the front page) that will house photos of all of my patches (and other assorted souvenirs) as I upload them to the site.