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Backpacking Gear from 1975: A Time Capsule

Camp 7 Sleeping Bags

I always get a kick reading really old hiking and backpacking magazines and seeing the print advertisements that gear manufacturers used to run. I’ve pulled some of them together in this post to give you a look at the gear that manufacturers were trying to sell people nearly 40 years ago, from 1973-1975. I’m sure you’ll recognize many of the company names including Sierra Designs, Recreational Equipment Inc, Mountain Safety Research, Kelty, Marmot and The North Face.

Camp 7 – too bad that company disappeared. The first sleeping bag I ever bought was made by them and it lasted 15 years. I love that image!

If any of these ads appeal to you, leave a comment naming your favorite one.

Sierra Designs 6-sided Tent

MSR Stoves and Tents

Kelty Pack REI Down Sweater

Sherpa - Tubbs SnowshoeThe North Face Sleeping Bag

Optimus Butane StoveGerry External Frame Pack

Jansport Sleeping Bags
Coughlans Waterproof Matches
Marmot sleeping bags
Fabiano Hiking Boots

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48 Responses to Backpacking Gear from 1975: A Time Capsule

  1. Grandpa January 18, 2013 at 2:09 am #

    I think the same guy posed for all the ads, except for Jansport, which was probably the Beatles!

  2. Stephen January 18, 2013 at 2:21 am #

    That MSR XG Stove hasn’t changed a bit, it’s a winner no matter what decade it is….

    Take Care

  3. Keith Rayeski January 18, 2013 at 3:37 am #

    so we have cut the weights about in half, and the price has more than doubled! I don’t like this new math!! Thanks for sharing….fun looking back!!

    • Earlylite January 18, 2013 at 10:19 am #

      Would you believe they were writing about the benefits of UL gear back then too? Eye opening to see how little has changed overall in the industry except the materials used to manufacture the goods and the variety of colors now available. :-)

  4. Dave Olson January 18, 2013 at 5:52 am #

    Do awesome beards count as gear? Because there was some outstanding facial hair at work in these ads.

  5. Andy Kowalczyk January 18, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    I think they still had all that stuff in the basement at Roach’s in Porter Square.

  6. Brian January 18, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    The Coghlan’s add (and gear) hasn’t changed one bit.

  7. Christie January 18, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    LOL @ DaveO

    Too funny! I love that… “2 man size coming”

  8. Matt January 18, 2013 at 9:52 am #

    I have a dated gear guide that I also enjoy revisiting now and again. I still own, though now never use, the Trailwise frame pack my father bought for me in the mid-70s. Sadly, Trailwise has since folded, and I think it must be difficult to keep a camping gear business going when so many items are purchased and then used for years on end…

  9. David January 18, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    I still have two Camp Trails backpacks from the 60’s. One is pretty well worn out, frame and bag, and the other I use for my trail maintenance kit, chain saw gas, chaps, hardhat etc. and all that as it gets pretty dirty and beat up and smelling like gas. But it’s indestructible. This was fun to look at!! Great post.

  10. Earlylite January 18, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    I think it’s interesting to see MSR apologizing for getting behind in its orders and encouraging people to start ordering. Very similar to some of the made-to-order cottage manufacturers we have today who hand sew all their own gear and can’t keep up with demand.

  11. Paul K January 18, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    The JanSport one is just wacky.

  12. JJ Mathes January 18, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    I’m diggin the Fabiano boots in six fashion colors

    • Earlylite January 18, 2013 at 11:14 am #

      They even came in orange and green! These guys were way ahead of their time.

    • Brooks April 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

      My brother bought a pair of Fabiano Madres in the 70s, which he said were great boots. I still remember the catalog description that said, after extolling their virtues on the trail, “at home in back yards and campuses alike.”

  13. JJ Mathes January 18, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Orange…awesome! Wonder if a pair of those are hiding in a warehouse somewhere? :)

  14. Just Your Average Hiker January 18, 2013 at 12:09 pm #

    Amazing how far advertising has come… I would love to see an entire throwback issue of Backpacker Magazine revert back to 70’s style.

    • Earlylite January 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      In the early days, Backpacker only ran ads in the beginning and at the end of the magazine. Wouldn’t that be a pleasant change?

  15. Steve M January 18, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    My first exposure to backpacking came through my after school job at the local Army / Navy store circa 1970. Back then, campers preferred durability over weight savings, and newbies would leave the store with 50+pounds of gear for a weekend in the woods. Coleman stoves, full sized gas lanterns, hatchets, camp stools, lots of flannel and those newfangled button front Levis. When the first shipments of “European” gear – goose down bags with nylon shells, nylon pup tents and aluminum framed backpacks – was put on the shelves, it languished in favor of the heavy canvass and wood frame staples. I took advantage of my employee discount and my boss’ desire to get rid it to get my first “big three” for about 80% off. Still have the sleeping bag, although it has taken a back seat to my WM Megalite, as constuction standards were not what they are today. And yes – everyone sported big beards back then.

    • Earlylite January 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

      I bought most of my initial gear at Ralph’s Army Navy Surplus in Monroeville, PA. Loved that place. Wonder if its still there.

      • Steve M January 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

        No idea, but I worked at the one in Ardmore PA outside of Philly. I know that one is long gone.

        • Rob January 18, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

          I may have actually bought some of my gear there. Though other than a few things of sentimental value (like my first “real” pack – a camptrails (which replaced an army surplus packboard/tenthalf from my scout troop), a gold prospecting pan (great for frying) and a svea 123 (still works, just heavy)) most of it has long been replaced.

      • SandyofPA January 19, 2013 at 9:07 am #

        Ralph’s is still there!

    • romney January 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

      Presumably, getting rid of the beards in the 80s was a weight-cutting measure? But how do they compare for warmth against down? And whats the drying time? Sometimes the old ways are the best…

      • Steve M January 18, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

        Generally I find they have no redeemeing qualities ( unless you like to carry food crumbs around with you) – and the ladies hate them. But it was a rebellious time. Traded mine for a ponytail as it was more practical – I made my living as a blacksmith back then and beards and fire do not mix well.

  16. Grandpa January 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    If you drill holes in your toothbrush handle but sport facial hair as in the ads, have you saved any weight?

  17. Allen January 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    Great article! I still have my Svea 123 stove and Gerry Yeararound tent from the 70s. At 6 lbs, the Gerry tent is no match for my Tarptent Contrail, but I still can’t bear to part with it.

  18. Michael January 18, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Actually, imagery has changed, but the language really has not much at all.

  19. Grandpa January 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    I found my old Svea 123 stove in the storage shed the other day. One of these days, I’ll try it out. I bought that thing for ten bucks forty years ago.

    • Earlylite January 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      Bet it still works – I want to try that Optimus Mousetrap. Sounds neat!

  20. John Whynot January 18, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    I remember when my MSR stove arrived in 1977 — instruction sheet produced on a typewriter with hand-drawn illustrations. No fancy nylon bag for stove storage, just a heavy duty plastic bag.

    I also remember buying equipment at Moor and Mountain in Concord MA. They sold brands that EMS didn’t carry…

  21. Ron Strickland January 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    I love to look at the 1960’s and 1970’s stuff. Happily collectors are saving it for the future. BTW I am now willing to sell my 1970’s-era MSR (orange-colored) ice axe.)

  22. Ted Moore January 20, 2013 at 7:10 am #

    If I remember most of these ads clearly, still have (and use) some of this gear, and have photos of myself with that quality and quantity of head hair….well, then, how old could these ads really be?

  23. JZ January 22, 2013 at 3:52 pm #

    Thanks for an interesting perspective! If you get a kick out of how things used to be, you might enjoy browsing through Colin Fletcher’s “The Thousand Mile Summer” about his 1958 hike along the length of California. I picked this up through my library a few years back as I was first getting into lightweight backpacking and was delighted to see a photo spread in the middle of the book showing all the gear he brought with him. How things have changed – oh, those leather boots!

    Other indosyncrasies in the book that made me do a double take were his travels along the “Wetback Trail” (in SE California, I believe, and please pardon my language) and his reaction to meeting rattlesnakes – which was to decapitate them. Neither of these is really accepted practice today!

  24. Steve Smith March 5, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    That’s fun to see – especially since I still use my Camp 7 North Col that I picked up in ’72 and an Optimus 8R I bought a few years later. I may be wearing out, but my equipment isn’t!

  25. Marco June 3, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    Carefull guys. I still have and use my 123R regularly. It has been out a couple weeks so far this year. As far as beards go, they are handy at letting you know when it is time to slap the black flies. Apply deet liberally, it ain’t your skin. Pony tails are the same. In two weeks in bug season, I got 12 bites, less than one per day. Flanel shirts take forever to dry. Wool shirts over long john base layers worked better. Even at a 9 pound base weight, the SVEA, wool sweater and long johns still go with me.

  26. Janek June 3, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

    Still use a trail wise slimline down bag it bought in 1977 for colder weather, and still use an original north face ibex bag for -20 weather think I got that one in 1982. Went light weight this spring with an ultralmina 32. First synthetic bag I have ever owned. Like it very much at 29 oz.

    • Tom June 19, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

      Still use a camp 7 ArĂȘte for summer and NF Ibex for winter both 40 plus years old and going strong

  27. John Myers June 11, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Just finished cleaning 2 Camp 7 bags we bought in the early 70’s and are still using. After 100’s of nights back packing in Washington and now several 100 more nights use in the Great Basin and Oregon High Desert on spring road trips they still do the job. Age has slowed our ability to carry heavy loads but with a good vehicle we visit many interesting and remote places in the American west. You just have to be ready for temperatures ranging from the low teens to over 100 degrees. Sleeping bag zippers get a lot of use and the Camp 7 bags have never failed us.

  28. Jim Holmes March 26, 2015 at 2:53 am #

    I still use my Camp 7 North Col Expedition sleeping bag (overstuffed with 8oz for a total of 46 ounces of 550 goose down) which I bought for $400 in 1981 in Virginia, originally rated down to minus-30 degrees! I used it recently at minus 5 degrees and it was fine.

  29. Snowbird Marie April 7, 2015 at 6:46 am #

    I had a pair of Fabiano 90 Mountain Madres in the early 70s, along with a pair of Vasque Gretchens. The Gretchens were for backpacking as they were stiffer than the Madres at the time.

    • Jerry A. (Woods walker) April 16, 2015 at 9:09 pm #

      I too visited Moor and Mountain in Concord Ma to outfit for a northern AT section hike in 1970. Still have my orange frame pack, Svea 123, Sigg fuel bottle, REI down mummy bag. I have moved away from the leather footgear and cotton that I used to wear on the trail. Other than that, my gear, like me, has a gently aged patina. And I am planning some trail travel in New England at this writing. Enjoy the memories and embrace the changes that have made our lives easier.

  30. John August 11, 2015 at 7:49 am #

    Bought my marmot bag in 1978- first time I ever saw Gore Tex. Served me well as a thru-hiker.

  31. Steve Bjerklie August 11, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    The Sierra Designs catalogs from the early 1970s were and still are collector’s items. The most famous of them was photographed in the ghost town of Bodie, Calif. Another was photographed in the Escalante country in Utah. They are all beautiful, real treasures.

    Backpacking and hiking gear from the 1960s and 1970s was built to last, not to be bought over and over. There are still some companies making durable gear (Limmer comes to mind), but not as many as before. The purpose of outdoor companies now seems to be: sell, sell, sell.

    I still use a 30-year-old North Face backpack and see no reason to replace it. I still have and sometimes use a fine Optimus cook stove I bought when I was a teen. And I still have the hiking boots — Pivetta Fives — I bought when I was 16 years old, 44 years ago. They’re work-in-the-garden boots now, but I still take one hike a year in them for old time’s sake. Those boots have served me well for a long, long time and have taken me on many, many trails over hundreds if not thousands of miles. Long ago they earned my respect and loyalty.

  32. Mike December 22, 2015 at 12:49 am #

    When I worked at REI (recent retirement job) a guy about my age came in and wanted to return his mid-1970’s REI brand sleeping bag. “It wore out.” I asked him how much he’d used it. He thought, “Oh, thousands of nights.”
    REI, at that time (and still does grandfather in old gear) had the 100% forever return policy. I tried to reason with him that a bag used that much was bound to wear out. “It shouldn’t.”, was his response.
    I gave up and asked him how much he paid for it. “Around $320.” Sadly for him my first purchase from REI had been that exact bag and I’d paid $80-$100. He got $80. Then he bought a new bag. I warned him, “This one will wear out.”

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