More Backpacking Gear from the Early 70s

Sierra Designs External Frame Backpack
In January, I published  a post titled Backpacking Gear from 1975: A Time Capsule. Here’s a collection of more wonderful gear and advertisements from that golden era of backpacking gear. I get a hoot from looking at these old-time advertisements. Funny how some things are so different and some things have stayed the same.

I love the Water Walker and Packraft advertisement below, but you have to admit that the idea of Barefoot Boots is pretty original too!

Do  you have a favorite?

Packraft

Barefoot Boots

Early Winters Omnipotent Tent

Mountain House: Dehydrated Food

Lowa Mountaineering Boots

Jansport Dome Tent

Alpenlite External Frame Backpacks

Stow-Lite Backpacking Food

Appalachian Designs Sleeping Bag

Tubbs Snowshoes

Mohr and Mountain

Alpenlite

Columbia Sportswear

Rivendell Mountain Works

Eureka Tents

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26 Responses to More Backpacking Gear from the Early 70s

  1. PeteJ April 15, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    My son’s scout troop uses the Timberline tents still. When I am out with them I even use a Timberline 4 and have it all to myself – now can I get a cot and a LCD TV into it?

  2. Marco April 15, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    Luv it, ha ha…
    Sometimes it’s a lot of fun looking back. Designs remain much the same, though.
    3.5 pounds for a pack? Respectable, even today. Tube tents are still around. And Timberline tents are a real classic.

    What, no SVEA 123r?

    • Earlylite April 15, 2013 at 8:47 am #

      I know – 3.5 pounds for an external frame pack is pretty good. If anything, they’ve gotten heavier in the passing decades.

  3. Kevin Riner April 15, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Sockless boots! ‘Nuff said.

    • Earlylite April 15, 2013 at 8:46 am #

      I wonder what they were like!

      • Michael April 15, 2013 at 11:50 am #

        Probably pretty comfy! The concept makes sense, but I imagine it was a hard sell to convince hikers to go sockless back then.

  4. Malva April 15, 2013 at 8:43 am #

    We’ve had a Timberline 4 for the past 12 years maybe? I don’t know if Eureka still makes it but it’s a great car camping tent and it has never let us down. With double vestibules, you can spend days under driving rain and still be dry at night.

    We’ve been trying to replace it for something slightly larger but have a really hard time coming up with something that’ll be just as good for our needs. I think we’ll probably just keep it and add on a second tent for the oldest kid to move into.

    • Jason April 15, 2013 at 9:24 am #

      Amazingly, they’re still making the Timberline. My father told me that my old scout troop just ordered 8 of them.

  5. Dave G April 15, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    My Eureka Timberline Tent has never failed, proven design. (I have upgraded to a Seedhouse by Big Agnes).

    Another great company from the early 80′s is Purple Mountain Clothing Company (I think they were located in Arkansas). They were a mail order company producing the best polartech lined clothing products. They had a very limited catalog. The were ahead of their time.
    Their jeans were a heavy cotton shell over Purple 200 Polartech… warmest pair of pants I own. Absolutely, bombproof. Made in the USA

    I always regret not purchasing the matching denim jacket.

  6. Michael April 15, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    A blast from the past! Thanks for the fond memories. It’s all the same gear I remember from our backpacking trip in Glacier NP back in ’72 – minus the water walker, sockless boots and a few other items. The only thing missing is the Coleman sleeping bag I used on that trip. Some of you probably even had the same red cloth bag with the fancy print on the inside. That was the trip I hid a S’more in my sleeping bag so I could eat it for breakfast – didn’t work out quite as I planned. LOL!

  7. Grandpa April 15, 2013 at 11:45 am #

    I haven’t seen any balaclava ads from the ’70s. With all the facial hair, they probably weren’t necessary… or they were impossible to pull over the head.

  8. PNW_John April 15, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Those ads certainly bring back memories. I used have an Alpenlite backpack when I was a teenager. That external frame design was great and allowed the pack to stand up by itself. Mine was a front loader with an internal shelf that allowed you adjust your gear for weight distribution. I also used to have the Timberline tent. I hated that pole design. It was a pain to get that ridge pole into the connector. Thanks for sharing the ads.

  9. Peter J April 15, 2013 at 11:55 am #

    My son’s troop uses the Timberline 4 and will put 3 kids in it. When you break it up so that one kid has the fly, one the tent, and one the poles and stakes it works out pretty good.

  10. Steve M April 15, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    You need to be a serious contortionist to get into that Omnipotent tent (maybe why they are no longer with us).

  11. Earlylite April 15, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    It is a pretty weird design. I imagine the guys were stretchy. Kind of like a spider web though.

  12. jason April 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    I enjoy all the offers of free color catalogs and pamphlets, if you send in a self addressed envelope.

  13. David April 15, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    I just got back from a 9-day trek in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. These 1970s packs are EVERYWHERE down there. Every other person is carrying a four-season tent that looked as though it weighed as much as my entire backpack. Just thinking about the tonnage hurts my knees.

    But, I guess if you are going to be 30 years older than everyone around you, it’s probably a good idea to go 30 pounds lighter, too. My lightweight tarp did just fine, even in the big winds. :-)

  14. Louis Brooks April 15, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Kind of makes me wonder what of today’s gear we will look back at in 40 years and go “I remember those”.

  15. Doug Lewis April 15, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    The only thing I don’t see is Frostline kits. I still have some of that stuff.

  16. Jim April 18, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Wish I had seen an old add for Snow Lion, maybe my sleeping bag is older than I thought. Neat stuff, enjoyed…..thanks

  17. MaryH April 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    I used my Timberline tent until about 5 years ago. Also a Kelty external frame backpack.

    I winter camped quite a bit in the 70′s and wore 2 pairs of wool mail carrier pants I felted in the washing machine (bought extra large and long from Goodwill). I also wore rag wool socks and cotton long underwear(!!). A felted wool balaclava doubled with a conventional wool hat was my headwear. My sleeping bag was a smaller bag inside my 3 season bag. We all slept in a heap to stay warm (my backpacking buddies). My skis were wooden and required periodically a new tar base and multiple (sometimes hourly) applications of wax.

    The funny thing is I feel young (with some new aches and pains) but I feel like I must sound like my grandparents when I talk about this.

  18. runTrail July 1, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    The sockless boots. I like when they explain that their leather is perspiration resistant. I wonder if anyone hiked the full Pacific coast or AT in these boots without socks. That’s a lot of sweating over the days on the trail onto those leather boots. Not too mention the bacteria and odor buildup. The best thing is to wear Keens hiking sandals and let you feet breath.

  19. Walter Underwood July 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    I had a frame similar to the Alpenlite, made by Universal. It was terrible. The side bars held the hipbelt away from my hips, and I had to get it super tight to work at all. I moved the tabs on a Camptrails hipbelt to fix that problem, but it didn’t work much better.

    I eventually put the packbag on a regular external frame, I think it was a Boy Scout model made by Camptrails.

    The packbag was very well made and a delight to use.

    I switched to a Lowe Expedition in the mid-80′s. I kept the external frame for a long time, but it never got used again. The Lowe is pretty impressive, 4 pounds 11 ounces for a 98 liter (!) pack.

    The Gerry Year-Round tent is still solid, but it does weigh six pounds, so it doesn’t get out very often.

  20. Kevin July 5, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    I still use a Kelty external frame backpack from about 1970 — it’s identical to the one that Ed Garvey used on his famous AT thru-hike. The frame is made of very thin aluminum tubing, and the pack itself is very simple and lightweight. I like the steel zippers. It’s a true classic.

  21. Tipi Walter December 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

    I don’t know if this link has ever been mentioned but it’s vital in a discussion of older gear—

    http://www.oregonphotos.com/Backpacking-Revolution1.html

    And of course there is this one—

    http://www.pbase.com/mad_monte1/_retro_outdoor_gear&page=all

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