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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


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

  2. 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…

  3. Ralph’s is still there!

  4. 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.)

  5. 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?

    • I’m right there with you Ted! Alas now I am a good advertisement for a hat and remembering to put sunscreen on your head :) I still have an old stove from that era. The rest has been retired but gave me many many years of good use.

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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.”

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    • i still have a Camp 7 down parka/jacket from 1973. At the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare course in 1984 we were given the green light to use civilian gear-boots (I pulled out my Lowa leather mountaineering boots) and polypro long johns, but the instructors all had Gore-Tex parkas, civilian down bags Whisperl ight stoves, and military mountain boots. We had leather combat and jungle boots, cotton field jackets, wooly-pully commando sweaters, and slept in cotton shelter halves. First rule as a Marine infantry officers is to have the same gear as your men. These knuckleheads forgot this rule. I was told to remove my down jacket. Years later, the CO of the Mountain Warfare School, a colonel at the time, was promoted to brigadier general and sent to the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune. We had an officer club cocktail conversation about the incidents. He was angry and my current Co stuck up for me. Both were friends from Vietnam service and played handball together. I later taught a class and gave them both a status report on the integration of the 9 mm Barretta pistol. He was a brawler as a young officer and when the US Navy demanded I be put in “hack” for punching out not one, but three F-14 pilots, when one grabbed my wife’s backside at a Navy officer’s club, he made a few calls and I was released.

  12. 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.

  13. 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)

      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.

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.”

    • I have an REI frame pack (my brother’s) from about 1968. Sort of a torture rack, and pretty worn out. I can’t imagine taking it REI now and asking for a replacement, that’s just nuts.

      It reminds me of the guy who told me he sent his field watch back to LL Bean whenever the battery ran out and insisted on a free replacement. Seems like bad karma all around

  17. I have wonderful old gear that I have not used in years . . . Trailwise frame pack, zip together pair of Camp7 down bags, Snow Lion trail tent with winter vestibule, MSR and another stove and nested cookware . . . probably more items. One men’s small Trailwise (?) down jacket with hood, hardly worn as I had a Northface that fit me better and is still surviving being worn every winter since 1973! All in excellent condition. I need to rehome most of these, don’t want to but don’t use them. Is there anywhere to list such items? Could take them all out in Spring and do photos and better descriptions. Loved all this gear!!!

    Also have a 1991 VW Westfalia full camper with 56,000 original miles ;-) Getting the big push to let some of this go . . . but I hang on to it as part of the life I used to live!

  18. I still have my SVEA 123 white gas stove.

    Remember the Gerry Pack with the what? 5 or so zippered sections straight across the back? That got a lot of attention.

    Guys wearing knickers with wool socks tucked underneath.

    • I found a Gerry Vagabound pack on EBay a few years ago to replace one I lent to a college girlfriend who wrecked it in 1979. It’s perfect for a young boy- my grandsons, when they are about 8 or 10.

    • That’s the same stove I have been using for thirty years. Always lights. Gerry packs made you a lightweight hiker. In five compartments you couldn’t carry too much stuff.

  19. Three-MAN tent… as soon as the austin powers time machine is ready, I’m dialing to 1975 to protest gender discrimation.

    • 3 man tent,,that’s disgusting,,,it should be the 1 man/2 women tent ! And I still have the NF Crysalis bag that I bought on sale for $40. Never use it anymore. Too heavy.

  20. I’ve got an rei winter expedition tent purchased in 1973. Pyramid shaped center poled, snow flaps and snow tunnel entry. Center height 7 ft. Has vent or stream hole. Been a work horse on many expeditions. Now works well on back country snow mobile nights. Heavy buy today’s standards but have not found anything better for wind and strength in high winds.

  21. When people see me hiking down the trail or pitching camp they point and drop their jaws. Lots of them come up and want to talk about my equipment. I bought my equipment in the early 1970s and still use it : A Camp 7 sleeping bag good for temperatures down into the teens, a Gerry’s one person green pup tent, a Thermarest, an Optimus stove, and a Universal Loadmaster external frame pack. This equipment has done the Grand Canyon, Wind Rivers, Glacier, Yellowstone, the Tetons, Zion, Bryce, the Smokies, Big Bend, and several dozen state parks, national forests, state forests and long distance trails, many of them multiple times. I also still wear a pair of Vasque Sundowners. I buy one new pair a year, using the new pair for dress for two years, hike in them for two years, then retire them to lawn and garden shoes. I’ve rewaterproofed the Gerry’s tent several times. I use to take the Camp 7 bag back to Camp 7 every year or so for a cleaning and reconditioning but then they went out of business. Camp 7, Gerry’s and Universal should never have gone out of business (yes, I know, the owner of Gerry’s just got tired of it, but he was still one of the all time greatest innovators in the outdoor equipment field).

    • I was researching info on my Medalist Universal Loadmaster backpack and came across your post. I bought mine around 1976. Great pack. I have gotten a lot of comments about it over the years.

      • WooHoo
        I was doing the same thing and came across the article and your post.
        I have a Medalist Universal external frame from about 1976. I still use it (Going this week in fact).
        I found another (an internal frame) on ETSY, but no real info on the company, I just know they are really well made packs.

    • Thought I would post an update. During this Pandemic quarantine, I have rewaterproofed the Gerry Lodgepole tent, thoroughly cleaned and polished the Sea stove, and cleaned the Universal Loadmaster pack. They’re ready to go again as soon as the trails reopen. We’re looking at trips to Isle Royale, Glacier and the Wind Rivers.

      • After hauling a monster pack- Dana Designs Astralplane Overkill for work, I have returned to a red Kelty external frame purchased in 1975. Rides well and is light-OK it’s light because I don’t need to carry alot of crap anymore. Two pairs of socks, storm gear, a wool Pendleton shirt, wool trousers, and a warm hat. Sometimes I’ll go “John Muir” and carry french bread, tea, oatmeal, and dried fruit to eat. Slip in some Lipton soup and I can hike for days.

  22. I’m still working with the body I was using in 1975 when backpacking. Like the gear, it’s been repaired often–stitched, stapled, glued and screwed, taped and wired back together on numerous occasions and doesn’t even have all the original parts. It’s still functional but does show distinct signs of wear.

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