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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?


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


Columbia Sportswear

Rivendell Mountain Works

Eureka Tents


  1. 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. 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?

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

    • I still have my Svea, and the coffee can it fits in, although I haven’t tried firing it up in over 30 years. I think I still have the repair and maintenance kit, too. Modern canister stoves like the MSR Pocket Rocket and BRS are just too convenient. I’ve also been playing around with alcohol burners in the past few years, both the Trangia style and some self-made ones. Stoves that don’t sound like a jet engine are sorta appealing.

  3. Sockless boots! ‘Nuff said.

  4. 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.

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

    • I still have my Svea, and the coffee can it fits in, although I haven’t tried firing it up in over 30 years. I think I still have the repair and maintenance kit, too. Modern canister stoves like the MSR Pocket Rocket and BRS are just too convenient. I’ve also been playing around with alcohol burners in the past few years, both the Trangia style and some self-made ones. There’s an appeal to stoves that don’t sound like a jet engine.

  5. 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. 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. 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.

    • I still have a wool Balaklava somewhere, along with a pair of Dachstein mittens from Austria. Both were acquired in the late 1970’s when I worked at Eastern Mountain Sports and they came in handy ice climbing at Frankenstein Cliffs and during a winter summit attempt of Mt. Washington. North Conway, New Hampshire now seems far away and long ago. Damn, I’m old! ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

  17. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    • I used an external frame Kelty until Frontier Airlines used it as a wheel chock on a jetliner and forgot to remove it before taxiing… or something like that! It was a great pack. I used to take my daughter hiking in that pack. She’d just climb in and look over my shoulder as we proceeded up the trail.

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

    And of course there is this one—

  22. I owned an Alpenlite backpack and have to say it was one of the best designed and versatile outdoors products made. The frame came in 4 sizes; Small, Medium, Large and XL to fit any size individual. The curved frame facilitated placing the weight of the pack on your hips as opposed to your shoulders. It also allowed you to place the pack on the ground upright & any experienced packer will tell you that’s a godsend. The comments I’ve read being critical I can only speculate had either purchased the wrong size or a facsimile that was inferior. Example? The belt attachment point on the frame had 5 holes drilled for adjustment. The belt had 3 points of adjustment on each side. When I purchased the pack there was a process that included placing sandbags in the pack to get the pack properly fit. The net result was a pack that firmly placed and distributed the weight on your hips and yet would not shift or sway on your shoulders. I routinely carried 70 plus pounds over very primitive trails in the US and never had sores, pinch points, blisters or any associated problems associated with backpacks. The weight on your hips allowed you such freedom in your upper body that you could literally play baseball with the pack on. I’ve never been one to be attached or keep for long periods possessions but that Alpenlite pack was one such thing that I kept for 40 years.

  23. A diehard backpacker from way back..Looking for fiberglass poles for a Jansport Mountain Dome. I still have the full set but want replacement poles should I ever need one. Anyone know where to obtain such a oldie?

  24. Still have a timberline 2 man tent.. A jansport backpack and camptrails backpack … Class 5 down bag… . Optimus 123 gas stove.. Snow lion .. Polarguard sleeping bag. camp7 duck down bag. A16 backpack … Should I go on. Jan sport dome tent.. .. All this stuff was made to last…. ???? What ever happen to Richmoor backpacking food????

  25. I have an alpenlite pack, Optimus 8R stove and other gear that is 50 years old and still works great. The pack shows very little wear and I used it a lot. Live next to Clairmont where they were made, quality of the old gear was very impressive. At 62 love to have gear that can be passed down to my grandkids.

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