Big Bend Chat

Random Bits from the Outside World => General Outdoor Stuff & Camping Equipment => Topic started by: mule ears on June 22, 2010, 12:20:10 PM

Title: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: mule ears on June 22, 2010, 12:20:10 PM
So it’s really hot here now (hotter than Big Bend for the next few days!), I’m bored, can’t go hiking until at least August and I haven’t had a pack on in 4 months. :pissed: So lets have some fun.

I realized the other day that next month will mark the 40th anniversary of my first backpacking trip without adults, I was 13!! It was on the Appalachian Trail in Vermont.

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/1sthike.jpg)

I won’t say which one is me.

I was also remembering Randell’s awesome thread on his “Go cabinet” (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/general-outdoor-stuff-camping-equipment/007-cabinet-t5806.0.html) and how stunned I was at his organization. So I thought I would take a walk back in time through my own equipment “museum” as my wife likes to call it. I don’t have every piece of equipment that I have ever owned but there is still a lot of it hanging around.

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/museum 008.jpg)

Back in the early 70’s when I lived in Houston I was fortunate enough to work for, what was at the time, the 10th largest backpacking store in the country, Wilderness Equipment. Quicksilver and other Houstonians may remember its stores in Westbury Square and Town and Country Village. This was at the heady early years of specialized equipment and Colin Fletcher’s influence on all things walking. The beginnings of The North Face, Sierra Designs, Jansport, Vasque, etc. Mostly small companies turning out great and innovative equipment, for the time.

Before that immersion it was the official Boy Scout catalog and R.E.I. (I became a member in 1970). It was also homemade or borrowed or Army surplus stuff as I was a kid with no money. That situation existed, really, until around the turn of the century when I began to have more time and money and I made the concerted effort towards light and ultralight equipment and pack weights.

So lets start with packs and see how that has evolved over time. The second picture is from 1973, camping at the Mule Ears overlook, after a late night arrival, before heading into the backcountry. You used to be able to do that kind of thing. It shows my first three packs in use as I was loaning two of them out for the trip, plus mine at the time.

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/packs1thrutheyears.jpg)

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/packs4thrutheyearsmuleears.jpg)

-1.   Canvas Boy Scout Pack on aluminum frame ’69-‘71
0.   REI pack on Camp Trails frame ’71-‘73
1.   North Face Panel Loader Pack Bag on Kelty Frame ’73-’92, 80 oz., ~4500-5000 cu.in.
2.   Mountainsmith Elite 4000 Panel/Top Loader ’92-’02, 104 oz. total (116 before trimming), 5000-6000,cu.in.
3.   Mountainsmith Auspex Top Loader ’02-’05, 59.5 oz., 4200 cu.in.
4.   Six Moons Designs Starlight (http://www.sixmoondesigns.com/shop/shopexd.asp?id=34) ’05-’10, 28 oz. w/stays, 4200 cu.in.
5.   Six Moons Designs Swift (http://www.sixmoondesigns.com/shop/shopexd.asp?id=62) ’10-, 17 oz., 3500 cu.in.

They have all been to Big Bend except the last one, #2 is definitely my mountaindocdanny model. Now the side views:

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/packs2thrutheyears.jpg)

Harness view:

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/packs3thrutheyears.jpg)

Let's see your old/current packs and other backpacking history.




Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: MilesOfTexas on June 22, 2010, 01:00:22 PM
The images in the post, which are sourced from a wordpress account, won't work.  When I went to one of the image sources, I got the following error:


— 403: Access Denied —

This file requires authorization:

you must both be a user of this blog as well as be currently logged into wordpress.com


The image source I went to was: http://40yearsofwalking.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/1sthike.jpg (http://40yearsofwalking.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/1sthike.jpg)
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: mule ears on June 22, 2010, 01:36:51 PM
Try again, they are showing up in the post on my computer?  Any one else having trouble seeing them?
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: TexasAggieHiker on June 22, 2010, 01:50:26 PM
I see nothing.
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: mule ears on June 22, 2010, 02:06:50 PM
Sorry folks, I have it fixed now.  Went back to the old fashioned way of inserting pictures. I am building a new site which I had uploaded the pictures to but it is still not available to the public but I thought the links would work. Guess not yet.
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: Ray52 on June 22, 2010, 05:14:35 PM
I shopped in that store whenever I needed gear ME.  You may have sold me my Svea 123 stove.  Along with a Holubar -20 degree down bag, the stove is the only piece of equipment to survive dozens of moves and nearly 30 years without backpacking.  I actually purchased my first backpack in JC Penney and replaced it immediately after my first hike from Queen Wilhemina.
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: SA Bill on June 22, 2010, 07:40:11 PM
Not quite 40 years but...here's my much younger self with a state of the art REI external frame pack...on the right...circa 1978. My buddy Ethan...on the left...had a similar pack but I can't remember the maker. I loved the REI because it had the 4 outside pockets on the side of the main pack envelope. Man, I could overload that pack!! My first really long pack trip (10 days) I started out with about 60 pounds on my back and at that time I only weighed about 125 pounds! No more of that!!  :eusa_snooty:

The other pic is of me (in a semi-Randellesque pose) up by Twin Lakes, IIRC, in the Weminuche Wilderness area of CO. That nice red down sweater I'm wearing was made from a kit! I bought the kit and with the help of my fiance (who became my wife 29 years ago), we sewed it together and loaded the down (provided as part of the kit) into the tubes we sewed as the body of the sweater. I also had a backpacking poncho that I sewed from a kit from the same company. I don't remember the name of the company, and the sweater is long gone, but my wife is still around!! :eusa_dance:
   Bill
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: mule ears on June 22, 2010, 07:57:10 PM
I shopped in that store whenever I needed gear ME.  You may have sold me my Svea 123 stove.  Along with a Holubar -20 degree down bag, the stove is the only piece of equipment to survive dozens of moves and nearly 30 years without backpacking.  I actually purchased my first backpack in JC Penney and replaced it immediately after my first hike from Queen Wilhemina.

I might have sold you that Svea stove if it was between '72 and '75. Later I will post a stoves thru the years picture. Holubar that is a name I have not heard in some time.

Not quite 40 years but...here's my much younger self with a state of the art REI external frame pack...on the right...circa 1978. My buddy Ethan...on the left...had a similar pack but I can't remember the maker. I loved the REI because it had the 4 outside pockets on the side of the main pack envelope...

It looks just like mine, but in blue. I used to love all those exterior pockets too.

Quote
...That nice red down sweater I'm wearing was made from a kit! I bought the kit and with the help of my fiance (who became my wife 29 years ago), we sewed it together and loaded the down (provided as part of the kit) into the tubes we sewed as the body of the sweater. I also had a backpacking poncho that I sewed from a kit from the same company. I don't remember the name of the company but my wife is still around!! :eusa_dance:
   Bill[/color]

I have an old Cari-Kit down vest my sister sewed for me in the 70's that I still wear around the farm. You put the down in the tubes, in small capsules, that when you washed it they dissolved and then dispersed into the tubes.  Glad that your wife is still around too!
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: Al on June 22, 2010, 09:40:25 PM
Blow me away with a feather.  Like you, I started out with my Boy Scout external frame pack. Did a 10 day hike at Philmont in New Mexico with that pack.  I also used an external frame pack I made out of dowels and strapped my stuff on in my tarp.  At the time it was a pretty cool deal with the cross dowels steamed and bent to shape, but all things considered was pretty crude.  Used the Boy Scout pack in the Guadalupes up into the Bowl and realized the pack's limitations.  The next pack was a large Lowe purchased from Whole Earth Provision Company in Austin.  Once it wore out I replaced with a similar pack.  I have never been on the cutting edge and probably will never be.

Al

P.S. The dowels were lashed together with dental floss and then varnished together.  It did not fail but technology "advanced".  Looking back it was truly a light weight backpack.  Only the frame and shoulder straps were added what was being carried.  The pack was my tarp/tent.  It was later that I learned the advantage of a hip belt as advised by my hiking buds.  Well advised additional weight.
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: TheWildWestGuy on June 22, 2010, 09:55:44 PM
I cant wait to see the "stoves through the years" pictures as I just recently retired my Optimus 1-2-3 white gas stove after over 30 years of service.  That stove outlasted several vehicles, jobs, moves, and life events and now has a place of honor in my living room display case and "show me shelf".   It was antiquated decades ago, hard to light since it needed priming with liquid fuel, heavy, clunky, not fuel efficient, and almost impossible to keep lit in a hard wind but many nights were spent in the backcountry with only the hiss of the stove to break the silence.  Sometimes I used to let it burn just to hear the hiss and break the deafening silence common in the backcountry of Big Bend.   TWWG
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: dkerr24 on June 22, 2010, 11:03:29 PM
I bet the 'kit jacket' was a 'Frostline' kit.  My mom bought me one of those in the mid 70's.  I remember it came pre-cut and came with numbered tubes of down to fill the jacket once the shell was sewn together.  My mom even modded the jacket and added red and white stripes down the sleeves which gave it quite the patriotic look for 1976's Bicentennial.
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: Al on June 22, 2010, 11:08:51 PM
I bet the 'kit jacket' was a 'Frostline' kit.  My mom bought me one of those in the mid 70's.  I remember it came pre-cut and came with numbered tubes of down to fill the jacket once the shell was sewn together.  My mom even modded the jacket and added red and white stripes down the sleeves which gave it quite the patriotic look for 1976's Bicentennial.

dkerr, I hope you know this post requires a picture!

Al aka homero!
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: dkerr24 on June 22, 2010, 11:14:16 PM
Let me dig around my closet tomorrow and see if I still have that jacket.  I don't think I threw it out, as I knew there was a lot of hours of labor my mom put into that down jacket.  I'm sure it won't fit me!
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: Ray52 on June 22, 2010, 11:18:13 PM
Here's the stove I purchased at your store around 1974. I bought the sleeping bag mail order from Holubar. Holubar also sold a lot of items in kit form, but I bought this bag complete for winter hiking in the Smokies and still use it occasionally. I haven't had a fire in the stove in 20+ years but like TWWG's, it was pretty noisy and not the easiest thing to start.

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/DSC03207rsz.JPG)
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: mule ears on June 23, 2010, 05:58:09 AM
... I also used an external frame pack I made out of dowels and strapped my stuff on in my tarp.  At the time it was a pretty cool deal with the cross dowels steamed and bent to shape, but all things considered was pretty crude.  ...I have never been on the cutting edge and probably will never be.

Al

P.S. The dowels were lashed together with dental floss and then varnished together.  It did not fail but technology "advanced".  Looking back it was truly a light weight backpack.  Only the frame and shoulder straps were added what was being carried.  The pack was my tarp/tent.  It was later that I learned the advantage of a hip belt as advised by my hiking buds.  Well advised additional weight.

I don't know Al, that is pretty cutting edge sounding to me, and quite a piece of workmanship. Sounds a lot like todays LuxuryLite (http://www.luxurylite.com/stackpackindex.html) frames (from Texas) and Gearskin (http://www.moonbowgear.com/1trailgear/1Custom%20packs/Gearskins/gearskin.html) packs.

I also used once or twice some Army surplus aluminum frames with non padded straps and once a wooden pack board (ugh!)
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: SA Bill on June 23, 2010, 09:17:24 PM
I bet the 'kit jacket' was a 'Frostline' kit.  My mom bought me one of those in the mid 70's.  I remember it came pre-cut and came with numbered tubes of down to fill the jacket once the shell was sewn together.  My mom even modded the jacket and added red and white stripes down the sleeves which gave it quite the patriotic look for 1976's Bicentennial.

That's it dkerr24!! Frostline was the kit maker. Thanks for the memory jolt. I wore my sweater for many years. Finally gave it away and bought a better insulated jacket because I was backpacking in colder climes and needed more warmth. Still, that sweater kit was okay for its day.
  Bill
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: mule ears on June 27, 2010, 12:53:38 PM
I cant wait to see the "stoves through the years" pictures as I just recently retired my Optimus 1-2-3 white gas stove after over 30 years of service. That stove outlasted several vehicles, jobs, moves, and life events and now has a place of honor in my living room display case and "show me shelf". It was antiquated decades ago, hard to light since it needed priming with liquid fuel, heavy, clunky, not fuel efficient, and almost impossible to keep lit in a hard wind but many nights were spent in the backcountry with only the hiss of the stove to break the silence. Sometimes I used to let it burn just to hear the hiss and break the deafening silence common in the backcountry of Big Bend. TWWG


Because the TWWG has just retired his Svea 123 stove and several others have shown and mentioned stoves lets stop there next.

First TWWG, you could just get another Svea 123 (http://www.optimusstoves.com/seen/optimus-products/products/katadynshopconnect/optimus-outdoor-kocher/optimus-svea/), they still sell them and my 39 year old model still works (at least it did the last time I fired it up).

I have used and been around a lot of backpacking stoves over the years but have only put my money down on six. The five shown here are the ones I have left, the sixth was a very early Primus canister stove that used canisters you just punctured like a basketball pump to connect the canister, probably a bit sketchy in hind sight. The first picture is in cooking set up with fuel bottles/canisters but without wind screens, if they need one. The second picture is in their collapsed, ready to pack mode, with their respective wind screens.

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/stoves1thrutheyears.jpg)

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/stoves2thrutheyears.jpg)

0.   Woodfires, Sterno cans
1.   Optimus Svea 123, whitegas, ’71-’01, 15.7 (stove only) + 3.5 (16 oz. fuel bottle)=19.2 oz.
2.   MSR Model 9 (precursor of the XGK) for melting snow in winter (no simmer)
3.   Optimus Nova, multi-liquid fuel, ’01-, 20.5 oz. w/ windscreen & 16 oz. fuel bottle
4.   MSR WindPro (http://cascadedesigns.com/msr/stoves/basecamp-stoves/windpro/product), remote canister, ’06-, 14.7 oz. w/ windscreen & empty canister (4.7 oz.)
5.   Optimus Crux (http://www.optimusstoves.com/seen/optimus-products/products/katadynshopconnect/optimus-outdoor-kocher/optimus-crux/), top mount canister, ’04-, 9.2 oz w/ windscreen & empty canister

In comparing stoves you have to look past the manufacturers listed weights and make sure you include the weight of the empty fuel bottles/canisters, windscreens and anything else that makes the system work most efficiently. So my weights include all that.

Back in the day it was easy to choose a stove, there was only a handful to pick from and really only a couple that were light and dependable, the Svea 123 being the standout that almost everyone owned. Not so any more. When deciding on which stove, it comes down to what kind of “cooking” you do, what season you are hiking in, what kind of fuel you prefer/can get and how many people you are cooking for. There are also other considerations like how much you want to fiddle with your stove and how dependable it is/needs to be.

For me good, warm food morning and night are one of the important parts of the experience. That means we actually do more than boil water for some meals, mostly dinners, so I need a stove that simmers. That quickly reduces the stove choices to a canister stove or only a couple of liquid fuel/white gas stoves. The “we” part means I am hiking with usually one other person, sometimes more, so we share one stove and pot and cook meals together. Saves a lot of weight and time.

Also because I almost always hike in cool or cold weather I need a stove that is dependable, easy to use with cold fingers, probably in the dark and does well in windy/cold conditions. Again canister stoves excel here, remote canister stoves even better below 20 degrees F.

If I was to buy a stove today it would come down to four choices.
1.   If I hiked solo, in three seasons and only boiled water for coffee, oatmeal and a freeze dried dinner I would get an alcohol/solid fuel stove set up like the Caldera Cone Tri-Ti (http://www.traildesigns.com/caldera-tt-ulc.html) You can not beat an alcohol set up for weight, but there is a certain amount of fiddling with them you have to do.
2.   If I was doing lots of winter/snow camping and had to melt snow I would still choose the Optimus Nova (http://www.optimusstoves.com/seen/optimus-products/products/katadynshopconnect/optimus-outdoor-kocher/optimus-nova-1/).
3.   If I was camping in very cold weather but didn’t need to melt snow or was with a big group and needed more support for bigger pots, I would use the MSR WindPro with an inverted canister set up so it was a liquid fuel flow.
4.   For majority of trips I would buy the lightest top mount canister stove available, the Monatauk Gnat (http://monatauk.com/inc/sdetail/509). At 1.7 oz. that would put stove, empty canister and windscreen at under 8 oz., pretty light and the easiest to use.


(http://m.b5z.net/i/u/10042827/i/gnat_with_logo.jpg)

We had a great discussion on stoves some years back here (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/general-outdoor-stuff-camping-equipment/camp-stoves-t5789.0.html). This is where I also explain my disdain for the current MSR liquid fuel stoves, wouldn't own one. I am a big fan of Optimus stoves though.
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: dkerr24 on June 27, 2010, 01:29:48 PM
Did some digging in the back of the closet and found the frostline jacket.  It was a bit dusty, and definitely doesn't fit me like it did in 1976!

(http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d131/dkerr24/Frostline%20Kit%20Jacket/IMG_0744Medium.jpg)

(http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d131/dkerr24/Frostline%20Kit%20Jacket/IMG_0742Medium.jpg)
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: mule ears on June 27, 2010, 02:25:28 PM
Did some digging in the back of the closet and found the frostline jacket.  It was a bit dusty, and definitely doesn't fit me like it did in 1976!

(http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d131/dkerr24/Frostline%20Kit%20Jacket/IMG_0742Medium.jpg)

Sweet! Nothing like the back of the closet to secure history.
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: Al on June 27, 2010, 04:37:43 PM
dkerr, well done!

Al
Title: Re: 40 years of backpacking equipment
Post by: mule ears on July 09, 2010, 08:22:29 AM
Near 100 degrees here again today and I (and this thread) got a little sidetracked with the sites move to the new server and other things going on here at home. Last installment, I promise.

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/mule ear's forecast.JPG)

Let’s move on to sleep systems. My first real sleeping bag was Army surplus, filled with feathers and down (more feathers than down it seemed) with some kind of cotton/poplin shell, stuffed fairly small but weighed like 8 pounds. But for $20 it was a vast improvement over the cotton flannel Sears bags we had.

(http://stores.alleghenywholesale.com/catalog/M-1949mountainbag-1.jpg)

Sleeping bags are always the most expensive piece of equipment to buy and hopefully they will last a long time, mine have. I now lend out the old bags to people who haven’t bought a good one yet. We had a good sleeping bag discussion here. (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/yosemite-in-july-10day-backpack-itinerary-t5413.135.html)

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/sleepingbags2thrutheyears.jpg)

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/sleepingbags1thrutheyears.jpg)

0.   Army surplus feathers and down mummy bag ’70-’72, ~120oz.
1.   Camp 7 North Col, 600? fill goose down, -5 degree, ’72-’04, 55.5 oz.
2.   Camp 7 Arete, duck down, 25 degree, ’74-’04, 41.5 oz
3.   Moonstone Polarguard 3D, 15 degree, ’00-’04, ~42 oz.
4.   Western Mountaineering Ultralight, 850 goose down, 20 degree, ’04-, 28.5 oz

Camp 7 was the state of the art in the early 70’s and the Arete (#2) fit inside the North Col (#1) for those real subzero winter trips. Mostly I used them separately depending on the season. At some point I must have fallen for the conventional wisdom that you needed a synthetic bag for wet conditions and got the Moonstone (#3) it was fine but relatively heavy. In reality I have never had a bag get wet on a trip, down or not. Finally after years of lusting after a lighter bag and a Western Mountaineering one at that, I got weak after the trip across the eastern half of the park (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/your-trip-reports/strawhouse-to-the-basin-t5891.0.html) and bought the Ultralite (#4) in Austin at Whole Earth Provision, worth every penny!

Sleeping pads have undergone lots of changes over the years. Part of it is new technology, part is the search for more comfortable sleep as we get older. We have had quite a bit of discussion here on pads (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/maybe-the-perfect-lightweight-sleeping-pad-set-up-t7234.0.html).

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/padsthrutheyears.jpg)

1.      nothing
2.      section of wool Army Blanket
3.      open cell foam pad, 36”, ’72-‘75
3.5.    closed cell ensolite pad, 47”, ’73-‘89
4.      Thermarest Ultralite, 47”, 19 oz., ’89-‘04
5.      Thermarest Prolite 3, 47”, 12 oz., ’04-‘09
6.      Thermarest Ridgerest, closed cell, 47”, 8 oz., ‘06
7.      Thermarest Prolite XS, 36” + 36” Ridgerest (http://www.bigbendchat.com/portal/forum/maybe-the-perfect-lightweight-sleeping-pad-set-up-t7234.0.html), 8.5 + 6=14.5 oz., ’09-
8.      Thermarest Ridgerest, closed cell, 72” for snow trips, 12 oz., ’00-

Of course at first we were young and tough and didn’t need any pad. Then for insulation when cold I used a section of an old wool Army blanket. The first foam pad was open celled and really not much padding or insulation but it seemed the thing to do. The ensolite was a break through in both insulation and non-squishable padding. Finally Thermarest inflatables arrived and they just kept getting lighter so I had to get new ones :icon_biggrin:. Like the sleeping bags these older models are popular lending items.

The final piece of the sleep system puzzle is a bivy bag and I have used one for years, because while I own a few tents, I almost never carry them but use a tarp or nothing instead. I like them for wind, dew, rain spray and keeping the bag clean. I almost never carry one in the desert these days though.

(http://www.bigbendgallery.com/uploads/files/biviesthrutheyears.jpg)

1.   North Face bivy, urethane coated nylon bottom, breathable taffeta top, way too big, probably 30 oz., ’74-‘01
2.   Outdoor Research Basic Bag cover, hydroseal bottom, Gore dryloft top, 18 oz., ‘01-‘08
3.   Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight, silnylon bottom, Pertex Momentum top, 6 oz. with long side zip, ’08-

No pictures of tents (hard to set them up in the office :icon_wink:) and like I said, not much of a tent man. Here is the list just for continuity. The tarp I still use today is the rain fly from the 1972 North Face Mountain tent and I use my walking poles for the set up.

1.   Canvas Army Tent Halves (they connected at the ridge with buttons so each person carried half a tent) about 10# complete
2.   North Face Mountain Tent, 7#, ’72-‘95
3.   Eureka Summit, 8.69#, ’96-
4.   REI Sololite, one person, 4#, ’98-
5.   Alps Mountaineering Mystique II (http://www.alpsmountaineering.com/ALPSMountaineeringMystique.htm), two person, 5.19#, ’02-
6.   The current set up- 1972 North Face Mountain Tent rain fly (17 oz.) + SMD Superlight bivy (6 oz.)= 1.5#
7.   Multiple other tarps, bivies, etc over the years

That concludes the tour of the equipment museum and now I am closer to getting back on the trail in August :eusa_pray:. Come on now, I know you folks have some old equipment to tell about.