My grandmother's pocket hiking compass.
Until recently I've thought of vintage gear collections as hobbies for wealthy, armchair adventurers. (Do I hear $20,000 for Sir Edmund's Rolex?) Or outside my outdoor interest. (I don't collect gear. I use gear in its natural habitat.)
Then I looked around my house more closely.
Those wooden snowshoes I hung on my office wall? Were they free home decor or the beginning of a gear collection?
Each of the pocketknives I saved after the deaths of my grandmother and later my father? Well, pocketknives always come in handy. It would be a shame to part with them. Never mind that I've never used either of these, but keep them tucked away in a box.
Three compasses that have not felt the wind, sun, rain, or snow in many decades? With a military marching compass from my husband's grandfather, my grandmother's pocket hiking compass, and a 1915 pocket compass I found among my father's things (along with a nifty JC Higgins pocket hand warmer), I've crossed the line into accidental outdoor gear collector. One with a sentimental bent.
Wooden bearpaw snowshoes.
I imagine there are more of you like that out there. Even if you don't have the bucks or the interest in bidding on historic expedition gear or rare stoves and tents, you probably have some special pieces of your own with which you'd never part.
Confession: I kept my first real daypack long after it bit the dust, and then wrote a blog ode to its memory. It's still hanging out with the rest of my packs in our gear room.
None of my vintage (aka old) gear is in great condition. Nor is it likely to fetch much money: No pieces have been to the poles or used by famous explorers, at least that I know of. You can find loads of better compasses for sale with a quick Google search.
But, each piece has character and history, and fetches a higher personal value.
I should fess up that the signs of a collector have probably been there all along. I still have the tiny red Jansport pack I wore to kindergarten. My son wore it to his first day of preschool and my toddler daughter now hikes with it.
A 1915 Gydawl Short & Mason compass.
The pack's not for sale, but maybe it's the start of a new vintage collection.