The origin of Camp Trails

8:23 p.m. on September 7, 2009 (EDT)
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I couldn't resist. There was a discussion about the origin of Camp Trails. My father started the company in the late 40s. He was a engineer working during the war. After the war he he was involved with the Boy Scouts. He noticed how the scouts were struggling with the wooden ruck sacks. As a result, my dad designed the first tubular aluminum pack frame. He made them for the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Sears. I spent many a summer vacations helping manufacturing the frame. The company went on to become a very successful manufacturer of outdoor equipment. Later my father sold the company to Johnson and Johnson. Why Johnson and Johnson wanted to get into the camping business is beyond me. My dad is now 91 years old and is retired in Mexico.

9:27 p.m. on September 7, 2009 (EDT)
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Mel, thank you for posting this. Please get in touch with Bruce Johnson at this web site, Bruce would love to hear from you. Any more you can contribute would be great. My first real backpack was a Camp Trails, one of the Grey Wolf series of internal frame packs.

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

10:37 p.m. on September 7, 2009 (EDT)
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Mel Abert Welcome to Trailspace

Very good story thanks for the info. I always thought Eureka ended up buying Camp Trails.

1:46 a.m. on September 8, 2009 (EDT)
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I forgot to mention one very important fact. His name. His name is Jack C. Abert

11:37 a.m. on September 8, 2009 (EDT)
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S.C.Johnson&Co (not Johnson and Johnson, the medical products company) got into outdoor gear because Sam Johnson who was the CEO at the time was (and still is) an avid outdoorsman. So he started the company that for a long time was Johnson Worldwide Associates. They were a conglomerate for shipping products from Europe to North America and vice versa. Some of the companies were merged into the corporation (which was, and is) independent of S.C.Johnson. Most of the brands are known under their original names (Eureka, for example). Some are brand names that were originally imported and distributed by JWA in North America (Silva), but with trademark disputes and different solutions, JWA distributes some under the original name in NA (Silva, now manufactured by Suunto, while Silva Sweden, the original company, uses Silva outside North America, but Brunton in the US, Australia, and New Zealand). Confusing? Yup! And since the individual brands have their own websites, most without mentioning Johnson, it is sometimes hard to track down who is who. The Johnson website itself does not list all the brands on its home page.

Here is some history.

12:01 p.m. on September 8, 2009 (EDT)
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Bill thanks for the info.

3:05 p.m. on September 8, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks Bill for the update...

5:31 p.m. on September 8, 2009 (EDT)
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Thanks for sharing this history, Mel.

My first backpacking pack was a Camp Trails one, purple and black. I bought it the summer before college, in preparation for the outdoor orientation trip all new students took. It also spent some time in Europe during my college years. Now for nostalgia's sake, I'm kind of sorry I donated it to Goodwill at one point a few years ago.

9:58 a.m. on September 9, 2009 (EDT)
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Alicia, I feel your pain. I sold my Camp Trails pack on ebay. Where did you go to college? I went to the University of Minnesota and sadly there was no outdoor orientation course.

11:51 a.m. on September 9, 2009 (EDT)
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I meant this to reply to Mel Albert's post, but others are of course welcome! Alan alerted me that I should get involved in this discussion since I run The History of Gear Project (see my Profile and website). Lately I've been receiving accounts from old Holubar employees about the role of SC Johnson in the take-over and then demise of Holubar. There was a point in the late 1970s when some allege that Camp Trails actually began to manufacture some of the Holubar-branded gear, as the two companies had both come under SC Johnson. We know for certain that Camp Trails gear began to be sold in the Holubar stores. Anyway, on to my main question for Mel-- in terms of your father's contributions to the history of the modern backpack, how would you relate what he was doing with what Dick Kelty was doing in the early 1950s? Any specific dates you can supply would be very helpful.... By the way, I've still got, and occasionally use, my giant green Camp Trails frame pack, with an updated plush hipbelt system!

12:16 p.m. on September 9, 2009 (EDT)
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Welcome to Trailspace, OldGear. Just this morning I was talking to someone about Frostline kits and other vintage gear companies (they started before my time though I have to admit). Your site looks like a treasure trove of info.

Alan, I went to Colby College in Maine. They have an outdoor orientation program for new students. It was four days when I did it in the 90s. There's a wide range of options and levels, so any kid will be capable of some trip: backpacking, canoeing, basecamping with hikes, service projects, and so on. Now I think they have rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, among other options. Mine was two days of canoeing on Flagstaff Lake followed by two days of backpacking in the Bigelow Range (we switched off the canoes with another group doing the trip in reverse). I think it's a great way to start college and bond with others.

This past weekend my family happened to camp in the same spot on Flagstaff Lake.

2:32 p.m. on September 9, 2009 (EDT)
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Alicia,

Interesting that your group should be discussing Frostline! In fact, within the History of Gear Project, inquiries about the fate of Frostline outnumber all others. This continues to surprise me; often the requests are for info about buying a new kit for a new whatever, now that their 30 or 40 year old one has finally worn out!

3:49 p.m. on September 9, 2009 (EDT)
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Nice looking college. 1800 students, I think when I went to the U of M they had some 45,000 or so students. Needless to say it was a slightly different experience. I always get nostalgic this time of year, college life was much more fun than work.

9:50 p.m. on September 17, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi Bruce and Mel, I think my first backpack was a Hillary from Sears. Back in the early 60's Sears had a Boy Scout shop and sold uniforms and such. The pack was an external frame, aluminum, with a canvas sack on it. If I remember right, the pack had a folding shelf on the frame, so it was "L" shaped when opened up.

11:12 p.m. on September 19, 2009 (EDT)
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Hi Bruce and Mel, I think my first backpack was a Hillary from Sears. Back in the early 60's Sears had a Boy Scout shop and sold uniforms and such. The pack was an external frame, aluminum, with a canvas sack on it. If I remember right, the pack had a folding shelf on the frame, so it was "L" shaped when opened up.

Tom

I had forgotten about my old Hillary pack,though it was nylon and no "L" shape to it.Also had a Hillary down sleeping bag with a half length zipper down the front of it.Wish i still had them just for the memories.Also still have my old Yvon Chouinard laminated bamboo ice axe,was the hot thing prior to all the metal shafted axes.How gear has changed.Remember the old Daschstein mitts anyone?

2:34 a.m. on September 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Skiman-I'm pretty sure mine had a fold-down shelf on it, but that was a long time ago, so I could be wrong. This would have been around 1960 or 61 and I'm not sure if it was nylon or canvas. There may have been different models since Hillary was just Sears's house brand at the time.

I have a vague recollection of the sleeping bag sitting under the pack sack on the shelf, but again, I could be wrong.

We used Army shelter halves for our tent, with what I remember as 3 piece wooden poles. We cooked on camp fires using surplus mess kits and GI canteens.

Dachstein mitts are still around, but are really hard to find. I think one place in New England might have them. Almost every winter someone asks about them. If you Google them, you'll see them for sale at different shops in the UK.

10:50 a.m. on September 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Anybody know what happened to Trailwise? My first pack was a Trailwise, following Colin Fletcher's recommendation in the first edition of The Complete Walker. I broke the frame on a NOLS course in the North Cascades, hitchhiked down to SF and brought it into the Ski Hut (if I have the name right) and they replaced it without even asking my name. Still have the frame hanging up in the garage. My first tent was a Trailwise Fitzroy, that's somewhere up in the barn too.

11:42 a.m. on September 20, 2009 (EDT)
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bigred

check out oldgear's link earlier in the post, you will find out the info on trailwise. just out of curosity how did you brake a trailwise frame?

tom d

i think your pack was a camp trails. they did make a canvas pack with a fold down shelf. you can still find them on ebay.

3:16 p.m. on September 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Let me know if you want to get rid of the Fitzroy.

I've found some new, old stock Dachstein mittens on ebay, but they don't show up often. Wonderfully warm and durable.

3:59 p.m. on September 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Hmm, might be. Thanks, I will have to check out eBay and see what shows up.

I remember the Ski Hut. It was in Berkeley. They used to have a mail order catalog. I got something from them by mail-a balaclava, I think. Was Trailwise their "house brand"?

10:33 p.m. on September 20, 2009 (EDT)
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Ski Hut was the retail arm and Trailwise was the manufacturing arm, but both companies had the same ownership. I believe the owner was George Rudolph who also owned DMC, Donner Mountain Corp, which was an importing company primarily for European climbing gear.

7:23 p.m. on September 23, 2009 (EDT)
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My 40+ year old Camp Trails frame, long since refitted with a different bag, straps and hipbelt to replace the worn out canvas ones is hanging in the garage as I write -- it's been to every continent except Antarctica. My dad ordered it for a backpacking trip when I was about 11 (probably from Sears), and it continues to serve faithfully. It's last major trip was a week at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in 2002.

I unearthed some of the old canvas components in a storage box and will probably retire it as a showpiece one of these days but there are a lot of miles and memories in that pack. My dad's pack eventually was dismembered as a carry frame for various projects - I recall lugging rolled roofing up a ladder with it 25 years ago or so; another testament to its sturdiness.

8:51 p.m. on September 23, 2009 (EDT)
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The Ski Hut (and Trailwise) went out of business in the early-80s, about the time we moved back to California. We headed over there when we moved in to visit old haunts, and found the "closed" sign and a "for lease" sign on the door, but it wasn't clear how long the signs had been there. It was a while longer before a new store opened in the same place.

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