Personal gear evolution

2:21 p.m. on September 24, 2013 (EDT)
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Peter's recent post about the evolution of gear in the 1800's, inspired me to think about my own gear evolution.

I got started back packing with my parents in the early 1960's. We had Kelty B4's, REI McKinley bags, air mattresses and slept under a tarp with no ground cloth. We also had Bluet canister stoves. For the time, we were pretty high tech. However, I was interested in how it had been done in earlier times. I read Brad Angier and Townsend Whelen and Cal Rutstrum. I wanted to experience things the way they had done it. In a way, I was a bit like Chris McCandless, but I had no illusions about living off the land without a lot of experience.

In 1971 I paddled the Bowron Lakes canoe circuit with a school buddy. Having read the books I mentioned and others, I knew I wanted a cotton tent. They breathed, right? Eddie Bauer had just come out with a dome tent, in cotton. That was my first mistake. The poles were not shock corded so it took two people to carefully assemble without have the whole house of cards, uh, poles, fall apart. Next the small fly would shrink when wet so that it could not be stretched over the poles.

Our packs were frame packs, mine my trusty B4. Frame packs don't fit into canoes well. I learned that the first day.

For fire building, I took a Woodsman's Pal. An interesting concept, I still have it and they are still made. It does none of its intended uses very well.

The canoe was an Old Town fiberglass canoe. Old Town makes good boats and this was no exception. It was built with hand laid GRP, the deck, seats and gunnels one molded piece that was glued to the hull. It had a balsa core. a sure sign of quality when building a pleasure boat. But it wasn't the right construction method for a canoe. It weighed a published 90 pounds and was probably more. A lot for a 16 foot canoe that was 12 inches deep.

It had no yoke or thwarts. So I had a guy here in Seattle who was a paddler, make a yoke. The problem was, he didn't like to carry canoes and had never made a yoke. It was painful and slid around on the canoe. (It was clamped on).

I wore Filson waxed tin pants, that eventually became wet and didn't dry for most of the trip.

I wore leather hiking boots that stayed just as wet as the pants.

On our first day, we portaged in rain(it was early June) through mud halfway to our knees. We leap frogged with a god of a man who had it all figured out. No half modern, half traditional gear for him. He had a sage green Chestnut, Woods packs and a small canvas tent. He wore rubber knee high boots and lightweight wool pants. And he had an HBC pattern axe and a small folding buck saw.

We encountered him throughout the first half of the trip. He was always across the port before us, sitting in camp, frying some fish, or just relaxing.

I learned that many old methods and gear work because they are time tested. I learned that new gear needs to be carefully designed by people who know what they are doing. I learned that waxed cotton has it's uses, but day after day in the rain isn't one. I also learned that many books, supposedly written by backwoodsmen about outdoor crafts, might make interesting reading, but have little practical value.

And to Clyde Ormond, author of "The Complete Book of Outdoor Lore", wherever he is, I say, "moccasins are not footwear for hiking in the muskeg...PERIOD!"

3:08 p.m. on September 24, 2013 (EDT)
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my dad is a forward-looking type who started us hiking and spending time in the outdoors in the early to mid 1970s.  we all had external frame packs back then, and all hiked in work shoes - herman survivors mostly.  we had 60-40 shell parkas for the wind, coated nylon rainsuits for the rain.  ever practical, my dad always got us easy to care for synthetic fill sleeping bags. 

on the forward-looking end of things, we used nylon tents - eureka timberline 2, a frame style.  pretty lightweight and utilitarian for that era.  he also was an early adopter of kevlar as a material for canoes; i ended up with my parents' kevlar Stowe Canoe Co. canoe, which is really gorgeous and weighs under 60 pounds.  which, at the time we bought it, was unbelievable. 

3:52 p.m. on September 24, 2013 (EDT)
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Andrew, after my trip on the Bowron Lakes, I rethought my gear choices. I climbed with cotton and then nylon rucksacks, bought an Expedition Crestline Tent which I quickly replaced with one of Todd Bibler's first Impotents, jettisoned the Bluet stoves for a SVEA 123R. I have kevlar/spectra, royalex and wood and canvas canoes, put my food in blue barrels on canoe trips and wear rubber knee high boots when canoe tripping. My usual tent of choice when hiking is either my Exped Venus or my Nemo Morpho 1P.

5:42 p.m. on September 24, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm still waiting for canvas tents to make a comeback.

As a Boy Scout in the 80's, we were never taught about sleeping pads. We just slept on ground clothes in our floorless, canvas tents.

I was also taught in our Boy Scout troop that a sleeping bag worked best with no clothes on. We were told the clothes kept the heat from warming up the bag.

I remember some very cold nights as a Boy Scout. But I always had fun.

6:48 p.m. on September 24, 2013 (EDT)
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My gear still hasn’t changed much. My first camping trips were spent under a canvas tarp or, often in the summer time, under the stars. The ground was covered in soft Caribou Lichens and mosses and I would just role up in a wool blanket next to a fire. The tarp was eventually replaced by an army surplus poncho, circa 1950’s, which I still use on occasion. By the time I purchased a tent I had years of camping in the open under my belt and remember feeling a little shut off from things, as it were, encased in nylon. Ironically, sleeping in a tent made me feel even more exposed than I did in the open where I could at least see everything around me. It took some time to get used to.

Much of my gear was Army Surplus; wool pants, boots, socks. I started to switch in the late 1980’s to synthetic fleece and Gore-Tex, but somehow something was missing. I found that nylon was very loud when bushwhacking and the fleece jackets just didn’t seem to last as long as my wool sweaters, nor were they as warm. So, in the early 90’s I returned to using wool and haven’t looked back…or forward.

I am also surprised at the cost of much of the gear these days. I could outfit myself for a couple hundred dollars of army surplus gear and go snowshoeing across the northern Yukon for months. Or, I could spend twice that much on a new Gore-Tex jacket. I am still scratching my head over the high price of “essential gear” nowadays. But, then that’s just me.

10:31 p.m. on September 24, 2013 (EDT)
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North, I think that part of the difference lies in marketing, the other in needs. My son, who I was fortunate enough to paddle with on the Big Salmon, spent four years at Keewaydin, a camp in northern Ontario. He finished his second year as a guide before our trip. They are out for six weeks each summer. It is a good test of what lasts. The first year, I sent him with what he had tripped with before. Nylon pants, fleece, Converse high tops(they wade a lot) and Chota Trekkers. Of course a wool shirt. The nylon pants didn't last the season, the Chotas barely did, and surprisingly, the Converse faired OK. But as the seasons came and went, he refined his kit to reflect what worked for him and the other campers and guides. Now the standard pant is Dickies, part nylon and part cotton. they last a season, even longer. Bean boots will last two seasons, but not much more. An old Eddie Bauer wool shirt(I think made by Filson) that is too small for me now, has lasted three years and will easily last another three for him. Other must have gear includes a sou'wester.

As far as cotton tents, I made a Baker out of egyptian cotton, and it is a great tent for drier climates. Last season at Keewaydin, my son and his assistant hauled out one of the old Keewaydin Woods wall tents. He liked being able to stand up in it, and easily being able to look out. Still, he returned to the Eureka dome tents this season.

After my Bowron trip, I found the beauty of wool, surplus pants, then knickers when I started climbing. A wool balaclava and boiled wool mittens, and a wool sweater. I still back country ski in wool knickers and at lunch my companions in lycra start layering up and complaining about the cold, and sit down on my ensolite pad and am happy to be wearing wool.

11:00 p.m. on September 24, 2013 (EDT)
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I started hiking when I was very young, my mother used to take me on walks in the woods when I was a toddler. My parents car camped when I was about 6 months old in the Catskills of upstate NY.

My first real backpacking trips were in the late 60's in Boy Scouts in NY, then California and finally Arkansas. We slept in canvas tents with huge aluminum poles in NY and CA, in Arkansas we used X military pup tents that were lighter but still heavy and bulky. 

I started on my own backpacking and hiking in 1977 when I hitchhiked 8000 miles around the USA. I had a external pack,a I-pole tent and my then 9 year old Boy Scout rectangular sleeping bag. The tent and pack came from TG&Y in southwest Arkansas.

I moved to Alaska in October 1977 and lived there 26 months and evolved thru tents,sleeping bags and packs that I used during the summers in Denali NP. I returned from Alaska to Arkansas in Dec 1979 with a TNF VE-24 tent, a Jansport D3 pack and a EMS (Eastern Mountaineering Sports) sleeping bag rated to -30 of down, when a bag of down went for $80. I also had a Ice Axe,crampons,and snowshoes (Tubbs). I spent the late winter/spring of Jan-May 1980 winter camping in Yosemite. It was wonderful!

Since then I have gone thru many types/brands of outdoor equipment. I have mainly summer camped in Wyoming and winter camped in the Grand Canyon and the mountains surrounding Tucson where it is mild compared to Yosemite or NW Wyoming in the winter months. 

I like different enviroments from desert to high alpine, sandstone to granite, volcanic rock to canyon land. I like new and challenging types of adventure travel. 

I am staying this winter in an area where it gets cold and it will snow. I have bought new equipment in down jackets,long underwear and comfy tent. I plan to try winter camping again in the sandstone country here in SW Utah.

10:29 a.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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There were six kids in my family. When we camped, we brought a 6-person canvas tent with steel poles (40 lbs?), and anybody who couldn't fit in either slept outside or crammed into the VW van. 

Our first canoe was an old Peterborough wood and canvas that had seen a hard life as a rental. It had been refinished with a fiberglass shell, which bumped the weight up to about 80 or 90 lbs, but made it pretty well indestructible. 

Later, as a teenager, my friends and I did canoe trips down the Rideau River from Ottawa to Kingston and back, and up the Ottawa as far as Fort Coulonge and Pembroke. We also had access to Algonquin Park, which had some great canoe routes. 

The tents were smaller - Canadian Tire dome tents - and that's where the '3 lb' sleeping bags came from, too. Cheap and not great, and sometimes we were wet or cold or both. Our stove was an old Coleman two-burner. Still quite heavy, but on the Rideau we could ride the locks instead of portaging.

One big difference between then and now is that when canoeing in eastern Canada, help was never very far away. There were a lot of small towns, and there was always a farm around the next corner. Even in Algonquin, the number of visitors meant that there was always someone else coming by. 

When I started hiking in Alberta 30 years ago, there was much less equipment available. The choices included small daypacks vs huge external frame backpacks, but little selection in between. The market for tents still included heavy canvas, but nylon was also available. Name brands like MSR and Black Diamond didn't exist or weren't available, but the market for lightweight hiking gear hadn't opened up yet. 

We might want to remember that back then, not many people went hiking, and fewer went backpacking. Then, as now, the number of people who go more than a kilometre from the trailhead is quite small. The mountaineers were around and there were a few people who hiked in the backcountry, but there wasn't the same demand for high tech equipment. From what I've seen, the current market in North America is mostly driven by the baby-boomers, and it's only since they started spending their money that equipment companies began manufacturing more modern gear. 

11:18 a.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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WOW!!! What a WEALTH of absolutely INTERESTING stuff, guys. My hiking life was far less exciting. I wish I had had such great experiences young so I would not have lost sight of outdoors activities for so long. Glad to be able to "know" you guys and learn as I go out and adventure now!~

11:36 a.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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My first pack was an army surplus rucksack stapled to a hand made wooden frame.  We ripped 1" strips of pine, nailed three cross posts to two verticals and to get really fancy we tied a couple of lengths of baling twine to the bottom to use as a belt.  Twine was also used to secure a canvas tent and a rolled up  blanket.  Food for a trip in those days consisted of a loaf of my mother's home made bread and a stick of summer sausage.

My pack and gear today are light and fancy but for some reason it seems a lot harder to climb 8p

12:09 p.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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In Seattle we had the advantage of REI, Eddie Bauer and Klineberger and Sons. Filson also had a small storefront, but they mainly supplied foresters. In the late sixties and early seventies, there was a boom in the outdoor industry on the west coast, more than other places. Larry Penberthy started MSR, Thermarest got going. Some of this was prompted by the downturn at Boeing when many engineers got laid off. Less than today certainly, but there was a lot of gear available. Canvas tents probably lasted longer in Canada because of Woods and others. Seattle's outdoor industry was oriented around climbing and backpacking, and so much good gear was available, with REI being the leader. Some products didn't last and rightly so. My Mallory flashlights were good quality, but I wanted a headlamp. At the time, REI sold French-made Wonder headlamps. They took a special battery which sat in a case on your belt. The plug to the headlamp looked like something I would have made at the age of ten, and the batteries rarely lasted very long. After nursing it along for a number of years, I tossed it and declared that it was a Wonder it ever worked.

Packs by Kelty, REI, Jansport, Gerry, Trapper Nelson, Sacs Millet and Bergans were sold at REI. Rope was Goldline, Mammut and Edelrid. Crampons were stamped REI, or if you had the bucks, you would buy Salewa.

What I find interesting, is that some gear today is looking like the gear of the past. Some packs, especially the ultralight ones, are using designs like the Sacs Millet packs I still have. The materials have changed, but the idea of limiting straps and zippers and compartments to minimize weight is interesting, as is the use of a compartment to hold a piece of foam that can also be used for a sleeping pad.

And so to, MSR makes an ultralight lean-to tent that is the spitting image of a Whelen tent.

12:16 p.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Nice topic Eric. Though I’m not really a gear-head, I enjoy reading about the technology changes. I’m 41 but my real backpacking experience only goes back a decade so I started with modern (though very cheap) equipment. It’s fascinating to read about the progression of materials and changes in philosophy. My own gear evolution is far less dramatic and not near as interesting. :)

As a young teenager I spent many nights with friends doing what I now think of as “beer camping” where we were really just going far enough out to not be caught with our alcohol. We would wear jeans and cotton tee shirts and usually only bring a blanket (if that). When it was cold we wore two pairs of jeans and socks on our hands. I remember admiring the forethought of a friend that once brought a piece of painters plastic as a shelter (none of the rest of us ever thought of that).  The main load was beer and maybe a few snack foods. We would often just sleep in the dirt or leaves. I recall one particular outing where I had covered up with leaves but must of collapsed on a spider nest (or something) because I awoke covered head to toe in small red bites the next morning.

I’ve always shared North’s dismay over the price of modern gear given that my very early experiences involved little to no equipment. (But of course in those days we were really only playing and partying). Still, I think of backpacking and trekking as natural and organic activity; spending loads of money equipping for it has always just seemed wrong in some base way.

As I’ve gotten older and had ( incrementally) more disposable income I’ve certainly spent what I consider a lot of money on equipment…..just to go walk in the woods.

Some of my early solo backpacking trips as an adult are laughable now when I think about the weird choices I made. One early trip included a collapsible camp chair that I never actually sat in, a big Coleman hand saw that I didn’t use, two sets of clothes that I never wore, and a double wall tent without the rainfly (??). So maybe my gear evolution has been more about gaining common sense than anything else. :)

2:02 p.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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backpacker magazine used to issue an annual gear guide that was a book - plenty of examples of the current gear at the time, but also lots of articles about various topics - how to keep your feet warm in the winter, etc.  kind of a blend of a gear guide and 'Freedom of the Hills,' albeit in a lightweight version geared for backpacking rather than mountaineering.  

i still have the 1977 gear guide.  It's a pretty entertaining read, a relic of a former era.  dome tents were relatively new at the time, and internal frame packs were one of the big new things.  the svea stoves were around, but i don't think the separate bottle stoves (eg the MSR or optimus stoves with a burner/hose/bottle design) had been invented.  leather boots were ubiquitous, with one of the key debates being whether split leather was an acceptable alternative to full grain leather.  in fact, mountaineering boots at the time were all of the leather double boot variety with a felt insert. 

i somehow doubt the guide is still under copyright protection, but in case it is, happy to post a list of the articles and to pdf specific articles in response to specific requests - for educational purposes only, of course, and because these articles have no commercial value given the evolution of gear since 1977.   

2:59 p.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

backpacker magazine used to issue an annual gear guide that was a book - plenty of examples of the current gear at the time, but also lots of articles about various topics - how to keep your feet warm in the winter, etc.  kind of a blend of a gear guide and 'Freedom of the Hills,' albeit in a lightweight version geared for backpacking rather than mountaineering.  

i still have the 1977 gear guide.  It's a pretty entertaining read, a relic of a former era.  dome tents were relatively new at the time, and internal frame packs were one of the big new things.  the svea stoves were around, but i don't think the separate bottle stoves (eg the MSR or optimus stoves with a burner/hose/bottle design) had been invented.  leather boots were ubiquitous, with one of the key debates being whether split leather was an acceptable alternative to full grain leather.  in fact, mountaineering boots at the time were all of the leather double boot variety with a felt insert. 

i somehow doubt the guide is still under copyright protection, but in case it is, happy to post a list of the articles and to pdf specific articles in response to specific requests - for educational purposes only, of course, and because these articles have no commercial value given the evolution of gear since 1977.   

 Be interested since I was in scouting at the time frame and would love to see what the issue was about..I saw the change from Canvas to Eureka sil nylon in our scout troop in the 80's.Now theres Cuben Fiber tents..What an Evalution we seen..

4:25 p.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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I kick myself because in 1980 I bought my first back pack and it was a kelty. After I got married and stopped playing outside, I let it hang in an unreliable shed and nevr thought of it again until I came to this site. I wonder what I had .... I have an imagination it was one of the most sought after and people would be begging me to sell it to them if I had it today....he he.

5:29 p.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Andrew said, "in fact, mountaineering boots at the time were all of the leather double boot variety with a felt insert." Andrew, the double boots existed, but were not the norm. The ones I had did not have a felt insert, but were made with an inner boot of nice soft leather that was well insulated. The outer boot was made of what was(and is) called Galluser leather, a heavy chrome tanned full grained leather. It is not so much a type but a product of the Galluser Company.

I had Le Trappeur double boots, I think the model may have been called the Fitzroy or possibly the Makalu. My regular climbing boots, and the ones that were quite hot at the time, were Super Guides by Remy Richard Pontvert and their line of outdoor boots were called Galibier. They are still made. Pontvert pioneered rubber soles back in the 1920's. A variant of the Super Guide was the Peuteray. The same boot but with a flexible cuff which made it easier to walk in.

I don't know if silnylon was around in the 80's. Most coated nylon from that period was urethane coated nylon. The early stuff from the sixities off-gassed horribly and smelled bad. It also peeled easily. The best cagoule I ever had(until the coating peeled)was one made by Crag, the wife of one of the owners of Swallow's Nest, a great little climbing shop that first worked out of a garage and then at a little place on Boat Street in Seattle. All their gear was very well made and designed. As they grew, they expanded into fly fishing and went to more and more expensive premises, which I think led to their ultimate demise.

While I mentioned Swallow's Nest, I should also mention Early Winters, which started selling regular gear of good quality and then switched to weird stuff like rosewood flashlights which killed them.

MSR was an outgrowth of Larry Penberthy's work on mountain safety. His first work was on ice axe shafts and he published in a little mag called Off Belay, which was a great little periodical. As a Boeing engineer, he was always interested in safety, so stoves were a natural outgrowth for him.

Gift, I am happy to report that I still have my Kelty B4, and though it doesn't get used much anymore, It did do a week long beach hike on the Olympic Peninsula a couple of years ago.

10:04 p.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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My first pack was an army duffle bag which I carried using a tumpline. I used it when I lived outside of Dawson in the late '70s. It weighed a couple pounds. When I made a bit of money I eventually purchased a North Face Ruthsac. That was my first genuine backpack, but it was heavier than my original rig. Around '82 I bought a Lowe Alpine Systems Lhotse, one of the largest internal frame packs at that time. Weighing about 5 pounds and made of coated pack cloth, it was very durable and 30 years later it is still in good condition, albeit stained and sewn in places. Now I mostly use my North Face Alpha Aurora pack which i bought in the early '90s. This pack is huge and I have carried well over 100 pounds of gear with it, 7 of which was the pack itself. There is a definite trend occurring here!

Now that I have written it down like this, I can see a real evolution in pack harness design. From my simple tumpline to the more plush padded straps and waist belt of the early 80s and finally to the much more advanced load transfer capability of the Alpha Aurora with its Delrin rod and moulded, dual density foam padding.

I also have two Woods canoe packs, simple bags with leather straps and a tumpline. I have no idea how old they are but I use them quite often for overnight canoe trips. They fit very nicely in the bottom of the canoe and even make a nice seat for relaxing. 

10:49 p.m. on September 25, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm somewhat ashamed to say that I just added up my packs and I have 12, not counting three blue barrels, a pack basket and a wannigan. Each is different and I use them at different times. One may have to go this year, my Bergans ruck sack. It has a metal tube frame and leather straps. It is beautifully made and in near mint condition. Maybe some collector will want it, along with my Fritz Ralling ice axe! 

The latter reminds me how much we used to modify or make gear as opposed to today where it it is often just purchased and used as is. A sewing machine was a frustrating thing at times, but I ended up making my own pack covers, a cagoule, a couple of bivy sacks and then the ultimate triumph, an elephants foot out of a 2 1/2 pound McKinley bag. I managed it without losing too much of the fill. Like many of my friends, the ice axe got modifications as we saw what people like Chouinard and Bill Forest were doing. We'd take the heads off, then heat and bend the picks so they curved and then grind more teeth in the pick to get better bite in ice.

I confess to being a bit nostalgic about it, the fact that someone would produce something in his garage for his own use and then his friends would latch onto it and it would become a business. Penberthy's MSR started that way, as did Thermarest and even the Duluth pack got its start with a packer named Poirier who thought he had a better idea.

This all begs the question. How many Trailspace users have made their own gear?

10:40 a.m. on September 26, 2013 (EDT)
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fair point about mountaineering boots at the time, i should clarify.  the galibier boots and other very heavy leather boots like them were used for mountaineering, and were not double boots.  had to be worn with insulated supergaiters for really cold weather - at least in the white mountains in the winter.

i preferred the double boots because they gave me less problems with crampons than the mountaineering boot/supergaiter situation.   

Galibier Super Guides are still being manufactured and sold in Europe:

http://mountaineering-boots-shop.com/en/welted-construction/12-galibier-super-guide.html#/size-45

12:38 p.m. on September 27, 2013 (EDT)
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My Dawson years were pretty lean as I was living on less than 1,000 dollars a year. This was by choice, mind you, as I didn’t work for pay beyond odd jobs on people’s homesteads. But I remember making much of my clothes from wool Army blankets, sewn by hand with waxed linen thread. What I sight I made; people would actually stop and stare at times when I was in town, but it seemed the more simply I lived the better I felt. When one shirt was thread bare and beyond repair I would buy another wool blanket for 20 dollars, lay the old shirt on top and cut around it.

Back then, most of my gear was either made, modified or improvised from whatever I could find. I took immense satisfaction in this. Even today I find that I don’t necessarily need the best, and therefore most expensive, equipment on the market because I know I have gotten by on far less.

11:46 a.m. on September 28, 2013 (EDT)
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There are many words in this discussion that jump off the page and are a delight to my ears. I long to hear words like Holubar, Trapper Nelson, Woods' Tents, etc. I have a high level of respect for any opinions expressed by Erich and North1 because I know that they subject their equipment to demanding conditions for long periods of time.

I began backpacking in 1961 with my Dad's Trapper Nelson and Army surplus. We read all the old authors and were really quite comfortable. I just returned from the Sacramento River last night, paddling the 1951 Old Town with wood paddles, and carrying Duluth Packs. We hooked some salmon in the 10-15 pound range but had trouble landing them from canoes in a lot of current.

People have been wearing Filsons in my family for 4 generations. I have had many relatives in the logging and sawmill business over the years down by Chehalis and Longview, WA. I still wear the "Alaskan Tuxedo" the forestry cloth cruiser jacket my Dad gave me when I finished forestry school at the U of Washington in 1976.

Seattle was and still is gear-head paradise in many ways. There is still a lot of great stuff being made in garages and small warehouses outside of town.

2:55 a.m. on September 29, 2013 (EDT)
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ppine, Thank you for putting me in the same category as North, but he has far more experience in the Arctic than I do. And BillS has deep experience as a climber that I can only admire. You raise an interesting point. There are many diverse climates of TS users. As well, the length of time each takes in the outdoors varies. A lightweight, but less durable tent might work for a week end or week long hike in the Sierra's in summer. And that tent might last five or ten such treks over ten years. But for some of those who subject gear to longer forays, durability often trumps light weight. That tent might show weaknesses on week four of one of my trips, and with only a needle and thread, field repairs are more than just an inconvenience. When I paddled the Finlay, I used a Prolite Thermarest that had stood me in good stead for several week long trips. On the Finlay, the lighter construction proved a problem, as it sprung multiple leaks(from camping in a rose thicket) on day five. On day sixteen, I had only found a handful of the leaks. Had I known the needs beforehand, I would have sacrificed compressibility for durability and gone with foam.

Similarly, I sent my son Ned off to his first year as a guide at Keewaydin with a pair of Bean Hunting shoes. While others claim their's have lasted generations, and I believe them, Ned's lasted two years as a guide. The soles are fine, but the leather is worn and the stitching is coming out.

When we write reviews or comment on products, readers should understand that we all come from different viewpoints and different needs. In my choice of gear to bring on a particular trip, I might choose my lightest down sweater and Goretex tent and a small canister stove for a simple overnight in the Cascades. For a four week Yukon trip, I'll take a wool shirt AND my light down sweater, my heavier but more comfortable Baker tent and my Optimus 111.

1:46 p.m. on September 29, 2013 (EDT)
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There will always be a place for canvas tents or their equivalent in the bush.

I think there will always be a place for the people in this discussion too.

July 31, 2014
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