Vintage Gear Collecting for Anyone

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.

Filed under: Gear News


0 reviewer rep
43 forum posts
November 4, 2010 at 10:53 a.m. (EDT)

I am a gear collector.

Started on a farm, where nothing is thrown away,

 recycle and repurpose are just recent ways to say farm as a verb.

I am a climber, hiker and trout fisherman.

Worse, I am an Outdoor Industry professional, rep and guide.

Way too much gear...

examples?  Alpenstock, handmade crampons and linen rope from first ascents in the Cascades in the 1910's/20's....

an amazing assortment of rock gear.....40 years will do that.

Ever heard of Black Ice?..I have a tent.

Camp 7, third incarnation?  sleeping bags from heaven..

Wilderness Experience Denali suit?

Mountaineering, ice climbing gear from 30 years of ice,

I think I have 12-15 pairs of cross country skis...and I live in Georgia!

Mostly mounted and used, but some new vintage skiis too.

Mica based Epokes, Fishers of a couple kinds, a pair of beautiful, untouched Birkebiener wood skis...way too much.

So much, so little time, need to sort, etc.

Think I'll go for a hike.


0 reviewer rep
1,156 forum posts
November 4, 2010 at 2:16 p.m. (EDT)

I've slowed my collecting down a great deal over the past several years, though I never stop looking.  The slowdown is mostly due to lack of space to keep packing items away and lack of time to get out as often as I would like.  My kids are at that age where my wife and I are constantly driving them to and from activities leaving little time for weekend solo trips.  Like all eras of parenting, this era will pass soon; sooner than I would like.  That said, I've found it is easier to collect gear than to find time to use gear.  Eventually free time will open up and I'll get out more and put my collection to use.

None of my items are worth much, I doubt I have anything which would fetch as much as $500, mostly I collect items I would have liked while I was growing up but didn't have money to buy them at the time they were new.

Mica based Epoke's - that had to be a short lived idea, but I do remember them.  I have a pair of waxable Epoke 900's, still a great ski after all these years.

Black Ice - 60/40 anorak.

Wilderness Experience - quicksilver backpack.

Camp 7 - North Col sleeping bag

I have a great collection of Rivendell Jensen packs as well as quite a few knock-off's.  Amazing how often that pack was copied; Choinard, Gerry, Camp Ways, Kletterwerks, Granite Stairway Mountaineering, Palisade Mountaineering and several others whose names escape me.

Sigg Tourist Kits for the Svea 123, Borde Bomb, Peak 1 and MSR plus a couple sizes of stacking Sigg pans.

Lots more packs/tents/stoves/cookware..............

0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts
November 18, 2010 at 2:35 a.m. (EST)

I love "alan"'s wordings! They somehow describe my lifestyle as well. I save with a lot of difficulty to buy the right gears to use them but unfortunately I have one big problem: my parents. They always nag about spending even a fraction of my time outdoors, each time I hear them saying: "don't go there... you'll die... it's risky..." So, all the stuff that was supposed to be necessary and essential for my adventures have now become good for museum. Only if some parents had little understanding (the irony is that my father himself has been to most of the places during 1970's when he was young and now that his son, me, wants to go there with his friends - and NOT ALONE LIKE HIMSELF!!!! - it becomes dangerous all of a sudden!!!)


Bottom the line, if you are the type that has a lot of money and a nagging wife/husband/father/mother and still have some interest in outdoors go on buying and collecting the gear that pleases your mood and mind or else you have to reconsider :))

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