reflections on hiking with old school gear

3:12 p.m. on December 4, 2016 (EST)
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a little while ago, I posted something about wearing old stuff.  today, I had a few free hours for a hike and decided to wear some of the old school stuff - things I would have worn on a hike when I was in high school.  there are my observations about that experience.

It was 38 degrees when I left the house this morning, 45 when I returned.  cloudy, very little wind.  normally, that would mean wearing a pair of lightweight shorts or possibly a pair of tights, some kind of synthetic or merino shirt, then another layer, wind shell or a fleece, perhaps - that I would shed as I got moving.  I had a wool cap and some light synthetic gloves; I carried a day pack with water and a few extra things.

THE GEAR

some of the 'old' stuff I wore is still part of my normal gear for a short day hike.  I would wear the boots (limmer standards) and carry the pack (mystery ranch snapdragon) on any hike.  I wore an old long sleeved cotton canvas Patagonia shirt, and I wore a pair of cotton canvas long pants.  I threw a very old fleece into the backpack.  

I cheated a little.  I no longer own the rage wool socks I used to. hike with, and that I used to wear with liner socks to keep my feet clear of the prickly wool.  no love lost for those.  I wore a pair of FITS hiking socks.  the underwear were something relatively recent that wick moisture well, and the t-shirt I wore is a 200 weight icebreaker merino T.

OBSERVATIONS

cotton canvas has some great properties.  it allows some moisture to get out, and it does a good job cutting a breeze.  on a rocky trail like the one I was on today, canvas tends to absorb scrapes and scuffs easily.  however, heat regulation is not one of its strong points.  moisture absorption is another.  when cotton canvas gets wet, it gets heavy, and it stays wet.  after about fifteen minutes, I was sweating too hard to stick with the canvas shirt, leaving me to hike in the merino t shirt.  

I didn't have the option to ditch the canvas pants.  the rocks didn't make any impact.  they weren't as bad, probably because they are a more recent and lighter-grade cotton canvas.  still, by the end of the hike, the waist band and parts of the knees were damp.  

the boots were, as usual, fantastic.  thick all-leather boots adapt to your feet over time, and these boots fit me like a glove.  good merino socks definitely help, though.  ditto for the backpack - one of the most comfortable suspensions on a small pack that I have encountered.

the merino T, heavier than average at 200 g/m squared, is a sort of secret weapon for cool to cold weather hiking.  wool does a nice job helping you feel dry anyway; the thicker t shirt is surprisingly warm.  it says something that I was comfortable hiking in the low 40s in a wool t shirt, along with a wool cap and some light gloves.

the fleece stayed in the backpack, but I put it on over the t shirt when I hopped back into my car.  heavily pilled, but it remains extremely comfortable.  

3:24 p.m. on December 6, 2016 (EST)
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I still like the old school clothes, especially Filsons.  They are heavy but outperform everything else.  I really like wool and down. Some of my outdoor clothes are 40 years old and like old friends.

7:32 a.m. on December 7, 2016 (EST)
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Filson' waxed cotton seems like it would last a very long time.  I just reproofed  an oilskin jacket that is closing in on 25 years old, but it is the kind of jacket that might be great for sitting still or ambling around on a wet day, keeping someone company while they hunt (I don't hunt but don't begrudge others who like it)..  wouldn't hike in it, though..  

2:15 p.m. on December 7, 2016 (EST)
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You would if you were hiking in a place with no trails.

I still have some old backpacking equipment but do not use most of it except for aluminum cookware from 1961.

7:23 a.m. on December 8, 2016 (EST)
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I have a 25 year old Carhartt jacket that still gets worn every winter on field days for work. Nothing gets through it...briers, branches, no problem. It's my shield from cuts and scrapes as well as cold and is a comfortable home for me to slip into knowing I'll be happy and warm down to around 0 with the right stuff under it.

As I pack tonight for a cold weather backpacking trip this weekend down to the 10 degree range  (cold for the southeast at least), I always toy with the idea of hauling it along but the weight savings have won out so far. I grudgingly leave my old friend behind and stick with the newer lighter combinations.

11:22 a.m. on December 8, 2016 (EST)
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About half of my outdoor clothes are 20 years or older.

I like to take out a Kelty external once in awhile. Most of my friends still use them.

4:35 p.m. on December 8, 2016 (EST)
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Now that you mention it, my Patagonia capilene base layer for winter was new in the early 90s. Still works great. Should probably invest in a new set but it's tough to do that with it working and wearing so well.

7:42 a.m. on December 11, 2016 (EST)
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Old school clothing --- M1951 artic pants shell with nylon liner and M1951 suspenders.  Seems the snow boarder "discovered" them a few years ago, but they don't use the suspenders so I have no idea how they keep them up.

Resized-Mount-Rogers-Lunch---12-Feb-16.j

8:06 a.m. on December 12, 2016 (EST)
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my first winter hiking, I wore military surplus wool pants - double seat, double knees, needed suspenders - that looked a lot like those.  they worked fine if the wind wasn't blasting.  they were heavy and bulky for extended hiking or climbing, but the primary goal at that point was staying warm and getting an inexpensive solution. 

10:10 a.m. on December 12, 2016 (EST)
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Dear me, mystery ranch and patagonia are "old School?"  To me they are cutting edge.  Old School are Holubar and Gerry.  If I still had some of their stuff I would be still using it, at least occasionally

8:05 a.m. on December 13, 2016 (EST)
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FlipNC said:

I have a 25 year old Carhartt jacket that still gets worn every winter on field days for work. Nothing gets through it...briers, branches, no problem. It's my shield from cuts and scrapes as well as cold and is a comfortable home for me to slip into knowing I'll be happy and warm down to around 0 with the right stuff under it.

As I pack tonight for a cold weather backpacking trip this weekend down to the 10 degree range  (cold for the southeast at least), I always toy with the idea of hauling it along but the weight savings have won out so far. I grudgingly leave my old friend behind and stick with the newer lighter combinations.

 I never think of my Carhart jacket or Bibs as part of my outdoor gear..There over 11 years old...Keep me warm on a job site and use them all winter long...Your right they're heavy and durable...

4:45 p.m. on December 13, 2016 (EST)
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mystery ranch is basically a reboot/upgrade of dana design, old school compared to many of today's ultralight options.  that snapdragon weighs almost five pounds.  that's about 40% more than a ULA catalyst, with about half the storage capacity.  my really old backpack is an eastern mountain sports external frame, over 35 years old, hangs out with the Sherpa modified bearpaw snowshoes at my parents' house.  PS, the snowshoes are almost 30 years old.  on their third set of bindings, still very functional (and very heavy).  

patagonia, of course, is still around and thriving, but the fleece and canvas shirt are both closing in on thirty years old.  my first fleece was a chuck roast, but it got swiped a few decades ago.  

9:23 a.m. on December 15, 2016 (EST)
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I have some Tenth Mtn Division ash and rawhide snowshoes from WWII. I will never own any plastic and steel ones.

9:32 a.m. on December 15, 2016 (EST)
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My oldest piece of Patagonia gear (baggies shorts) was purchased in 1982.  It's still functional, although it is showing its age a bit. But the, so am I....

11:55 p.m. on December 15, 2016 (EST)
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I just wrote a review of Austrian Dachstein boiled wool mittens. I've worn them inside nylon gauntlet style mitten shells at -40 F. and still had warm hands.

You can still buy them today in different weights. Mine were the heaviest and they are extremely thick and dense. No other mittens come close. BUT... they not cost $60.

Another "old school" thin I used to wear hunting were German Army surplus winter wool pants. They had a Hypalon type waterproof lining from top of the thigh over the knee in front only. This made them very comfortable in windy conditions. 

I bought my German wol surplus pants one size big and shrunk them in a dryer then rubbed in Sno Seal wax on the legs and seat for water resistance. Still have them and will donate them to the Salvation Army this year as I have lighter, warmer Duluth Trading fleece lined nylon cargo pants these days.

Eric B.

9:49 a.m. on December 17, 2016 (EST)
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I wear the dachstein mitts frequently, including this morning.  couldn't say what weight they are - they could be 3 ply.  they're thick wool, and I sized them large enough to wear a liner glove underneath.  the first pair I had were thicker, stiffer wool, lasted for over 20 years.  eventually wore a hole in one of the thumbs.  

these mitts were my backups for winter hiking/climbing until a particularly cold weekend.  I wore them with a liner and shell gauntlets on a -20 day and was pretty uncomfortable - no frostbite, but my fingertips were numb on and off.  
dachstein.jpg

1:07 p.m. on December 17, 2016 (EST)
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I still x-c ski in wool breeks. One thing I would add, Andrew, regarding cotton, as well as wool, is how it is loomed. Cotton can be regular canvas, the 10oz duck that Filson uses, or things that are more high tech like egyptian cotton and the very wonderful, Ventile. Wool, can the the dachstein boiled wool, merino or combinations with cotton and nylon to make it more durable. I still hike and paddle with various "old school" gear. Often, it comes back into "style".

5:26 p.m. on December 25, 2016 (EST)
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I replaced the waist belt and re-built the shoulder straps on my old red Kelty B-5 pack and Mountaineer frame. Works perfect and rides well. When I was in the big load hauling days-small kids and Scouts, I have a Dana Design Astralplane Over-Kill in basic black. I still use it when I'm leading outdoor education trips with my rookie urban students. 

I still carry cotton khakis or wool trousers and with a Pendleton/Woolrich shirt and a down vest I've really never been cold in camp. Hiking , I wear fraying cotton khakis and a wool T-shirt and 35 year old Vasque Sundowners with  ragg wool socks. My hat is a treasured cotton ball cap from Talkeetna Taxi Service after an epic flight and glacier landing on Denali.

All my stuff is durable and it works. The outdoor industry spends a lot of money convincing you that you are inadequate if you don't buy special clothes for hiking. 

5:48 p.m. on December 29, 2016 (EST)
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I have USN artic wool socks.  I'm looking for more.

9:48 a.m. on December 30, 2016 (EST)
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I retired an old saddle back in 2005 that was made around 1900. I had some leather saddle bags from WWI.  I rode it for decades and it started to wear out so I traded it for a canoe.

8:30 a.m. on December 31, 2016 (EST)
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10:18 p.m. on January 27, 2017 (EST)
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Bill Hudson said:

I have USN artic wool socks.  I'm looking for more.

 Are they the off colored white ones the Navy uses? If so Sportsman''s Guide and/or Coleman's Surplus had them last month. They are 'sized' correct? They are sold in a 3 pack I believe.

12:06 a.m. on January 28, 2017 (EST)
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I have to ask why anyone would actually, willingly no less, seek out the usn arctic wool socks? They rate about a 1 or 2 on the 10 scale of good winter socks.

I mean they really suck, in just about every measurable way.

If you really want some, I probably have 8 or 10 pairs brand new sitting in my storage unit I think. Along with lots of other USN issue stuff. And yes they are the cream/off white color socks. 70% wool 30% cotton. They are the 10-11.5 size.

12:15 p.m. on January 28, 2017 (EST)
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The old backpacking equipment was very functional.  Some of it was heavy like the old leather boots, and the tents.  We were a lot younger then and didn't notice the weight. 

I like adage talked about in Mike McClellon's book.  We used to make a big deal out of "being in camp" and brought a lot of stuff that is not really that necessary.  Now people are more concerned about "being on the trail."  Lighter equipment has helped to extend my backpacking career. I am hoping to go until at least the age of 75.

1:32 p.m. on January 28, 2017 (EST)
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TheRambler said:

I have to ask why anyone would actually, willingly no less, seek out the usn arctic wool socks? They rate about a 1 or 2 on the 10 scale of good winter socks.

I mean they really suck, in just about every measurable way.

If you really want some, I probably have 8 or 10 pairs brand new sitting in my storage unit I think. Along with lots of other USN issue stuff. And yes they are the cream/off white color socks. 70% wool 30% cotton. They are the 10-11.5 size.

 I believe socks are just one of those things that vary with different people because of hot or cold or sweaty feet and maybe the nerve feelings from say injury or diabetes.

I've worn, not exclusively, the Navy socks for many years and for me they far surpass many new socks. I find them as warm as my heavy weight Alpaca socks both without liners.

2:38 p.m. on January 28, 2017 (EST)
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I agree they are definitely warm, and work in that regards. But I find in comparison to say a darn tough mountaineering sock that they fall short in the comfort and durability department. They also do not tend to dry out very quickly at all due to the decent amount of cotton in them.

I use or have used quite a bit of surplus gear, and while I find most of it very functional and useful though sometimes on the heavy side, these socks are one of the items I abandoned long ago.

If anyone wants them, I will be happy to ship them to you. Have probably at least 8 new pairs or so.

4:42 p.m. on January 28, 2017 (EST)
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Rambler...My big 'con' with the USN sock is they will shrink if dried quickly.

I'll take those socks if 1. Bill Hudson [above] doesn't want them and 2. if you don't mind me giving them to someone who'd love them. They won't fit me tho and I have 3 new pair. Your choice.

November 20, 2019
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