How Does the ’70s’ Lightest Backpacking Gear Stand As much as Right now’s_

Considered by means of a contemporary lens, happening a backpacking journey fifty years in the past appears to be like like a tortuous affair. The gear was heavy and uncomfortable. Everybody cooked meals in forged iron skillets and hiked in blue denims. For an ultralight hiker within the twenty first century, a classic gear catalog advertises nothing however nightmares. Is that this image wholly correct, although? Might an aspiring ultralighter outfit themselves utilizing solely gear that was out there within the Seventies? We combed by means of gear catalogs and again problems with Backpacker to search out out.

An exterior body pack (Photograph: Joel Carillet by way of Getty)


There’s no query about it: Within the Seventies, exterior body packs had been king. Certain, Greg Lowe developed his first inner body mannequin in 1967, however on the time, they weren’t extensively standard, nor did they provide important weight financial savings over exterior body packs. In truth, Backpacker editors issued a press release in a 1975 backpack round-up that appears ridiculous at the moment: “The benefit of the [external, aluminum frame pack] lies in its mild weight.” So it’s protected to say that even the aspiring light-weight hikers of the 70s would go for an exterior body.

One of many high decisions in that 1975 round-up was the Jansport Cascade F2C10, which Backpacker rated essentially the most comfy in addition to the lightest within the check. It featured about 40 liters of quantity, weighed three kilos, and price $55.

Right now, Zpacks makes a hybrid inner/exterior body mannequin, the Arc Haul, that greater than measures up. The 60-liter model has 50 p.c extra carrying capability, and weighs in at simply 21.4 ounces.

Verdict: Fail. Whereas the Jansport Cascade is not any heavyweight, it may possibly’t be thought-about ultralight both. Clearly, pack design and materials innovation has come a great distance.

Sleeping bag-testing from an earlier decade (Photograph: Layne Kennedy by way of Getty)

Sleeping Baggage

A high-quality sleeping bag is a reasonably easy idea: high-loft down insulation wrapped up within the lightest cloth you’ll find. And since goose down had lengthy since been found by the ’70s, it stands to cause that sleeping luggage from the period would examine properly to trendy choices, regardless of apparent enhancements in cloth weight and sturdiness.

Take, for instance, the Fairydown sleeping luggage produced by Arthur Ellis and Firm in Dunedin, New Zealand. The Everest Sierra mannequin weighed in at 3 kilos 8 ounces and featured chevron-shaped baffles for added loft. Temperature scores for baggage weren’t commonplace then, however because the Everest Sierra was examined in Arctic circumstances and endorsed by none aside from trailblazing explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, it’s protected to say it was designed to deal with correctly chilly circumstances.

In distinction, a contemporary zero-degree down bag from a good model, just like the Kodiak from Western Mountaineering, weighs in at 2 kilos, 12 ounces. The load financial savings are substantial, however not large.

Verdict: Go. A contemporary sleeping bag will prevent a couple of ounces, due to lighter materials. It additionally would possibly include waterproof down, a severe quality-of-life improve. However the fill energy (and due to this fact total weight) of down insulation has barely budged over the many years, making a ’70s-era bag completely serviceable at the moment.

A classic Eureka! tent (Photograph: Backpacker)


By the ’70s, freestanding tents had been all the fad. They shortly changed finicky pup tents that required cautious staking and quite a few guylines, and producers went all-in on the brand new designs that versatile tent poles enabled. Many tents from the period had been palatial, oddly formed, and fairly heavy. One of many easier and extra enduring designs was the Eureka Timberline, a freestanding A-frame that the model contends was the world’s first double-wall shelter. It was constructed of 1.9 oz ripstop nylon (not featherlight by at the moment’s requirements, however nonetheless in huge use), however nonetheless tipped the scales at practically eight kilos. It’s nonetheless in manufacturing at the moment, although you gained’t discover many deep within the backcountry.

As compared, practically each 2-person backpacking (and automotive tenting) tent weighs much less these days. One of many lightest freestanding, double-wall choices, the Large Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2, clocks in at 2 kilos, 11 ounces (path weight.)

Verdict: Fail. The distinction between a contemporary tent and one from the ’70s is stark. Attempting to eke out a 10-pound baseweight with a tent just like the Timberline can be just about unattainable. One caveat, although: Tarp customers would do exactly high quality. Light-weight tarps offered as emergency shelters had been extensively out there fifty years in the past.

The Vargo Triad Range (Photograph: courtesy)

Camp Stoves

White fuel stoves and early iterations of butane canister burners dominated the pages of magazines and catalogs within the ’70s. However tucked away in a 1976 Backpacker range evaluate we discovered the REI Alcohol Range. On the time, editors referred to it as an “emergency backup range,” clearly unaware that in a couple of quick many years, hordes of ultralight backpackers would contemplate it all of the range they’d ever want.

At 3.5 ounces, the classic REIstove is a bit portly in comparison with trendy alcohol burners—a Vargo Triad weighs only one ounce. Nonetheless, the general weight distinction is small.

Verdict: Go. The REI Alcohol Range wouldn’t look misplaced in a contemporary gear retailer. For the ’70s-era backpacker, the problem can be getting over the stigma of alcohol stoves as an emergency software.

Settling in for a chilly evening on a flimsy sleeping pad (Photograph: Backpacker)

Sleeping Pads

Maybe unsurprisingly, closed-cell foam pads—the pad of selection for dedicated weight weenies—have been round for many years. However there are many us who aren’t devoted sufficient to sacrifice a cushty evening’s sleep for weight-savings. Within the ’70s, pads like Cascade Designs’ authentic Therm-a-rest proved way more supportive, but additionally far heavier. Light-weight and opulent choices had been few and much between, however the Hampshire Air Mattress was one such selection.

The total-length model clocked in at solely 15 ounces, in step with trendy pads. In response to evaluations, nonetheless, it wasn’t practically as user-friendly. It had six baffles, every of which wanted to be inflated individually, and felt like “sleeping on six elongated balloons.” Moderately than filling every tube to capability, customers needed to inflate every tube about two-thirds full and equalize the air in every baffle to make sure a flat sleeping floor. It was additionally uninsulated, and certain uncomfortably chilly besides in summertime circumstances.

Right now, there are a variety of choices to select from amongst air mattresses, most of that are insulated, remarkably comfy, and light-weight—the Thermarest NeoAir Xlite weighs in at simply 12.5 ounces.

Verdict: Fail. Regardless of their low weight, ’70s-era air mattresses had been mainly glorified seashore rafts marketed to backpackers. A contemporary pad can be hotter, extra comfy, and simpler to inflate.