How many remember the good ole days. Trailwise frame pack, rectangular sleeping bag, cooking those pork and beans over a fire, Chopping woods with your hatchet, canvas tent, 5 pound boots, making flapjacks for breakfast.
Nope. For me the good old days never included meals in a can, nor chopping wood. And the tent was a plastic tube tent, not canvas. But we did drink straight from the stream. And in those days I think I did most of my hike in COnverse tennis shoes!
Bob Since you started the Colin Fletcher thread, you know that for many of us the trailwise pack came later. I'd rather carry a cruiser axe than a hatchet and I never like pork and beans, beans yes but pinto beans not baked.
Rectangular flannel lined sleeping bags were and are more comfortable than nylon mummy sacks, just a tad heavier but definitely roomier, and much more comfortable if you were gonna spend a whole summer using it. I wore out three of them and even used em in the winter - without a pad under it. Needing a nylon 800 down bag is for weight and style, not comfort, sort of like everybody needs an internal or frameless pack now instead of an external, mostly for looks and style. People need free standing tents now even though tube tents and hoop tents are roomier for the same weight. Iron skillets worked much better than titanium, so did aluminum boy scout cook sets. I remember I was really styling when I moved up from wood fires to a Sterno stove. Mind you my base pack weight never went over 18 pounds. We didn't need no stinking tent anyway, a ground cloth worked well and if it rained you flipped the edge over you.
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.
Ah sterno, what was it that Colin said; "Conjures up outdated pictures of cold, wet groups huddled hopefully around a small pot perched on a smaller can waiting for water to boil. Waiting... and waiting... and waiting...." Flannel sleeping bag with the little canopy that covered your head. Pinto beans and vienna sausages. mmh good
Loc: California, USA
I have some great memories as a kid in the Sierra Mountains. My Grandfather is 96 years old and has been going to the Sierras since he was a child. He has taken my sisters and me every year for the past 33 years. Things have changed since then to make our life easier but the good ole days were fun.
Loc: Birmingham, England, UK
Hi, I'm a new member.
I'm a day hiker rather than a backpacker these days. Although I am considering doing some backpacking.
I did a little backpacking in my younger days. I'm now 49. 33 years ago at the age of 16 I was a member of the Boys' Brigade here in the UK. I did a two day backpack in a group for the Duke of Edinburgh Award and remember using a frame pack and rectangular sleeping bag.
I think we also had a canvas tent and shared the load between us. I remember the boots being pretty heavy too (and I got blisters).
We didn't chop wood with a hatchet as we had a gas stove and Flapjacks are not something we had in the UK. However, we did cook pork sausages and baked beans (from a can).
My memory is fading these days so can't remember much more.
I remember my cousin and I at around 13 "packing" up the far side of the river in Kings Canyon NP. Our familys were camped in the regular campground. We took our 6 or 7 lb. rectangle bags, a canvas pup tent, our fishing gear, hunting knives and food. We had WWII army surplus Knapsacks with our sleeping bags straped on. We took turns carrying the tent in our arms. Our food consisted of a couple of cans of tuna and some french rolls with candy bars for desert. That was 40+ years ago and I still won't eat tuna from a can.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
My first backpacking trip was in the summer of 1942 and the gear was quite different. We had down sleeping bags (probably the last pre-World War II bags available), but the shells were waxed cotton. The tent, a 3-person tent weighing 12 lbs, considered lightweight in those days, was made of long-staple Egyptian cotton, treated with paraffin. There were no hip belts on packs in those days; my parents used tump lines (band around the forehead connected to the pack). My mother, who weighed about 115 lbs., carried close to 60 lbs.; my father carried about 70. I was only 6 years old and carried 5 lbs. Clothing of course was cotton and wool, and a big effort was made to keep it dry. Drying out in front of the campfire at night before bed time was an important part of this process, involving up to 2 hours of standing, turning and waving of wet socks.
I frankly don't miss that old heavy gear; I'd rather have what we have now so I can carry it!
Edited by OregonMouse (07/20/1005:23 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
When I first started I backpacked with the heaviest of packs. It wasn’t necessarily the pack’s weight, but rather the contents. I carried a lot of canvas items, several parts for a Sterno stove, and the Sterno cans. My food was usually fairly fresh and my sleeping bag was a family car camping sack of rocks. Strapped to the outside of my pack was a Garcia freshwater fishing pole. I used short, nylon cord strips to tie the pole to the pack and I had two socks tied to ‘D’ rings near the pole. In one sack I had a small Mitchell spinning reel and in the other I had tackle that included a bottle of Pautzke’s green lidded salmon eggs. I carried a small can of Crisco cooking oil and a small frying pan for the fish I would eat.
After 2 years I started noticing what other backpackers carried and used as a pack. With my part time job money I bought a new White Stag, down sleeping bag. I also found that packs could be lighter and nylon was a magical new material. My first externally framed pack was a Himalayan. The pack had slick brochures attached to it that had smiling people bounding over hills in the Big Sur area. The campaign slogan that still sticks out is: “Our packs will turn your dead weight into live weight”. I fell for the whole slick sales package. I pictured myself floating over the trail with a lighter than air pack full of modern wilderness tools.
The one thing that I lusted after (and needed) was a compact stove. Pico’s Sporting goods in downtown Lompoc had a small corner of their store dedicated to backpacking. In that corner was a Svea stove. This beautiful, exotic, foreign device was calling my name. My 16th birthday was coming up and I left many hints around that the stove would be perfect for a young man that was into wilderness travel. Every time we went downtown I forced a side trip to Pico’s. The people that ran the store became quite familiar with me and my family. My brothers were sick of my obsession. I was the odd brother. Why didn’t I hang out in the baseball area of the store? Was I deranged? Was I a Communist? No, I just enjoyed backpacking and fishing for those funny little trout in those funny little streams. And I couldn’t imagine doing all that without a compact, white gas burning stove.
My birthday finally arrived. The small pile of presents did not show any promise, by shape or size, of being a stove. My dreams were as close to being shattered as any mountain man’s could be shattered. My Dad was almost apologetic as he handed me a flat, semi-soft package. He said that he had gotten it while on a trip to San Francisco earlier in the year. I tried to be enthused as I ripped the wrapping off of the strangely shaped offering.
It was a brown case that contained a backpackers fishing pole. The side of the case said, in gold letters, South Bend. I unzipped the case and slid the 6 pieces of fiberglass fishing rod out and onto the table. A new world was opening up and I was having trouble comprehending. It had never crossed my mind that I needed another fishing ‘pole’. This one was completely different than anything I had ever seen. It was dark gold/orange with brown wrapping around the ferrules. The handle was the strangest part. My Dad said that it was set up so that I could put a spinning reel on one part of the handle and a fly reel (“Whatever that was”) on the other part. My mind was spinning with the possibilities of this small set up that could actually break down and fit into my pack. I had forgotten about the stove and my hidden bitterness of not getting the dream machine. I started talking a million miles an hour to anyone that would listen. I knew just how to make this whole thing work. My beat up Herter’s catalogue had fly fishing equipment. The stuff that looked light and, compared to what I had been using, looked exotic.
After a couple of minutes of my exuberance my brothers started making noise about not opening their gift to me. Without showing it, I irritably diverted my attention from the new fishing stuff to the gift that they stuck in front of me. They were grinning and from the size and shape of the crudely (but with love) wrapped boxed I just knew that I was getting a couple of baseballs for my birthday. With the thought that they were in a conspiracy to normalize their older brother bothering me I ripped the bright red paper off of the gift. Appearing out of the wrapping carnage was my stove. Now I was grinning and, to the disgust of both the younger boys, they got a bear hug each.
Within a couple of weeks I was in possession of, thanks to Grandma’s birthday money, a brand new Pfleuger Medalist fly reel. With the addition of fly line, leaders, tippet material and a few store–bought flies, I was set. I could fill my new pack with food, sleeping bag and fishing gear and be self sufficient for weeks at a time in the Sierra Nevada wilderness areas.
My Dad gave me the Sierras and my Mom taught me how to appreciate them.
When I was about 12 years old my Dad retired from the military and took a job in California’s growing electronic defense industry. The proximity of wilderness and fishing areas created a basis for family camping trips during the summers of my youth. Dad was always coming home with plans for great fishing places that he had heard about. His knowledge always included tid-bits on how to specifically catch certain types of trout. “If we want to catch these lake trout”, he would say, “we will have to use Pautzke’s Green Labeled salmon eggs”. “Ya see…ya hafta keep the jar upside down until you’re ready to put an egg on your hook”. “That way the eggs stay moist and plump”.
This went on for a couple of years until long lost Uncle Leo, who lived in Bishop visited us while we were camping at Rock Creek Lake. ‘Fly and a bubble’ fishing was introduced to us and life changed. Uncle Leo had turned me onto pure flyfishing without knowing what he had done. So the transition from fly and bubble fishing sent me down the path of evil. It was no great leap, then, to get a multi-piece rod and never use the spin portion of the handle. It only took me 1 season to figure out that I could cut the bands off that held the spin reel on and then have a smooth, unencumbered cork grip.
The quality of my trips improved. Without being noticed, I spent a lot of time watching other feather flingers. I would then try and copy their style and motions. I remember sitting high on the cliffs above Mono Hot Springs Creek watching a woman work a set of riffles. I waited a good 20 seconds after she went around the corner before crashing down the cliff and imitating her casting. As a reward for learning I caught 2 really nice trout. I slowly figured out what ‘bugs’ to carry and how to match what was hatching.
I would spend one to three weeks every summer through high school packing and fishing somewhere in the Sierras. I would return home by bus or a ride from Dad with stories of mountains, trails, people and fish. Mom would quiz me differently than Dad. Dad always wanted to know daily trail mileages, fish counts, and number of people on the trail. I think the engineer in him needed those things. Mom would ask what color the sky was when I would mention how late the sun went down. She wanted to know what the night sky was like. Could I see a lot of stars? Was it a nice way to fall asleep? Were there flowers at high altitude and what colors where they? All of those questions made me think of these things and then start to look for answers before the questions.
My last summer trip while living at home was right after graduation from high school. I spent 6 weeks in the Sierras between Lake Mary and the Kern Gorge. I fished everything that I thought could or should have fish. My fishing IQ exploded from trial, error and practice to knowledgeable journeyman. Three times I had to re-supply food and white gas. The first time for re-supply I left the wilderness and met Dad in South Lake. When I got to the road he was there as planned. He always managed to sneak away and support my trips. He also always managed to bring along a rig of some sort to catch fish. We spent a glorious night having real food from a restaurant and sleeping on a mattress very near a shower in a motel.
I was quizzed about the trip so far and answered with statistics and ‘color’ commentary. I described techniques and flies and water structures when talking about the fishing. I also described the color of the fish and how they fought and how they seemed appreciative when returned to the water. I told him how I had found wild onions along some of the banks of my creeks that I fished and how they added spice to my ration of food.
Years later I was in the upper Kern gorge fishing. Even though there had been many advances in fly rods, I was still using the old South Bend rod with a new Pfleuger reel. The sun, the trees, the water and my rod brought a flood of memories back to me that day. I remembered my roots and my supporters. After I returned home from that trip I called my Dad. By that time he was too old to be wandering around fishing the way we used to. I made a point from there on to tell him, in detail, what I did on each trip. He seems to live in the backcountry with me this way. He is 91 now and I still call and tell him about my trips. I have added a digital camera to my pack rig and he gets first shot at the photos. Mom on the other hand wants to hear me describe the backcountry in my own words without ‘devices’ interfering.
I have since retired the South Bend rod. It was repaired a few times from normal wear and a dog once chewed enough of the cork that I replaced it with a cigar shaped grip. The dog is long gone but the rod is hanging next to all my other gear. The stove made it through years of abuse. It was loud and barely adjustable, but it always fired and never made me eat cold food. It too sits where I can see it when I’m loading up for another trip to one of my funny little creeks.
These days are tomorrow's good old days. In the future there will be threads reminiscing about those old Ti pots and carbon fiber poles. Remember those 8 ounce packs? I don't know how we ever carried them!!!!
_________________________ If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*
* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Ditto. I started out on solo trips, got a Kmart tent, used my 5 lb. sleeping bag for years and cooked over a fire for years, making pancakes, frying fish and eggs, drinking out of the lake or streams. Don't recall what my evening meal was though, not beans.
I'm an old F BUT, my first trip was 1989. Things have not changed a lot since then except for PERMITS! UGH! I hate deciding where I'll be when and someone else deciding where I'll sleep. I go to Big South ForK in Tennessee/Kentucky almost exclusively becasue you can still pick your own site. I enjoy finding a secluded place, staying the night, and not being unable to tell I've been there when I leave. That's backpacking at its best IMO. I just wish I was younnger I'm 59 now and WAAAAAY overweight but still going on sissy packs...light loads, short distances, flat traile, slow pace)
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
PERMITS! UGH! I hate deciding where I'll be when and someone else deciding where I'll sleep.
I agree, which is why I detest national parks (they also don't allow my dog). In nearly all the wilderness areas of the west, the only "permit" required is the one you fill out at the trailhead, which is primarily to tell the Forest Service how much use the wilderness gets. There are a very few high impact areas in National Forest wildernesses where special permits are required, but I stay away from those, too.
Edited by OregonMouse (08/06/1003:04 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
I don't care for the permit system but do not know enough to come up with a better way.
That said, I have taken most of my trips in September and October. There are fewer people wanting to get into the backcountry and the fishing is better. Most of my trips in the last 20 years have been fishing adventures and I have avoided the popular destinations.
I figure that when I retire I will dissappear for 3 weeks at a time during the Fall. Hopefully there will still be the lack of traffic at that time.
When my brother and I bought a Sterno stove, my father told us: "It's great for melting ice... if you've got the time."
We also had carbide lamps. My brother and I would also stick carbide into snowballs when we'd have a snowball fight with other kids. They'd holler: "No fair! You can't put rocks in the snowballs!" We'd then light them and toss back flaming snowballs.
I just love this forum with a place for old timers. Geezer, your note brought back a lot of memories along with many others.
My dad got me out in the hills of West Virginia at a very early age. He had a 6th grade education and joined the Army as soon as he could to get out of the coal mines. Career in mind with the army, but he ended it after WWII, I think he had 10 years in when he got out. We packed into the woods with canvas backpacks from the Army for much of my youth.
Then came Scouting. I used my canvas Army backpack, Army canteen, mess gear and so on for many years. Growing up in West Virginia I had an outstanding scoutmaster, we never hiked an established trail. We'd blaze new trails using a hatchet to mark trees on two sides. Rev Barber, a Baptist minister, and an excellent scoutmaster, knew his way around the woods and how to enjoy some time in the wilderness.
My wife and I began camping out in about 1967. I was in the Navy at the time and had a good buddy and his wife from Idaho who enjoyed the backcountry, the Rudy's. We packed in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine together we were stationed in Rhode Island. What a lot of fun, still using my US Army gear such as it was. Cooking by woodfires only. I remember one weekend far north in Maine when we woke up and the walls and roof of the tent were sagging in. I looked over and my wife was shivvering with tears in her eyes. So me and Kent, the guy from Idaho, got a fairly big fire going and got the girls warmed up. Lifelong memories that none of the 4 of us will ever forget.
After getting out of the Navy I did my scoutmaster duty with several troops in Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Ohio. Moved up in equipment over these years to a frame backpack and better cooking devices, much better sleeping bags. My troops were trail blazers though as with my childhood scoutmaster Rev. Barber. We'd go to remote areas, study topos, and create a trail wherever we wanted to go. If you haven't done this, well, it can be a lot of fun.
Fast forward to the 2000's, getting older, mostly day hikes.
So along comes 2010, I retire from being a project manager. My wife is a schoolteacher and is trying to decide just when she will retire. We have a lot of fond memories in the backcountry and decide that we want to get back to being in the wilderness. Many dayhikes in the wilderness brings back the memories and frosts the cake.
We'd like very much to move to Idaho. Both of us think that today, backcountry backpacking begins at the Rockies. So we have been restructuring our backpacing equipment. We bought a North Face tent with plenty of room. ArcTerex backpacks. And all of the modern technology for backpacking. Right now we are planning adventures from June through the end of August. So the summer of 2011 is planned for a lot of adventure. Hope this forum has a lot of advice for trails we've picked out. Boy have we got some cool places to go. Wilderness areas in Idaho, Montana and Wyomoing have our attention.
2012 we'll head to Alaska. Who can resist? Hope I can stand the mosquitos.