You're right, it was absolute overkill squared. But, the culture was different back then: like the Sierra Cup clipped to your belt or hanging off your pack, it was a badge of honor, designed to cause people to look at our and speak in hushed tones: "He must be the real deal." You also impressed people by talking about how heavy your load was, not how light. We were all a little nuts back then.
By the way, Dana Gleason sold (I think) Dana Designs; evidently the non-compete expired or the patent ran out, and he's now producing the same pack under his new company banner, Mystery Ranch.