The evolution of outdoor gear

To contributing editor Larry Pynn, this grainy colour slide from 1986, taken in remote northwestern British Columbia’s Mount Edziza Provincial Park, is proof that outdoor equipment has come a long way, baby.

“I’m shown wearing a tasteless yellow-and-white baseball hat, bold-striped shirt, wool army-surplus pants and, gather ’round kids, an external-frame backpack.” With every step he took, that aluminum frame knocked against his head.

“I remember a lot about the first big hiking trip,” he adds. “My sleeping bag rolling down into a crater, a July snowstorm so thick we had to make camp where we stood, and wading through a chest-high swamp because we took the wrong valley coming down off the Mount Edziza plateau. But you know, I can’t remember a thing about that crappy little external frame backpack [aside from the head bumping]. Maybe gear isn’t the be-all and end-all of a great hiking trip, after all.”


Agreed. Though dare I suggest that our intrepid “Outdoor Advisor” might have looked just a bit happier in this photo had he been sporting a modern internal frame pack with cushy straps, ventilated panels, and weight-transfer technology?

Larry examines such modern features as applied to the day pack–which has evolved alongside multi-day packs–in the Fall 2011 issue. See “Day pack buying basics” for his tips on choosing size, panel configuration, hydration compatibility, material, and more.

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