100 years of Gear Advancements - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 01-01-2004, 10:18 AM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
 
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Default 100 years of Gear Advancements

A couple of days ago I was watching an interesting documentary on the rather unfortunate Scott Expedition to the Antarctic in 1912, all very sad and tragic. While watching scenes of people trying to drag a motherload of gear on sleds across snowfields and glaciers I couldn't help but think of all the advancements in gear technology we have experienced over the past 90+ years.

So the question I pose to all you Club Tread gear junkies is: What do you think is the single most significant improvement or development in gear technology over the past 100 years? Fleece? GPS? 2-Way Radios? Power Bars? You be the judge…



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post #2 of (permalink) Old 01-01-2004, 11:02 AM
 
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 01-01-2004, 11:08 AM
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I can't speak about the last 100 years because I haven't lived that long but one gear development I particularly appreciate is the camelbak hydration system.

I used to get tired and headachey very quickly during hikes, when I carried a water bottle. In order to drink, I would have to stop, pull the water bottle out of the pack, open, drink, close, replace... now I draw upon water every five or ten minutes - I have more energy, can hike longer, and don't get headaches because I am not dehydrated.

Synthetic/technical clothing is also a great development. I still shudder at the memory of my first West Coast hike, in runners, cotton tshirt and shorts, up to Deeks Lake. Don't remember the descent all that well, all I remember is being next to the lake and suddenly feeling COLD. That was 13 years ago - and nevermore.

cheers ! C Wall
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 01-01-2004, 07:25 PM
 
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A number of things spring to mind.

• Crampons: they were introduced in the 1920s and took off in Europe. Heinrich Harrer describes doing grinding climbs in the Alps, cutting steps, and watching as these guys with crampons just ran up these steep slopes. On a side note, the English - though they used hob-nailed boots - initially thought crampons to be "unsporting."

• Gore Tex: The miracle fabric which keeps a person warm and dry, and breathes.

• Plastic boots: Though some don't like them, their advantages in alpine and winter climbs are immediate. Again, warm and dry with removable liners you can keep in your sleeping bag on cold nights.

• Kernmantle ropes: Read accounts of anyone who climbed in the early part of the century, and they will inevitably get around to the terror, tragedy and discomfort of using hemp ropes.

• Suspension systems on packs: Try out an old pack board and see long you will last. And then count the bruises on your back.

• Vibram soles: Thank Christ!

• Stoves: Now lightweight and fuel efficient.





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post #5 of (permalink) Old 01-01-2004, 07:44 PM
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What would also be interesting is to determine when these advancements took place. Have most of the advancements been of late or many years ago? This topic came at an interesting time as I just finished reading one of my WCT books dated 1976 and they note that most people carry 35 to 55 pounds, with the real freaks carrying 75+ lbs. They also note that if chosen wisely, that 40lbs (food and gear) would adequately provision someone for 10 days on the trail. These weights don't seem all that different from now - and that was nearly 30yrs ago.



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post #6 of (permalink) Old 01-01-2004, 09:30 PM Thread Starter
Hittin' the Trails
 
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Good point Jim, after some quick web searches here is what I came up with:

Vibram 1937
Nylon 1938
Polyester 1941
Gore-tex 1978
GPS' 1978 (1984 for civilian use)
Fleece 1981

Personally, I'm leaning toward fleece as the most significant development. Its versatile, light, quick drying, insulates when wet, and most importantly to me, it doesn't itch like wool.


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post #7 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2004, 01:10 AM
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I'm going to say nylon and polyester. Everything from clothing to tents and packs are made with it.

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post #8 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2004, 08:34 AM
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im going to say MAPS. sure they were around before... but only if somebody had be there before...and then they were just drawn.(take a left at the big stump).
now we have orthos, coords, contours , the works.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2004, 10:36 PM
 
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I agree with the suggestion that the developement of synthetic materials has been the major achievement. Though it is interesting that down is still king of the insulation under dry conditions.

In passing re:
Quote:
quote:Crampons: they were introduced in the 1920s and took off in Europe.
Chouinard documents that 4 point crampons were well known at the end of the nineteenth century and that Eckenstein developed a ten point crampon in 1908.
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post #10 of (permalink) Old 01-02-2004, 11:10 PM
 
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Yes TT, I was aware crampons were created much earlier. In fact they were used by Swiss troops for mountain travel as early as the 19th century. But they did not really come into more general use by mountaineers until the years between the world wars.
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post #11 of (permalink) Old 01-04-2004, 10:28 PM
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I can't really narrow it down to 1 thing, so: free-standing tents, freeze-dried food, waterproof breathables, polypro and fleece, closed cell foam, fire-starter, boots that work, and finally - ATITUDE - well not really a product, but what the hell.
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post #12 of (permalink) Old 01-05-2004, 12:18 AM
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Safety consciousness has increased greatly, and in some ways has not. Huh?

Well, in 1970 we were in the Tonquin Valley and people seemed to be doing everything possible to attract bears. 30 years later, people are very careful of their surroundings, but we still see yahoos on busy trails that don't have a clue. There sure are more people now that seem to get it, and that is good.

People are better equipped. Thirty years ago we often saw people days out with barely enough gear, including food and water, to make it. Today, thanks to the prices of good gear coming down in relative terms, lots of people have good, safe gear.

Ounces have been shaved off in the last three decades, but the real benefit is affordability and durability. I can put together a pretty decent kit for $2000 today including some pretty spanky stuff. It has made high-tech backpacking fun without diluting the experience. You still have to climb that pass, you still get to breathe the air.

One thing that has changed is the management of certain trails, and their usage. National Parks now often restricts the number of users, and this is good. We're enthusiasts, but I know that we also are conservationists too. Lake O'Hara is still a zoo in the summer, but thanks to the bus and some other restrictions, crowds are under control. It is a bit of a hassle to deal with three-month-out reservations and so on, but it's worth it if my grandkids get to revel in the area's beauty as I saw it.

In my own personal kit, the biggest difference is clothing. All the layers are better, more affordable, and in every instance even marginal gains feel huge on the trail. Those fabrics have been around for some time, but they are constantly being refined and redefined.
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post #13 of (permalink) Old 01-05-2004, 01:31 AM
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Synthetic materials have been a substantial benefit but, IMO, not revolutionary in adding to the enjoyment of the sport. Good quality wool garments provided most of the benefits of fleece with a bit of a weight penalty. Down remains down: the most weight efficient and compressable insulator. Egyptian sail cloth cotten provided a very good material for outer layers, tents etc.

Some real breakthroughs have come from the use of sophisticated aluminium alloys (pack frames, pots & pans, tent poles etc.), and vastly improved pack design using aluminium and synthetic fabrics.

However, my votes go to modern, anti-bug technology: noseeum proof netting and DEET! Nasty, buggy conditions without these could destroy the enjoyment of otherwise exquisite alpine experiences.

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post #14 of (permalink) Old 01-05-2004, 04:05 PM
 
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I'm going to have to go with the over-all advancement in materials Alex (should I have formed my answer in the form of a question?). Quick dry materials, Gortex, etc. For me, the changes in outdoor wear/materials has made a world of difference.

When I show my Dad what I use to keep me warm and dry on canoe and hiking trips, he's amazed considering he remembers doing multi-day treks with an old vulcanized rubber rain-suit and heavy wool clothing. Yup, give me my Gortex anyday!
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