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Gear to last a lifetime
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Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Gear to last a lifetime on 10/04/2010 20:48:29 MDT Print View

The early explorers walking across land in America never seen before by non-native eyes, utilizing as many natural materials as they could-its the only choice they had. Leather, cotton and the like were their main choices to make gear out of. What would a modern day explorer, forced to fight it out in the wild look like from a gear perspective?

If you had to make a set of gear to last lifetime what would you take? Would you resort to proven methods of the old explorers, would you perhaps use modern fabrics that are extremely durable? Maybe Cordura, Dynemma, etc. Obviously we would prefer to be lightweight, and i believe even with extremely durable synthetic fabrics we would still be much lighter than our ancestors.

How about waterproofing? Rain jackets with coatings would not last as the coatings all wear out over time. Im not sure if Event has a coating or not, but if it doesn't i would think it would be ideal. thoughts?

Edited by isaac.mouser on 10/04/2010 20:49:40 MDT.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Gear to last a lifetime on 10/04/2010 20:57:56 MDT Print View

maybe we should first keep in mind that people used to be a lot more familiar with repair and maintenance than we are now...
By that i mean that when you had a hole in your socks, said sock was mended not returned to REI for a refund.
Same for boots,tent,pack...

Javan Dempsey

Locale: The-Stateless-Society
Re: Gear to last a lifetime on 10/04/2010 21:18:48 MDT Print View

Such a valid point Franco.

I think it would be a gross misconception to think that gear of any time would "Last a lifetime" without regular maintenance, and our idea of regular maintenance and the maintenance of the times would be drastically different. I'd imagine a substantial amount of time went to repair and prevention.

Not that it invalidates the question, if anything it could add depth. Not just how rugged something is, but how serviceable, something that almost never breaks but is impossible to fix when it does would be useless perhaps in the long term.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
weight on 10/04/2010 22:21:08 MDT Print View

if we were willing to put up with gear that weights the same weight as our ancestors

im certain that gear made with modern materials would last close to a lifetime with the same amount of maintenance they put it back then

these days quite a bit of gear does last a lifetime ... with regular maintenance and the occasional repair ... just not UL gear ...

some companies stand behind their product for a lifetime ...

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Maintenance on 10/05/2010 05:05:41 MDT Print View

Yea its obvious there would have to be maintenaince, i just didn't mention it above.

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Long lasting gear on 10/05/2010 06:46:50 MDT Print View

Good thread.
The longest serving boots I have are made and serviced by Altberg
13 years old and on their third sole.
The best winter coat I've used at a reasonable weight for cooler climates and not requiring constant repoofing is my Paramo cascada. Designed to shed water outwards even when all proofing has gone.
I have a canvas tarp tent which is about the size and shape of a golite hex/shangri-la 3. Originally made for the Czech military. It is in two button-together halves which form capes for 2 people when separated. Stove pipe goes out through an arm hole. Warm and condensation free in winter. Heavy though, but ok for two when you use as coats too.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Equipment sustainability on 10/05/2010 08:11:40 MDT Print View

Sustainability is the buzzword. And a lot of pioneers were stinky and bug-infested and pretty ragged. You left out wool :)

I hear you though. I spent the last few years working in the electronics recycling industry. I've seen our throw-away culture to the tune of tons of material every day. To give you an idea, Washington State started a free recycling program for televisions, desktop computers, monitors and laptops: 26 MILLION pounds were taken in the first year of the program, the majority being televisions.

Extrapolate that a bit and it really hits hard. We are wasteful monkeys and shame on us. As people who enjoy the wilderness, it is hypocritical to use high-tech throw-away, non-sustainable gear. Kudos to those who have designed cooking gear using recycled materials and more so to Patagonia and GoLite for making real steps to use recycled content in their gear.

Buy how can Joe UL Hiker be part of the solution?

*Vote with your wallet, supporting those organizations that make sustainable gear.

*Buy only what you will use (sound familiar?). Buy the least toxic alternative--- no PVC and so forth. Don't be a slave to fashion. Don't go cheap and buy stuff that has some quality you aren't replacing it every season.

*Buy used gear, keeping it out of the landfill. Using recycled materials in their original form is the highest order of recycling. Check Craig's List, eBay, or thrift stores before buying new. By all means patronize businesses that sell used hiking gear (Second Ascent in Seattle is a great example). Of course, the Gear Swap forum here is a prime source for used UL gear.

*Use recycled materials whenever possible. Water bottles are easy. Other plastics and aluminum can be used for dishes, stoves, and storage containers.

*Repair and refurbish your gear rather than throwing it away.

*If you are done with a piece of equipment, get it into a stream where it can be re-used by donating it or selling it.

*Reclaim what you can from gear that is truly at the end of it's life cycle-- I save the hardware from old packs, etc.

*Let the manufacturers know. With electronic communication, it is easy to contact the companies you do business with to let them know your concerns; likewise with retailers--- they can put enormous pressure on manufacturers.

*Practice what you preach. My (used) home is full of recycled electronics, kitchen ware, clothing and furniture. I happen to live in a city where recycling is mandatory. Kitchen scraps and yard waste go off to be composted. Virtually all our packaging is recycled. If our "real" garbage is to have more than 10% recycled material, we can be fined!

James Ayres
(scrivner) - F

Locale: Southern Turkey
Lifetime Gear on 10/05/2010 16:53:39 MDT Print View

I don't know anything, yet, about the service life of such materials as silnylon. I do know that traditional gear can last more than one lifetime.

This gear is NOT much heavier than current lightweight gear.

I have:
A canvas La Fuma rucksack that I bought in Paris and have used for 35 years in a dozen countries. It weighs 14 oz and is still in good shape.

Handmade leather moccasins that have many, many miles on them over a period of 18 years. They weigh about 15oz and the original soles are still good.

Wool shirt that is over 30 years old. My son now wears it.

Wool blanket I got from my uncle, now used by my son, veteran of hundreds of backpacking and camping trips, over 50 years old. Weight 2 lbs.

Handmade knife with 7 inch blade in old 'trapper' pattern. This knife with sheath weighs 7 oz and has been used hard for 16 years to take down standing trees (on private property) get up firewood for groups, make traps, dress game, build shelters, slice birthday cakes etc. It's in fine shape.

All of these items have been used both in wilderness and in daily life. None have required much maintenance, just a reasonable standard of care.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Gear to last a lifetime on 10/05/2010 17:39:28 MDT Print View

leather soles...
This comment reminded me of how and why rubber took over from leather as the sole for climbing and walking shoes.
In 1935 an Italian climber Vitale Bramati saw 6 fellow climbers die in a climbing accident that he blamed on the poor grip of the boots available then (leather sole)
So he set himself the task to develop the first rubber sole.
Incidentally, the" grippier" the sole , the softer the compound, the faster it will wear out. Generally speaking most prefer a "safer" soles over a long lasting one.

As for the wool shirt (for example) I had one of those too. Most up to 20 years or so ago in Europe or NZ had one.
However for the same sort of weight and bulk I can now have 3 layers , giving me more warmth and versatility.
Same for the pack. No doubt a canvass pack is tough and last a long time, however they are heavy for the volume compared to modern fabrics.
(particularly when wet)
Not to be contrarian but just to offer a reason why...
we (most) don't use woolen blankets for backpacking not because they are no good or don't last, simply again because for the volume and weight you can get much warmer and or lighter stuff.
An believe me , I LOVE wool.
So it isn't that "old" gear does not work, it is just that modern gear works better.


Edited by Franco on 10/05/2010 17:40:59 MDT.

James Ayres
(scrivner) - F

Locale: Southern Turkey
Old gear, new gear on 10/05/2010 17:53:54 MDT Print View

Hi Franco,

I was not addressing whether traditional goods are 'better' than new ones. They may or may not be, depends on what 'better' means to you.

Interesting experiment done by university in England comparing Mallory's Everts gear (silk, wool etc) with synthetics indicates that traditional gear may in fact perform as well as modern gear. But neither here nor there, not my point.

Was only saying that in my personal limited experience traditional gear could 'last a lifetime,' which is the part of the question I was responding to. and further, that the weight penalty of the gear is not as severe as many who never used it might think.

I have traveled on foot for extended periods (months) in wilderness carrying no more than 20lbs, this well before 'lightweight' modern gear was available. Trick is is not to take what you don't need. The item left at home weighs nothing. Also, the notion of being 'self contained' and carrying all food was not anything I ever aspired to do.

That said, my current everyday pack is a Patagonia Lightweight Travel Pack. It weighs 14oz, exactly the same as my old La Fuma, and holds no more.

Best regards,


James Ayres
(scrivner) - F

Locale: Southern Turkey
Boots, moccasins on 10/05/2010 18:00:35 MDT Print View

Hi Franco,

Oh, one more thing in response to your comments. Climbing boots, or shoes, are best for climbing. Leather soled moccasins are fine for woods walking: quiet, comfortable, they promote natural foot placement and I can make another pair for a few bucks. I gave up rock climbing years ago, but if I were to take it up again I would buy a pair of shoes designed for rock climbing.

Use a hammer to drive a nail, a screwdriver to turn a screw.



Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Gear to last a lifetime" on 10/05/2010 19:41:29 MDT Print View

Now that I am over my usual anti nostalgia comments..*

Yes I have seen that particular study. Not long ago I read a book on Irvine, very interesting stuff.
Mind you, you would be amazed at just how much time and effort was spent in that first Everest expedition in fixing and maintaining the gear.

Last night I was looking at this shelter.

It was made locally with a type waxed cotton referred to as Silk Japara.
The shelter is about 45 years old and still in use today. Pretty sure that it would last a life time.
I see if I can find out the weight, a guy that used to sell them referred to it as "lightweight" but of course he was comparing with the more common canvas shelters available then.
Paddy Pallin shelter
following that thread another local guy posted a picture of a pack made by the same company (Paddy Pallin) , this one dates from the "late 30's early 40's)
Paddy Pallin sack

The pack is made of canvass , I had something very similar,in Italy, in my pre and early teens.
That would also last a life time, although the leather in the straps used to fail first. (some greasing possibly would have helped)

As stated, good leather soles could last longer than most rubber types, however cobblers used to be very busy replacing soles.
Often someone in the family (my great grandfather for example) used to be a dub hand at that.
I made my mind up as a teenager that I would not became one of those "in the good old days..." kind of guy
At 55 I am not about to change.

James Ayres
(scrivner) - F

Locale: Southern Turkey
old gear, new gear on 10/05/2010 20:06:31 MDT Print View

Hi Franco,

Fifty-five and not about to change? Man, you’re too young to get set in your ways. I had my 67th birthday a couple weeks ago, and my grandkids are wondering when I'm going to grow up and settle down ☺

I’m for sure not one of the ‘old days’ guys, in anything. In many ways the ‘old days’ sucked. But a lot of the old ‘stuff’ wasn’t so bad. I tend to buy the best quality and then keep it. My watch is 45 years old, never had a problem with it so I still use it. And so on.

But I adapt new stuff that seems to work better or do something better than old stuff, and then see if it in fact does. I haven’t had much experience yet with the current generation of lightweight gear and fabrics, so for me the jury is still out. Although I am having good luck with the new ultralight items I have bought and will continue to use them and look towards re-outfitting if all continues to go well. Will this new gear outlast the old gear, which was kind of the initial question? I have no idea.

I think I saw something about ‘Silk Japara’ in Kephart years ago. From years as a designer I know the tensile strength of silk is amazingly high, and the fabric is durable beyond belief. But I’ve never had a silk tarp. Be easy enough to have one made through. Hmm.

What part of Italy are you from? I ask because years ago I spent a good bit of time working in the Veneto, and have been hanging out in Le Marche quite a bit lately, about six months during the past two years. Good hiking around Mt. Sibyllini. One of my favorite places.

Thanks for the pix.



Dan Healy

Locale: Queensland
material to last a life time on 10/05/2010 20:41:30 MDT Print View

James, as Franco mentioned silk japara was a marketing term to describe a light canvas made of cotton though I think at one time it was also be made of hemp.

Interesting idea from the OP... what materials would you make your gear from to last a lifetime?

most folks wouldn't be taking silnylon... but what about a heavy 1000d kodra/cordura for packs?
...and a heavy nylon for tents?
...heavy boots would be back in style of course - the 2nd year of rocks would be taking all the lightwieght stuff out! (and forget foam inserts! uggh, I can feel the soles of my feet already!)
...sleeping bags would be a problem... you would need a lowloft down so that it would not loose its loft after a decade or two - say a 500+ loft (grow your own geese?!)... and a heavier pertex outer to last...

of course pack weights would be back up to the 10kg I used to carry when I first carried this stuff 35yrs ago!

James Ayres
(scrivner) - F

Locale: Southern Turkey
old gear, new gear on 10/05/2010 21:06:39 MDT Print View

Hi Dan,

It is an interesting notion. For me, silnylon and the like are too new to know how they’ll hold up. But I’ve tried out gear from each ‘revolution,’ since the 60s. From my pov Cordura is a non-starter for a backpack; it’s fine for a duffle to carry heavy gear – climbing ironmongery and so fourth.

I still have (somewhere in my son’s garage) the prototype for the first backpack ever made by NF – I helped design it. It’s ordinary nylon pack cloth. I used it for years for everything from hiking and woods wandering to international travel and exploration. Used it to carry in 5-gallon water cans to an archeological excavation in Southern Mexico and to carry out over 60 lbs of artifacts. After a decade or so the zipper gave out – this was the first panel loader – and the ‘waterproof’ coating peeled off, but the fabric is as strong as ever. It weighs 2lbs.

With this pack, a Yucatan hammock, a poncho, a mosko net and a poncho liner my base weight, not counting clothing food, guns, machete, etc, was, I think about 6lb. When I was in the mountains I swapped out the hammock etc for a down bag. This was in the late 60s.

Heaviest boots I ever wore were jump boots, which were fine for jumping out of airplanes. I was thrilled when we changed over to the lightweight jungle boots, wouldn’t wear anything heaver except under duress. I’m not so sure adding more leather, or composites, makes for more durable. See my moccasin comments above.

Haven’t found anything with a better warmth to weight ratio than a down bag.

It’s all individual, but for me, no, my pack weight would not go back up. As a long practicing minimalist I just don’t carry much stuff.

What I’m looking for in the new gear is more comfort at less weight. Old bones, many miles on them.



Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Gear to last a lifetime on 10/05/2010 21:45:33 MDT Print View

James :
my grandkids are wondering when I'm going to grow up and settle down
(thanks, made my day...)
I am from Piedmont, the bit that sticks right into Switzerland.
This is where I used to hike :

all I know about that "silk Japara" is that it came from England and I am almost sure that was oiled or waxed cotton , but much lighter than most fabric then.

Now that we can pretend to be as tough as we used to be...

lets see if we can put together a kit with real weights and go back to Ike's (sorry) intended question.
A 2 person kit would be a lot easier (mostly because of the tent)
I'll start with the burner . The Trangia
Hard part :widscreen/stand. The Trangia system is a bit too heavy , but is there a better/lighter version?
(maybe a tougher Ti Caldera Cone ?)

BTW,Thinking about the Swiss, I love the look of the Borde Bomb but maybe not that practical...

James Ayres
(scrivner) - F

Locale: Southern Turkey
old gear, new gear on 10/05/2010 22:32:26 MDT Print View


Piedmont, beautiful country. Used to go up to Lake Como for silks and Bergamo for woolens. Lucky guy.

As to actually putting together "a lifetime outfit,' have to give that some thought. Outfit would vary according to location. Much of what you would want in, say, the Rockies, would be useless in SE Asia, or in deserts.

I'll let someone else play with this for a while, and check in later. I'm headed for bed, have an early flight, will check in again Thursday or Friday.