- RE: "Beyond RayWay the trail gets very diffuse, and the print evidence even thinner."
David, you mean the google trail becomes thinner (*smile*)
Actually, there were many print articles from that time.
Some of the ones that influenced me more were are earlier Backpacker articles by Chuck Kennedy, and the earlier Backpacker article done on Fred Williams. Even early than that, Doug Robinson wrote some great advice on going light (more aimed towards cross-country skiing), and a while later Bela Vadasz wrote a fantastic article on going light (aimed more toward back-country climbing).
There is a BPL thread on Marlyn Doan's "Hiking Light" book (1982)
My Scoutmaster (who helped launch me down this path) was heavily influenced by Albert Saijo's book "The Backpacker" in 1972. The author was kind of an Eco-Buddhist in promoting this as a lifestyle and avoiding woodcraft (among other things): "The only way to break this cycle is to begin thinking in terms of an ultra-light wilderness style … And ultra-light comes to mean not only cutting back on the load, but also treading light on the wilderness, thus helping to preserve it”
For history students David Brower's "Going Light with Backpack or Burro" (Burro?? LOL) never the less, the book had many of the concepts (yup, the author is the Sierra Club's David Brower - one and the same)
Of course there were the writings of Horace Kephar (1906) the weights of his big three: Backpack = 2 lbs, 3 oz; Sleeping = 3 lbs: Shelter = 2 lbs, 4 oz
(of course back then, there was a lot of woodcraft included too)
While she didn't publish any articles, Emma "Grandma" Gatewood (as previous mentioned in this thread), was a pioneer for being the first woman to thru-hike the AT back in 1956.
- RE:"It would be great to tell the tale of how those products lost favor"
For AlpenLITE, their driving force (and a market force) was Don Douglass who an ultralight promoter that (among other things) set a speed record for the JMT because of going ultralight ... anyway, he decided to leave the business and sail around the world (which was a disastrous trip - but its a good read). The company lost its rudder when he left (to add an nautical analogy to the summary *smile*)
But in a nutshell, the rest is just the result of the market ... it didn't sell, as there was no marketing venue for movement to close the gap between the early adopters and the early majority. Because of an uneducated user base within the early majority there was also a backlash on the movement because of perceived durability problems coming from those folks who didn't know how to properly use the gear. More traditional companies were also nervous about warranty issues as well.
But most important factor was closing the gap on the user base. For example, Gregory was one of the more traditional company with a iron clad warranty and a high quality product, came out at the time with a superlight version of their Snow Creek backpack ... which they ended up dropping long before the Snow Creek model ran its course. I had an opportunity to ask Wayne why he dropped it from his line (it was a good pack, I was saving my money up for it), his reply was an exasperated "It didn't sell, I have to sell people what they want, and by the sales they didn't want that"