The History of Gear Project presents:

Really Old Gear

(image above): three 1920-era packs, all made or sold in Portland, Oregon--- a "Duluth" pack sold at famous Portland hardware store Marshall-Wells Hardware Co.; and two "Wy'Easter" brand packs, made in Portland (Wy'Easter also made ice axes). Image credit: Peter Ireland

Images below are from the 1960 EUREKA TENT catalog, commemorating their being in business since 1895 and celebrating what was the company's best expeditionary tent design.... The ad copy states that this Blanchard Draw-Tite "Alpine" tent uses "Mountain Cloth" for its canopy. Unfortunately Eureka's vaunted "Mountain Cloth" was NOT some version of the same nylon fabrics then in use by the likes of Alice Holubar and Gerry Cunningham in their cutting-edge clothing designs of the 1950s. Nevertheless, Eureka is proud of this tent, saying "It is the approved polar tent for arctic exploration." These were fairly heavy tents due to the combination of "chrome aluminum" poles, and the 6.6oz. poplin (aka Mountain Cloth) canopies, and the vinyl-coated nylon floors. Even the one-man size of the Alpine weighed 8 pounds, while the two-man size weighed 12 1/2 pounds! Note: the Mountain Cloth was fairly waterproof by itself, and so no rainfly was supplied.

In terms of History of Gear innovation, the Blanchard Draw-Tite tents were among the first to use a fully-external frame, which allowed the user to erect these tents without ever needing to get inside them; this frame also made the tent an early forerunner of the true self-supporting dome designs that were going to come along in the mid-1970s from The North Face and Snowlion...... Eureka's other innovative product in 1960 was NOT the Mountain Cloth that it bragged about in the tent ad copy--- it was a new fabric it had been working on for 18 months with DuPont. They named it "Polaris Cloth" (see second image below). Polaris Cloth, a 100% nylon fabric (weight per yard not listed), was only being introduced by Eureka in 1960, and was available only as a custom-order fabric. This was huge for such a big traditional tent company to step forward and transition itself into modern nylon fabrics. Hurrah for Eureka as a major outdoor supplier to lead the way so publicly.


Pendleton Woolen Mills, since 1863

Users of Early Eddie Bauer Down Gear, plus Filson, since 1897, and more about the Pendleton Woolen Mills

Danner Boots of Portland, since 1932


Segen Packs, Eugene, very early 1970s ("Segen Pax," Elegant laminated hardwood frames, a combination of the best modern materials with the best of "organic" old tech materials like cotton duck. The comany's tagline was "Advanced Simplicity" and the pack was touted as a "Natural Pack." Note: the Segen section is under development, but here is one picture, from contributor Terry, and below is from contributor Peter I., who lives in Southern California. ..he's a person who actually owns and uses the Segen packs that he's acquired (yes, he owns more than one!):

"It is very hard to get any info on that company...and I have tried. I even had someone drive by the old address in Eugene [190 River Loop One, zip 97404], contact the Mazamas, the local Sierra Club chapter, called local gear suppliers in Oregon, etc. No one knew anything. I do remember seeing a color magazine ad on the internet. That gave some information. Glad you have included them in your research! Segen deserves special mention because they combined the vintage tradition of wood external frame & canvas rucksack with a modern hip belt suspension while staying true to the use of classic natural materials of wood, canvas, leather and wool felt. A very noble effort with true old school craftsmanship. Everyone who has seen one...their mouth drops open and they just say 'Wow!' 'What is that"? 'That is beautiful'... " Peter goes on to summarize:

"Segen almost seems to be a reaction to the modern era of synthetics, plastics, alloys and composites. A desire to put 'Mother Earth' back into the age-old recreational activity of backpacking. They did a fantastic job of establishing the 'Earth' connection in their product. I know they were not in the realm of modern technical mountaineering gear but what they produced, I feel, may be described as the most 'beautiful hand-made backpack ever'. The fact that they were native to Oregon should make every Oregonian proud. Their products are in the category of 'folk art' and exhibit the highest level of hand made craftsmanship."


Readers are always invited to contribute what they know.


Please Note: All Material on this page, and in all my "History of Gear" webpages, is copyrighted, and no usage of my material is permitted unless explicit permission is granted by me, Bruce B. Johnson, owner of OregonPhotos.com. ... Editors: Please contact me if you have interest in publishing....Others: if you were involved with one of the old-line, vintage gear companies and have a story to tell in these pages, please contact me soon. That includes those who have stories about Oregon's Mountain Stores (see below)....Sponsors: if your outdoor company is interested in sponsoring this site, please contact me for details.


 

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Main Page: Essays and pictures about the Pioneers of the Outdoor Gear Revolution, 1935-The Present (45+ pages, five books published, and ever-growing)

GERRY MOUNTAINEERING, begun in 1945, probably the most innovative of the very first generation of Gear Pioneers!

 

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Page last revised May 9, 2013