- The latest gear makes conquering the elements look like child's play. Here, we look back at four time-tested innovations that helped get us there.—Ryan Stuart
ThenIn 1643, Italian physicist Evangelista Torricelli created the first barometer, a 35-foot-tall tube filled with water that rose and fell as air pressure changed (low meant clouds, high meant clear).
NowModern barometers use mercury or electrical pulses to gauge air pressure and are small enough to fit inside watches, like Suunto’s Ambit ($500).
ThenIn 1856, British natural historian William Thompson lowered a plate-glass camera into Waymouth Bay, near Dorset, and tripped the shutter by pulling a string. He captured the first underwater photo—and flooded his camera in the process.
NowPocket-size waterproof cameras, like Pentax’s WG-3($300), can shoot 16-megapixel photos and HD video while 15 feet underwater.
ThenDuring the 19th century, a sailor from Gloucester, England, stitched a wide-brimmed, elongated cap out of oiled canvas—the sou’wester.
NowThis summer, Outdoor Research releases the Force 9 Sombrero ($75), a slightly more stylish, Gore-Tex-equipped version of the classic cap.
ThenIn 1883, American electrician Charles Fritts used selenium and gold to make the first solar cell. It couldn’t generate power, but it was used in early cameras as a light meter.
- Brunton’s Explorer 20 ($260) has six solar cells that make enough juice to charge a GPS, a DSLR, and radio batteries in about an hour. It also weighs 15 ounces and folds up to the size of a magazine.
- Start over
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