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The Gear Years 1875-2002

A History of Modern Gear, From 1875-2002

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1875

Pounding in IRON SPIKES for protection, George Anderson pioneers U.S. climbing with the first ascent of Yosemite’s Half Dome.


1879

Martin Strand builds the first American SKI FACTORY in St. Paul, Minnesota, making planks out of Norway pine.


1895

Ignaz Schwinn and Adolph Arnold incorporate ARNOLD, SCHWINN & COMPANY in Chicago—it becomes America’s most recognized bike brand.


1907

The German company Klepper produces the first COLLAPSIBLE KAYAK.


1908

Englishman Oscar Eckenstein’s TEN-PINT CRAMPON paves the way for European mountaineers to take steeper routes.


1912

Duck hunter LEON LEONWOOD BEAN launches his catalog colossus by selling the Maine Hunting Shoe—a hybrid combining leather uppers with water proof rubber booties.


1920

German Adi Dassler makes his first ADDIDAS TRAINING SHOES in his mother’s laundry room.


1926

Surf pioneer Tom Blake drills 100 holes into the standard 125 pound redwood plank in Santa Monica, California, resulting in the first “LIGHTWEIGHT” SURFBOARD.


1928

Austrian Rudolph Lettner patents the STEEL EDGE for skis. Most skiers shy away for fear of slashing their legs.


1933

Italian bicyclist TULLIO CAMPAGNOLO creates his influential components company Campagnolo.


1934

After running Colorado’s San Juan River in a boat constructed from a outhouse and a horse trough, Norman Nevills founds Nevills Expeditions—America’s first RIVER-GUIDE COMAPANY.
1936

Goose-dwon duds debut in Seattle with EDDIE BAUER’S SKYLINER.
Jim Curran installs the world’s first CHAIRLIFT at Sun Valley, Idaho. He patterns it after a United Fruit Company banana conveyor.


1938

Cascade climbers Lloyd and Mary Anderson create the consumer cooperative RECREATIONAL EQUIPMENT INC.




1941

German-born Kurt Hahn establishes the first OUTWARD BOUND school in Aberdovy, Wales, to help young military recruits survive harsh physical challenges.

The U.S. enters World War II. During the conflict, the military develops new uses for NYLON and ALUMINUM, arguably the two most important materials in the outdoor industry.


1947

Steve Bradley and Dave Stacey build the first FIBERGLASS KAYAK.


1950

Connecticut’s Mohawk Mountain introduces SNOWMAKING.


1951

Commercial rafting picks up steam when military-surplus RUBBER BOATS replace wooden dories.


1952

Maria Bogner invents STRETCH PANTS for skiers.


1955

The first compact WHITE-GAS STOVE, the Svea 123, debuts.


1958

Hobie Alter creats SPEEDO SPONGES—the first foam and fiberglass surfboards.


1959

Du Pont unveils a sheer stretch fabric called SPANDEX.


1960

The Mountaineers Books publishes
MOUNTAINEERING: FREEDOM OF THE HILLS
. The climbing bible will sell nearly half a million copies.


1963

EUREKA! supplies tents for the first successful American climbing expedition on Mount Everest.

Bob Lange introduces the PLASTIC SKI BOOT.


1965

Sherman Poppen screws two kiddie skis together to make SNURFER, an eight-inch-wide plank that inspires the snowboard.

Teton climbing legend Paul Petzoldt founds the NATIONAL OUTDOOR LEADERSHIP SCHOOL in Lander, Wyoming.
University of Florida researcher Robert Cade brews up his first batch of GATORADE for the school’s football team.


1968

Colin Fletcher publishes
THE COMPLETE WALKER
, fueling a national backpacking craze.




1970

Neal Boyle dies of a heart attack, leaving his widow, Gert, in charge of the near-bankrupt COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR. She turns the company into the leading outerwear seller in the U.S.

Hoyle Schweitzer and Jim Drake patent the WINDSURFER.
1971

Inspired by the igloo, JanSport unveils the DOME TENT.

Kryptonite introduces the U-LOCK.

Seattle’s Jim Lea is laid off from Boeing; he teams with his friend Jim Burroughs to invent the THERM-A-REST.


1972

Replacing the canteen, Boy Scouts hike for the first time with NALGENE lab bottles.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center, the country’s first WHITEWATER SCHOOL, opens its doors to 25 students.


1973

Petzl unveils the first “all-on-the-head” HEADLAMP, using bra elastic hand-sewn by Paul Petzl’s wife, Catherine.

Bill and Gene Prater of Sherpa introduce ALUMINUM SNOWSHOES.


1974

Gary Fisher builds his first MOUNTAIN BIKE—it features thumb shifters, brakes, and a derailleue, on the frame of a Schwinn ExcelsiorX.
MARMOT MOUNTAIN WORKS founded; within eight months Universal Studios orders 108 “VERY PUFFY JACKETS” for The Eiger Sacntion, starring Clint Eastwood.


1975

Bell’s first Styrofoam-based hardshell cycling helmet, THE BIKER, replaces the Cinelli Hairnet, a European leather helmet known as the “blodd bucket.”


1977

Jim Fixx’s
COMPLETE BOOK OF RUNNING
hits The New York Times best-seller list.

Burton and Simms start producing SNOWBOARDS commercially.
Polar introduces the first WIRELESS HEART-RATE MONITOR.




1978

The United States Defense Department launches its first GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM satellites.


1980

Rollerblade founders Scott and Brennan Olsen create their first IN-LINE SKATES.


1981

Specialized debuts the STUMPHUMPER, the first mass-produced moutain bike.

Thule and Yakima release multisport ROOF RACKS.


1982

Jesus Garcia, founder of Boreal, revolutionizes sport-climbing with the Fire, the first STICKY-RUBBER CLIMBING SHOE.

Sierra Designs invents SWIFT CLIPS, which replace pole sleeves on lightweight tents.


1984

Sony sells its first waterproof SPORTS WALKMAN.

French component maker Look introduces the CLIPLESS BIKE PEDAL.

Aquaterra produces the Chinook, the first widely available SEA KAYAK.


1985

Dismissing the movement as “a fad”, SCHWINN decides against mountain-bike production.


1986

Berkeley-based runner Brian Maxwell creates the energy snack POWERBAR.


1987

Outward Bound instructor Rob Hart modifies a wooden canoe chair design with modern materials to make the first CRAZY CREEK CAMP CHAIR.

Coupling kites with water skis, Cory Roeseler and friends start experimenting with KITEBOARDING in the Columbia River Gorge.


1988

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Charlie Trimble buys the remains of a cancelled engineering project and develops the first PORTABLE GPS UNIT.


1989

The FRONT SUSPENSION BIKE FORK from RockShock hits the market.


1990

Texan paramedic and cyclist Michael Edison invents the CAMELBAK.


1992

Robert Redford releases
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
; Orvis enjoys an upward spike in catalog sales the following year.


1993

Paul Kramer, Martin Zemitis, and Ingrid Harshbanger, desingers with over 50 years of industry experience, help form MOUNTAIN HARDWARE.




1995

ESPN broadcasts the first X GAMES.

Elan and Kneissl introduce SHAPED SKIS.


1997

Black Diamond develops the AVALUNG, a breathing device for people trapped under avalanches.


1998

Arc’Teryx introduces WATERTIGHT ZIPPERS, eliminating the need for storm flaps on jackets.

Michael Kennedy and Sonny Bono die in skiing accidents; helmet sales double over the next two years.


1999

Salomon unveils TWIN-TIPPED SKIS, opening the halfpipe to skiers.


2000

Petzl’s Tikka, an LED HEADLAMP with 150 hours of burn time, hits the market.


2001

The North Face creates the MET5, a ligthweight fleece jacket with internal heating system.

SCHWINN goes bankrupt and is sold to Pacific Cycle.


2002

Outside turns 25. (Hey, we only mentioned it once.)


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