Seven of Our All-Time Favorite Pieces of Gear
Old-school picks so good they've remained unchanged for decades
The outdoor gear industry tends to be forward thinking, using space-age tech to give us the gear of the future today. We’re talking specialized avy air bags, self-tying power laces, and fabrics so gossamer it’s a wonder they shield you from the elements (but they do!).
While we love the high-tech stuff, you can’t look ahead without honoring the past. So we found seven pieces of modern gear with retro aesthetics, including external-frame packs, Boy Scout–esque tents, and boots that look straight out of the 1970s. It’s not just nostalgia at play here. While all this gear has retro-chic street cred, each item is also a true high-alpine performer.
Shelter Supply Co. Meriwether Tent ($1,250)
The 65-pound canvas Meriwether combines Boy Scout sensibility with the practicality of Mongolian yurt. The thing is spacious, standing 9.5 feet tall in the center with a 16-foot diameter to accommodate up to six adults. Think of it as more mountain home than tent. Not nostalgic enough? Check out the Huckleberry Kids Tent, which will make you want to sign up for the Boy Scouts all over again.
Alite Hatcher Backpack ($175)
Two words: External frame. When was the last time you saw one of those puppies on the trail? Alite Designs applies modern comforts like a bomber hipbelt and super-padded shoulder straps to a large external-frame pack meant for hauling big loads on multiday trips. We like the large top opening and wide body, which make organization (and finding that elusive snack) a cinch.
Fjallraven Rucksack No. 21 ($180)
Just about everything Sweden-based Fjallraven makes has a retro tinge, but this daypack is straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. With a waxed-fabric body and stylish leather straps, the bag is perfectly suited to the trail. But let’s be honest: You’re going to use this as your day-to-day work bag because it’s so damn pretty. We like the workhorse touches, including a laptop pad, thermos slot, and removable seat cushion.
Danner Mountain Pass Horween Rio Boots ($350)
Danner’s original Mountain Light, a hiking boot icon, inspired this American-made boot. Danner took a bit of that classic clunker look from its 1970s-era kicks, and then made the new Mountain Pass Horween Rio much lighter and added a waterproof Gore-Tex lining and Vibram Kletterlift outsole for trail grip.
Madden Equipment Original Rucksack ($299)
Madden first designed this bag 40 years ago for an Outward Bound instructor. This year, the company revived the teardrop-shaped bag, building it from lightweight nylon and bison leather. The side pockets fit big Nalgene bottles, and that loop at the bottom holds an ice axe.
PowderJet Gypsy ($550)
These boards are handmade in Vermont, with an emphasis on eco-friendly materials (U.S.-grown FSC-certified maple and poplar laminated with bio-resin). The retro-inspired design is obvious with the shortboard nose (reminiscent of some of the original “Snurfers” from the early 1980s) and a sweet fin-like tail. But there’s performance hidden under all that cool design, with a rocker built for floating powder and a deep sidecut for quick turns.
Fat Chance Yo Eddy ($1,699)
Mountain Bike Hall of Famer Chris Chance helped pioneer bike building with his Fat City Bicycles, which produced the iconic Fat Chance Yo Eddy in the early 1990s. After a 15-year hiatus, Fat Chance was recently revived via a Kickstarter campaign, and Chance is bringing back the Yo Eddy, keeping the steel frame and 1990s-era colors and graphics but updating the bike with disc brakes, 27.5- or 29-inch wheels, and a modern suspension fork.