Chris Townsend – How Outdoor Gear Has Changed Since 1978

Chris Townsend CDT Rohan Moving On and Bags 1985

A recent post by Chris Townsend titled  ‘How Outdoor Gear Has Changed Since 1978‘  is a really interesting read.

It charts the development of some of our favourite gear over 35 years. Boots, tents, clothing, rucksacks, sleeping bags, mats, stoves and accessories all included. It is of great interest to us because it contains Chris’s own photographs of some classic Rohan clothing. Including Moving On, Bags, Striders, Jekyll, Cool T, Shorts and lots more.

Also note the reference to the Rohan Tent. Did you know we made a tent?

Chris’s conclusions are equally interesting.

 In his own words…

 Back in 1999 The Great Outdoors magazine celebrated it’s 21st birthday. For the anniversary issue I wrote a feature about changes in gear during those years. I came across this piece recently and, with some updates to take account of another 15 years, here it is.

Aah, the good old days! Gear was gear then, none of this soft fluffy stuff. And it was lighter, and tougher. So goes the ageing walker, sitting in the corner of the bar smelling slightly of dead sheep and mildewed cotton. But what gear were walkers using in 1978?  And was it as good as the stuff we use now? A quick flip through the pages of the first issue of The Great Outdoors reveals advertisements for leather boots with stitched soles, non-breathable cagoules (lots of those), fibre-pile jackets, external frame packs, ridge tents, tartan wool shirts and cotton windproofs. There are ads for Gore-Tex and internal frame packs but fleece, lightweight boots, trail shoes, dome and tunnel tents, trekking poles, GPS and much more are strangely absent. I’m surprised though at how many of the brand names are familiar – Vango, Mountain Equipment, Rohan, Karrimor, Berghaus, Field & Trek, Primus, Optimus, Camping Gaz, Nikwax, Gore-Tex, Zamberlan, Sprayway – but who now remembers Pointfive, Boylans, Daimor, Bukta, Camp Trails, Hawkins, Munari, Ultimate? 

Gear was a major feature of the first issue of The Great Outdoors with seven pages devoted to a review of the 1977 Camping Trades Association Exhibition (CTA is now the Outdoors Industry Association), a page of test reports (a waterproof cagoule from Clarks (!) and a polyester filled proofed cotton jacket from Tenson), two pages of thoughts on lightweight camping by Robin Adshead (showing the lightweight approach was in The Great Outdoors from the start), another two pages on choosing backpacking gear at the age of fifty by Andrew Harper and a Meet the Retailer page on The Great Outdoors (of course!), in Yeadon. That’s 13 pages in all, a significant chunk of a magazine with just 32 pages of editorial.

Here I’ve taken a dash through the past; seeking out those items that have lasted and looking at the changes that have taken place. read more


Rohan Heritage

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