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My father had a custom-fitted backpack made back around 1980, which he gave to me, and it's the best backpack I've ever used.

It goes against practically everything in the book about modern backpack design.

There's about zero customisability, you can adjust the length of the shoulder straps and hip strap and that's about it, but I'm a very similar build to my old man so it fits me almost perfectly.

It's an external aluminium framed pack, with a lot of hard canvas and leather. The shoulder straps are relatively narrow, and made of canvas, they look incredibly uncomfortable, but after I broke them in they were incredible, they moulded to fit me.

The external frame allows for really good back ventilation. The thing I dislike the most about modern backpacks is that I basically end up with a giant sponge on my back. The frame also serves a protective purpose, along with being made out of thick canvas, everything inside the pack stays safe, you could throw it of a cliff.

Of course, it's heavy, bulky, and if it doesn't fit you it's hell to wear. But for a 40 year old backpack it does incredibly well.

I think that the biggest difference between old outdoor equipment and new equipment is that the new stuff is all generic, one size fits all, and designed to be comfortable from the moment you walk out of the store. You can buy a new pack and boots, and go on a 5 day hike the next day without having to break in any of your equipment. Perfect for our fast food, turnkey culture. Older, and modern bespoke equipment made in the old way, will last you an entire lifetime, but it takes time to break it in and maintain it.

I've always found it interesting that at the point in history where humans were spending the most time in the wilderness, we had the least technically complicated equipment. When the Europeans were exploring and colonising the Americas they did so with nothing but timber, leather, canvas, and a bit of steel. Now we spend a couple of weekends a year in the bush, bringing a plethora of space-age technology just to try and survive: carbon fibre, nylon, and titanium gas cookers that boil water in 30 seconds.

I feel like people often become more reliant on technology, not less, when they go into the outdoors.




This seems like a myopic view, like you fell in love with a backpack and built a worldview around it. Modern backpacking gear is extremely light, resilient, and comfortable. You can get packs that ventilate your back. The canvas isn’t really any protection at all from being thrown off a cliff, but a pack filled with soft stuff is. And the external frame is totally unnecessary if your pack weighs 20 total pounds because you have modern gear.

And then mix that in with a jab at disposable culture. You can take good care of a modern pack too, I’ve never had to replace a backpack because it broke.

Sorry to be disagreeable, I just think this comment doesn’t reflect a common reality. I’m no gear head, someone else buys all my gear... but I appreciate modern gear.


Here's the difference I see: the gear the parent is carrying could last year in the wilderness, without reconnecting to civilization. Same goes for the Europeans colonizing the Americas. Your 20lbs of 'high end gear' lasts until it breaks, and then you're back to the store because you can't repair it.

I grew up camping, and I know how awesome the modern tech is. I also know that most people who use it can't go without it.

Can you repair your sleeping bag? When you drop your mosquito cooking stove 'off a cliff' and break the nozzle, can you fix it? Can you and your modern equipment thrive in the woods after your stove's fuel runs out?


Yes, I can and have repaired my sleeping bags. My pocket rocket stove is very sturdy and has a sturdy plastic case, and we’ve had it for 14+ years. And I think I’d be fine in the forest without a stove, but honestly if I ran out of food I might not last long... I’m not a survivalist.

FWIW, I’d also keep using a pack I liked. But the takeaway shouldn’t be people should buy old fashioned backpacks... they mostly suck compared to modern packs.


>When the Europeans were exploring and colonising the Americas they did so with nothing but timber, leather, canvas, and a bit of steel. Now we spend a couple of weekends a year in the bush, bringing a plethora of space-age technology just to try and survive: carbon fibre, nylon, and titanium gas cookers that boil water in 30 seconds.

Well we use more technology today than we did before, big surprise. People didn't have sewage in the 1500s, and do now. Vasco da Gama didn't even bring oranges in his ships for a 2 year voyage, and yet today we stock tonnes of food on cruises. Etc x)


> I think that the biggest difference between old outdoor equipment and new equipment is that the new stuff is all generic, one size fits al

This article literally is about methods of backpack fitting. Custom-made bespoke backpacks are described as well. There is entire section on methods of ventilation.


BTW TFA doesn't mention the basic idea of backpacks, except by implication: they put the weight on your hips; the shoulders straps are just for alignment.


From the second paragraph:

A properly fitting backpack (with hip belt) is one where the mass of the pack is evenly distributed from the C7 cervical vertebra (the bony part at the base of your neck) down to the iliac crest (top of the hips) where the majority of the weight should sit.


To be fair, the "evenly distributed" part of that sentence makes it pretty dang confusing.


This backpack sounds interesting. Do you know where he got it made? Do you have any photos of it? I find modern backpacks awkward at best and having a custom-fitted one sounds great. Also, I basically only use duffel bags to avoid the whole bag sweat issue.


I have a couple of 30+ year old backpacks. One thing I like about them is that they don't have thousands of zippers and compartments, so they're quite lightweight despite being made of relatively basic materials. I also have a newer "student" backpack, and it seems like it's full before I even put any stuff in it.

One of these backpacks has been my companion on every plane trip I've ever taken. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way last summer, that it's no longer waterproof at all.


We use technology mainly so we can be fast and self sufficient. This allows for short trips which can be fit in a modern working life. I believe that's a big driver.


I went through three (no-frame, daily commute) backpacks in slightly over a year a while back - they all failed in different ways. It annoyed me enough that I spent time looking for a well-made one, and settled on a (noncustom) leather backpack.

Sounds very similar - it looks nothing like a modern bag, is not very adjustable, a bit heavy in comparison, super comfortable to wear and I'm pretty sure it will outlive me.


We're gonna need pictures.




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