After over a decade of looking for packs at thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets I finally found a piece from The Great Pacific Iron works. I was relatively quick to discover the model of this frameless backpacking unit as the Ultima Thule. Digging further into some of the nuance of this bag compared to others, I believe its 1974 model. 73 would coincide with the first year of the shop label, but a catalogue for that year states the pack has a yellow duck canvas back. The difference between this and later models being the conjoined top flap strap. The two-to-one design is replaced by two individual straps for the 1975 catalog.
The early 70s were a coming of age period for backpacking and backpacking gear. While most other pack makers were designing and developing lightweight aluminum frame packs for multi night use, Chouinard and co were already bucking the trend. The Ultima Thule was designed for use to, from, and on the crag and slopes. For this reason, they forewent the frame and instead made a pack that hugged the wearers body to help maintain balance and center of gravity. If you’ve ever donned a loaded up frame pack you know the feeling. Load’s sit comfortably off your back but the slightest tip or tilt can have you quickly repositioning your feet below to keep from stumbling. For Chouinard, this instability simply wouldn’t due on the talus and slopes.
What looks like an over-sized day pack is thoughtfully designed with the wearer in mind. The bottom compartment, opens all the way around the waist into what are referred to as “dewlaps”. This compartment was meant to be stuffed full with a sleeping bag and other soft goods to create a firm base for the rest of the load to sit upon. The Velcro belt, enables a nice cinch around the waist and allows the load to ride on the wearer’s hips. “Let your hips shoulder the weight” one pack maker said in their advertisements. The top compartment is separated into to side-by-side silo pockets which is nice for equipment containing fuel, or anything that best rides upright. Reinforcing via rivets and nylon webbing ensured you could stuff this thing like a turkey without it splitting. When packed thoughtfully, it also helps maintain that center of gravity the company was going for. The top flap offers a good amount of space, but has no side gussets, so more practical for maps and smalls. An intentional design meant to keep from top loading weight of the pack.
The material on the pack is pretty standard for the time. A heavy, coated nylon in a royal blue. Perhaps the biggest wow factor, aesthetically at least, comes from the green duck canvas backing which extends from just above the shoulder straps down to the inside of the “dewlaps”. With this pack adhered to he wearer’s back, I am sure the duck canvas offered at least some sweat absorption. Shoulder straps are reinforced with a riveted leather backer and feed down into the body of the pack. There’s an ergonomic crescent shape to them and they’re lightly padded. Standard leather lashing points adorn the body of the bag for side canister compartment attachments, axes, skis, poles or whatever else one would need for the adventure.
This example is rather clean in my book. There’s some dust externally I haven’t quite removed, but the true mark is the condition of that inner nylon coating which breaks down with wear and improper storage. In this pack, it’s about as good as you could hope for. The Rocky Mountaineering cord lock is a fun add-on, probably deserving of some investigation of its own.
Unique tubular shaped Holubar waist pack. The pack is made of heavy orange nylon with straps constructed from the same material, doubled over for strength. The almost oddly long bag measures 18″ by 6″ high and 6″ deep. Where as most waist packs are relatively abbreviated in width to sit either squarely in front or behind the user, the length of this bag would cause it to wrap around most users. To battle this, the straps are inset on the bag as opposed to attached to the ends of the bag. D rings at the top could be used to secure rolled items such as a jacket to the outside, or possibly even to attach the pack the bottom of a day pack with corresponding lashing squares.
Hine Snowbridge – One of the great old labels from Colorado. This is a large pack measures about 17″ around the waist 6″ high top to bottom. 5″ deep. YKK zips, large metal clasp waist.
Exit Expeditions International – Not familiar with this label and have not seen it anywhere else. This late 70s or 80s pack features Ideal zips, large Fastex clamp waist. Clean and in good shape
Maran – Popular maker of packs of all sizes in the early to mid 1970s. Smaller pack than the hine or exit. 12″ across waist 5″ high 3 1/2″ deep. Unique design with the YKK zipper across the top. Seatbelt nylon waist strap with interlocking metal buckle. Clean, nice shape
Mark Pack Works – Albany CA.Little known about this maker and a seldom seen label. Medium size pack 13″ across waist, 6″ high 4.5″ deep. Has one main compartment with two internal compartments and removable foam which helps the pack keep its shape. Two side pockets, one on each strap arm. Skinny seatbelt nylon strap with small Fastex clip. C&C zippers
Famous Trails – A prolific maker out of San Diego California and contemporary to Kelty. This medium waist pack measures about 11.5″ across the waist, 6.5″ high top to bottom. 5″ deep. Awesome color combo of brown and cream. Features one main compartment with two smaller side pockets. Ideal zippers, large Fastex clasp waist. Full color Famous Trails label pops.
Travel in style with this early 80s TNF garment bag. This khaki and navy Cordura and Nylon bag is in good shape and ready to go.
Folded it measures 22″ wide by 20″ high and can be carried using a the soft leather hand strap or nylon shoulder strap. Front pocket containing the label zips at top and has front facing zip pocket as well. On the back side there is a small map pocket with Velcro access between the nylon webbing. Buckled compression straps on either side keep the bag together when folded.
Open the bag measures 40″ high. there are two pockets on the inside, the top measures about 22″ x 20″. The bottom is roughly the same size but is partitioned in down the middle. The inner Cordura layer zips 3/4 the way around to reveal the nylon inside measuring 22″x40″. There is a nylon belt across the center to secure garments. As well as two pockets at the top. There is a metal rod running through the middle of the bag at the fold for support.
All zippers are heavy-duty YKK and snaps are The North Face branded and in perfect working condition. There are some black marks on the front and bottom of the bag from use ( see photos) other wise is clean and free from holes. The insides are in near perfect condition.
Not quite sure about the origins of this pack, the colors would suggest to me German military, but the only distinguishable marking printed on the inside of the top flap reads “Decize” which is a town in France. The pack is made of heavy-weight Grey canvas with black leather trimmings and fittings.
The pack itself is very wide at 19 inches across the back, expandable by a few more inches via lace up expansions on the back sides. Two large cargo pockets on the sides and one front pocket all close via leather buckles. A draw string closes the top underneath a double buckle top flap. Finally another long leather belt runs from the top and buckles to the solid leather bottom.
Shoulder straps secure a metal external frame. The straps are adjustable by multiple buckles which create tension on a lower cross strap at the hips which keeps the frame from resting directly on the back. About a half inch of felted wool makes up the shoulder strap padding. One of the straps is breakable, a technique common to military packs allowing troops to slip out of them while in the prone position.
This bag has a classic look constructed of Cordura with leather trimmings. Designed and made well before laptops, this bag would make a great carrying case for our time. The main compartment houses an internal pocket. Two front pockets, the inner top zip and the outer front zip. There is also one top entry map pocket with leather strap belt on the back side. Handel consists of two cotton web straps that join at the top via a soft leather snap-close sheath. D-rings at either end support a shoulder strap – NOT included.
This bag is in usable shape. All zippers work and stitching is intact. The bag shows its age in some dark spots on the front back and bottom, I’ve tried my best to capture this in the photos. This bag is a little darker shade of red than it appears in the photos, almost Burgundy. The cotton strap is also a little frayed at the top but still holds strong. Leather piping around the front is also scuffed. Not sure if this bag could be dry cleaned but might clean up if so.
Offered for everyday use or appreciation by collectors of fine labels.
Wilderness Experience was started by a former employee of Kelty in 1973. For great insight into the Wilderness Experience brand visit this link
Main compartment measures
14.5 inches across
4.75 inches deep
12 inches tall.
This bag is constructed of heavy duty green and white military canvas with leather and metal fittings. Thick leather straps are adjustable by buckle at the bottom for length; and at the top for slack from back plate. Both straps are anchored at the top by a large D ring. The left strap is hinged by a metal pin half way down, while the right is breakable by way of a hook and ring. Not sure what this was for, possibly ease of exit from a loaded pack, or to allow for strap accessories.
Two rods running the length of the back panel give the bag rigidness. An inch wide metal bow at the bottom of the bag is spanned by a cotton strap to offer padding and breathability at the waist. Top closure is completed by a cotton draw string through aluminum grommets and a canvas flap secured by leather straps. There is also an internal gator with cotton tie cord to further secure contents from the elements. One external pocket on the front of the pack is also secured by leather straps and metal buckles.
This pack is sold with two original lashing straps to secure goods to the top flap via metal loops.
Soldiers returning from WWII who took up mountaineering as a hobby and sport used packs just like this early on. These designs were later taken and adapted by outdoor companies for use specifically as outdoor products. The designs of many early packs from companies like Gerry, Class 5, The North Face and Kelty can be seen in this pack. It is a great piece of military history and outdoor history.
Hip Pack, Waist Bag, Fanny Pack, Bum Bag whatever you want to call it, this is a nice example. This small JanSport USA bag is in very nice condition with some very nice touches. Leather top is accentuated with southwestern design boarder. JS embossed zipper with leather pull. Clean inside with no holes or rips. Nylon waist strap with plastic buckle.
11.5 inches across
5 inches tall.
For when your leather bottom backpack isn’t enough there’s this – JanSport USA divided duffel bag. Perfect for use as a carry-on or gear bag. Made of the same cordura type material as the backpacks this duffel also features:
Heavy duty nylon webbing handles that run the all the way around the bag (hidden on sides behind the pockets).