Backpacker Magazine was founded in 1973 by William Kemsley, a seasoned hiker and naturalist who saw the rise of hiking and backpacking culture that was revived from the 1910s and 20s after the creation of the National Trails System Act in 1968. Part of this act was to create the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, which are very long and very difficult for even the most dedicated hikers complete from start to finish. PCT and the Appalachian Tail inspired many young people to take up day hiking and camping trips in the freshly accessible beautiful world of national parks and trails – hence, the boom of rugged trucks, sleeping bags, camping gear, and outdoor performance clothing that made advertising support for magazines like Backpacker possible (to make up for the loss of advertising revenue from refusing to run guns and ammo advertisements). Ownership Backpacker has gone through several hands since its inception as a niche hobby magazine and is published today by Active Interest Media.
The fully digitized magazine can be read here, thanks to Google Books.
The golden age of men in shorts.
For a while in its early days, every cover of Backpacker had the issue number next to the title, leading me on to believe for an embarrassingly long amount of time that this magazine was actually called Backpacker 33. I maintain that it’s a cool name for a magazine!
Son of a Land Cruiser!
Trucks like this seemed to be in a new and unsteady market of hyper masculinity, attempting to compete with sports cars for the Manliness prize. I like the way the truck graphic is poking out of the frame.
“But they are never cold or uncomfortable” – I think that’s a lot to assume. Has anyone actually asked the polar bears how they feel about winter? Maybe they hate it!
Apparently it was finally beginning to dawn on people that most catastrophic forest fires are, indeed, their fault. Amazingly for a publication of its time, there are no cigarette ads in this magazine. Zero.
Because you’re in the opening scene of an 80s slasher movie!
Look at this sassy man in his sassy tuff-seat shorts!
The two ads aren’t related, but I like to pretend that they are. Sassy little shorts do get itchy.
When these people get pissed about tent pole lengths, they get pissed about tent pole lengths.
I’m not sure what the deal is with those velcro-vent flares for GALS!, unless they’re intended to make peeing in the woods easier. Even then, I doubt I’ll ever want pants that scream to the world that I’m going to go pee in the woods and I’m going to do it without being encumbered by the average pair of pants.
Check out Not-Beast Beast in the pocket knife ad.
Likely the most palatable menu we’ve seen yet in the history of Let’s Read Old Magazines, which is saying something considering the liberal use of “powdered” foods in the recipes.
On the third day of your hike, four identical beautiful women in high-quality hiking gear will materialize before you on the trail. They will ask you what jacket is the most flattering on them. If you tell them the truth with a pure and honest heart, you will get free shipping on your next order at REI (enter code SKOGSKRA at checkout).
If you lie, they will turn into bears and eat you.
I prefer my sleeping bag ads to look like cheap paperback fantasy novels.
“Disappears up its own pockethole” sounds rather evocative.
The men in the Jansport photograph were never seen alive again, but the bears who ate them found their backpacks to be spectacular quality.
Check out the pants on the youth-of-indeterminate-gender in the center.
Whose dad looked exactly like this in the 70s? Mine sure did.
from an article on backpacking in the Great Smoky Mountains. I thought that guy wasn’t wearing clothes at first.
Hot Camping Dad of 1979!
Hey look, it’s my childhood backyard! What can I say except it’s gorgeous year-round and there’s only one service road out of the mountains, so if a catastrophic fire hits, everyone’s dead. Ha ha! There are also secret weed farms and rumors of nudist communes deep in the woods.
Ask me about the time we went on a field trip to Big Basin in the third grade and Danny B.’s mom got attacked by a squirrel!
From an article on Garibaldi Provincial Park in Vancouver.
“Far from minding the restrictions on camping, we were eager to let the bears eat the day hikers”
These pictures are my happy place.
You can probably find this exact poster, untouched from where it was first thumbtacked to the wall in 1979, in many ranger stations across the country to this day.
The original of this painting hangs in the lobby of Backpacker Magazine’s offices, so now you can hang a print of it in your home and wish that you too worked at Backpacker Magazine!
“thick and thirsty” is my drag queen catchphrase.
People born in the early 80s…you were likely conceived in one of these.
The ice skater had the best chance, as she is small and probably the fastest runner, but in the end…all of these people were eaten by bears.
Alpen Guy is cute. I’m glad that Berghaus give their contact information on the condition of one being in difficulty, whatever that means. I’m picturing someone lost in the woods, writing a note and attaching it to the leg of a blue jay, then setting it free and the blue jay promptly returning with a map and a cup of tea.
The wolf community thanks Oasis Canteens for their inclusiveness.
llamas, crackers, pancake syrup, and apparently the 70s version of myself looking for back issues of Backpacker.
I bet only 30-ish percent of those international hiking programs were sex trafficking scams.
“Around the third month on the trail, the Peak 1 Pack started to speak to me. It said, Carolyn, Mother Earth is weeping because of the way that humans have treated the land, and then the Peak 1 stove started talking and I knew that they were totally talking to each other behind my back. No, like literally behind my back, because the stove was packed into the Peak 1 Pack. It spoke with the voice of my mother. And that’s when I decided that maybe I should stop foraging for mushrooms altogether.”
“I would like some of your fancy hiking shit” — the barefoot man carrying a basket up a rocky hill.
Thank you for reading another week with me! Next week I am going on a desperately needed vacation, so this feature will be taking the week off. I will return on July 27th to review Sassy from December 1988!