Please Note: All Material on this page, and in all my "History of Gear" webpages, is copyrighted, and no usage of my material is permitted unless explicit permission is granted by me, Bruce B. Johnson, owner of OregonPhotos.com. The image above is from a 1979 vintage expedition sled.
Mountainsmith was begun by Patrick Smith, a nordic ski guide in Colorado in the late 1970s. My correspondence with him in 1979, led to the purchase of the expedition model sled seen in the images on this page.
What? A SLED included in The History of Gear? Why?
In the late 70s, a Coloradan named Patrick Smith began to get creative. During a time when other pack designers were laboring to perfect a whole new generation of "soft packs" that brought a new level of comfort and stability to backcountry travel, Patrick Smith took that genius creative twist and re-thought the problem from the ground up.
His focus was winter travel by ski, snowshoe or foot-- especially by ski. The observation was that it was murderously difficult to ski with a ponderous, shifty pack on ones back. Even the new softpacks like those by Rivendell, Yak Works and Chouinard were only a partial answer (will later include my story of falling down a deep tree well while wearing a heavy-loaded frame pack)......Smith's solution? DON'T CARRY A PACK, PULL IT ALONG BEHIND YOU! Of course, the idea wasn't new, for thousands of years folks have used sleds of many kinds, and more recently, ski patrols had begun to haul injured clmbers down moutainsides in sleds made of modern materials.... But what Smith brought to the subject was a sled for winter backpackers and expeditioners, one designed with a studious application of modern materials- fiberglass, aluminum, cordura nylon and nylon zippers, hipbelts from standard packs, plastics and closed cell foams. The result? A magnificent innovation, a new definition of SLED into which one could pile a mountain of winter gear and pull along behind yourself in every kind of snow in rugged backcountry areas of all types. It fit in your normal passenger car. You could pull it yourself, you could team up with the family dog, or could use a team of people or dogs. In conjunction with climbing skins for your skis, you could even pull the darn thing up mountains, and then put brakes on it for the ride back down, using the sled's drag to slow and control your own descent! Soon Smith sleds became expedition standards in the Arctic and Antarctic.
An Award for Smith in The History of Gear: "The Best Pack Not on your Pack."
Smith's 1985 catalog states, "7 years ago Smith built the world's first fully rigid harness sled to facilitate hauling the huge loads demanded of him as a nordic ski guide. It proved to be rugged, versatile and skied beautifully. Friends saw the sled and wanted to have one for themselves. Spurred by their support, he went into production and Mountainsmith was born."
By 1985, Smith had greatly expanded his company, having added a line of packs based upon his Delta Hip Suspension System.
Smith makes the grade as a true gear Pioneer, a person clearly right on track with the earlier gear pioneers: "...this passion; our speciality is building unique, innovative conveyance systems for the backcountry traveler."
Mountainsmith is still in business and
vastly larger than it was when it began life as a one-man sled-building
company in 1978. Their main product line nowadays is a wide selection
of packs; however, their sled line is now being carried by Kifaru company: http://www.kifaru.net/sleds.htm.
This link takes you to their sled homepage, where you will find
a quote from Patrick Smith himself, who is the company's President....
In December, 2013, I was contacted by a former employee of Mountainsmith,
who thought it was likely that he was the one who had put together
my sled (as seen in the photos). This was amazing!
Please Note: All Material on this page, and in all my "History of Gear" webpages, is copyrighted, and no usage of my material is permitted unless explicit permission is granted by me, Bruce B. Johnson, owner of OregonPhotos.com