History of Gear: Classic Outdoor Equipment Labels: Eddie Bauer to Frostline to Patagonia, to Bibler, to Lowe Alpine, to Madden Mountaineering, to Helly Hansen, and more

History of Gear: Eddie Bauer, "Expedition Outfitters," Seattle Washington USA

Founded pre- WW II by Eddie Bauer, a real person who was then 21 years old. His signature product in the History of Gear was probably his "Skyliner" quilted down jacket, produced in 1936 and patented in 1940, it is claimed to be the first quilted down coat in the USA..Click the image for more on Eddie Bauer and a fun camping picture! The text on the upper (gold) label includes the key company descriptor: "Expedition Outfitter."

Note: The Puget Sound area around Seattle was also the birthplace of several other classic gear companies during the 1960s and 70s, such as Early Winters, JanSport, Yak Works, ThermaRest, Outdoor Reserch (OR), Yak Works, and Rivendell Mountain Works.

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. I welcome readers contacting me (oldgear@Oregonphotos.com) with information, pictures or stories about their classic Gear, or about any of the classic outdoor companies.

Colorado, the 1960s--- the Frostline Kits gear line-up included all the basics such as parkas, tents, and sleeping bags, and, over the years, expanded to include many related items. Eg. my Fall/Winter 1995 catalog lists such items as soft luggage, bicycle panniers, short pants, tote bags, and a growing line-up made of the trendy new material called "pile" (which of course has gone on to revolutionize outdoor clothing wardrobes).

R.I.P. Frostline as an employer was so loved by its employees, reports Dale Johnson, that for years after the company had left Boulder, its employees were still holding annual "Frostline" picnics! But now it is 2011, and I must regretfully report that it is (mostly) R.I.P. for one of my favorite companys in The Gear Revolution. Frostline, born 1966, died about 2008. I wish Frostline peace in some nylon-bedecked Mountain place, and of course in its native Colorado.

If your main interest is in finding MODERN companies which can supply you with the fabrics and down that you need for outdoor sewing projects, click here to visit my page about that important subject!

Some Colorado labels!

Hine-Snowbridge was another of the great gear companies springing out of the Boulder scene, birthplace of so many pioneering companies. Brothers Greg and Ted Hine were at the helm...Their company belonged to a later generation than the classic Boulder companies such as GERRY, Frostline, and Holubar..... The brothers' first catalog seems to have been issued in 1974 and featured packs...I've seen catalogs dated as late as 1984, and it was at about this time that they also issued a Kirtland catalog which offered Kirtland bike packs..... I am researching this company's history; recently Ted Hine sent me a CD of their company history after I had met him in Boulder, CO at a talk about the historic Boulder companies that I gave there. Additional reader input is solicited (contact me: oldgear@oregonphotos.com)



Banana Equipment Company of Estes Park, Colorado was another of the smaller companies that sprouted up in Colorado, somewhat in the same time frame as Hine-Snowbridge (see above) and Patrick Smith's "Mountainsmith."...The founders were Nancy Grimes and Jim Heiden (I'm in contact with Ms. Grimes).... I owned a pair of Banana's well-made goretex mountain pants, in a green that was a lot like a very green banana, just like their label was fond of saying, "PRODUCTS WITH A PEAL." My wife had a matching pair, but in yellow, like a yellow banana skin! According to Peter Hickner at Feathered Friends in Seattle, Banana was one of the very first companies to use that new-fangled "Goretex" stuff when it was introduced in 1976.. In fact, my research finds that Banana Equipment may have been the FIRST to produce a good pair of Goretex mountain pants...... To the best of my knowledge, Banana did not last long, and was probably gone for good by the late 1980s. I solict input on their fate (Contact me: oldgear@oregonphotos.com)

"Yvon Chouinard," there is hardly a more recognizable name in the history of American rockclimbing, and also in the History of Gear. More than one of my readers has written to me with memories of the very early days of Chouinard/Great Pacific Ironworks/Patagonia. A popular account recalls Chouinard himself selling hand-forged climber's ironware at Yosemite and other locations-- out of the back of his beat-up old car! This GPIW label was found on a pair of badly de-laminated goretex rain pants dating from the early 1980s. You might ask why a hard-core, famous rock climber like Yvon has a label with giant waves on it, and the answer would be that Yvon has had a life-long passion for surfing. His famed climber's blacksmith shop was very purposely sited within a short distance to the beach so he and his employees could easily go surfing!..... His book is aptly-named "Let My People Go Surfing," and deserves my comment-- I obtained my copy of Yvon's book from none other than Mr. Gerry Cunningham, who of course founded GERRY in 1946 and was a prolific inventor of gear. What is less known is that both Gerry and Yvon have life-long histories as early purveyors of the Green Revolution. Even in his advanced old age, Gerry was re-publishing things he'd written years before, such eco-friendly titles as "The 50% Utility Bill- A Case History." Meanwhile, Yvon's Patagonia was busy figuring out how to create recyclable clothing. "Let My People Go Surfing," by Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner, Patagonia, 7.5 x 9 inches, 254 pages, Penguin Books, copyright 2005 and 2006.. The recent film "180 South, Conquerors of the Useless" is also identified in many minds with Yvon Chouinard and North Face founder Doug Tomkins, although in some ways neither are truly "main" characters in it..... I will add a special note about the "Chouinard Dragon" label. It's a complicated story but it came to me in inquiries about whether some excellently-made packs in (I think) South Korea were "real" Chouinard products. A piece of that story is that Sheridan Anderson, who often produced cartoons for the venerable Summit Magazine, was the guy who drew this artsy label. Mr. Anderson was also known for his book Curtis Creek Manifesto (1978), billed as the best-ever guide to fly-fishing for beginners.

Helly Hansen, from Norway, the innovator who first introduced the World to pile garments and underwear, fishnet underwear and then poly-pro underwear under the brandname of Lifa. This company wasn't in America, but was truly one of the greatest Pioneers of Outdoor gear. Kudos to them!

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. Contact me: oldgear@oregonphotos.com

Classic Labels: I am always adding to this page of classic, old equipment labels and readers are welcome to contribute. Here's a label from one of the first companies in the USA to supply climbers and backpackers: it's an REI label from sometime in the 1960s, well before the era when the little climber's cooperative of Seattle exploded into a corporate giant (Recreational Equipment Inc.)..Click here for my REI page.... You'll note the tent shown is a primitive guy-lined A-frame, and the ice axe is wooden-shafted and with the old-fashioned pick/adze-- the axe in particular is a sign that this label dates from well before REI's neighbor in Tacoma had perfected the metal-shafted axe (Larry Penberthy's MSR, aka Mountain Safety Research; click for two pages about MSR . (image contributed by Monte Dodge).


Main Page: Essays and pictures about the Pioneers of the Outdoor Gear Revolution, 1935-The Present, 45+ pages, five books published, a more under development, and still ever-expanding!


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Last Revision 11/26/2021