Even for the ounce-counting minimalist hikers and backpackers there is no doubt that the game has changed since big box names like L.L. Bean and REI first started selling their wares to the public. While many modern developments (the Internet and its spawns) are often sited as obstructions between man and nature, and tossed into the proverbial bonfire by serious outdoor enthusiasts, Pocket Ranger® takes a look at those that have made enjoying nature and its activities easier.
Setting up camp now only means a matter of minutes compared to the hours of tarp-laying and steak-pounding of yesteryears. With the advent of the pop-up tent, and other light-weight tents, camping out is less of back-breaking endeavor than it used to be and campers are able pack in and pack out with great speed and ease, and in return leave less of an impact on their surroundings. In addition to being a pain in the neck to set up, older tents were big and bulky and next to impossible to scale a mountain with. Once manufacturers scrapped the hard-to-tote metal and canvas tents—ideal only for military medic stations and family reunions, and upgraded to featherweight polyester, nylon, and aluminum models, tent camping was forever changed and a new generation of campers was born.
Without them backpacking would have to be called something else (fannypacking, anyone?) and without all the built-in features most packs have these days, it’s hard to imagine traveling any other way. While old-school rucksacks have made a made a major comeback, you’re more likely to find them on the backs of city folk, rather than enduring the mean peaks of the Rockies or the backcountry trails of Yosemite. Like with tents, weight and durability have been the biggest improvements backpacks have seen over the last century or so. Rather than lugging around a heavy canvas or leather sack that is most likely not water or weatherproof, we now are spoiled by ergonomics and the like, and can find the perfect backpack to fulfill our every need. Front-loading packs made of ripstop nylon make it easy to pack and unpack your gear, while special features like lumbar padding and hydration systems keep prolonged wear and comfort in mind.
Keeping cozy outside has never been easier since the invention of the mummy bag, air mattresses, and other camp bedding that seek to bring all the comfort and luxury of indoor living to the outdoors. While noisy neighbors, cranky animals, and snoring tent mates might still stand between us and a good night’s sleep, we have to admit these nuisances sure beat tossing and turning in the itchy wool blankets and sleep sacks of earlier years that in retrospect seem more like torture devices than bedding.
Before the world went digital and gut instincts and paper maps led the way, trailblazers and other adventurers relied on the original GPS device, the compass, to guide them to their destinations. While compasses are still very much in use, there is no doubt that the face of this handy device has chanced both in accuracy and pure aesthetics. Nowadays we can find compasses on keychains, binoculars, utility knives, and on pretty much any multi-tool on the market—heck, there’s even an app for that—making it easier to tell northeast from northwest than right from left. While whimsical types are sure to wax nostalgic over the handsome brass compasses of earlier centuries, given the choice between these romantic pieces and their battery-operated counterparts while out on the trail, it’s safe to say we’d rather put our lives in hands of the latter.