Here, we've provided a brief history of hiking technology with several notable changes in the outdoor equipment used for hikes over the past 40 years. We've also provided some information on other items that are key to hiking. Together, they should help you better understand the various changes that have taken place in our outdoor equipment over the years, and where you can find the best gear for your next hiking adventure.
Smartwool Socks (1994)
To change the perception of wool as "rough and tangled," SW focused its marketing efforts on educating people about the benefits of merino wool, which indirectly helped bring other brands of merino apparel to market, such as Darn tough and IBEX. Merino wool is now one of the most common materials used in hiking apparel.
Patagonia R1 (1999)
The R1's technical fleece revolutionized fleece garments, which were previously made of a particularly thick polyester fiber that was warm but bulky and not breathable. Patagonia succeeded in making polyester thinner and in creating a mesh fabric with numerous air channels to dissipate heat and sweat. Smooth, stretchy, slimming, breathable, and warm, the R1 created a whole new category of outdoor apparel with "sports insulation". There are many mesh fleece garments on the market today that are virtually identical to the R1 when it was introduced in 1999.
Crocs Classic Clog (2002)
By Justin La Vigne
The Jetboil is essentially a rubber-insulated mug attached to a burner with a fire regulator to boil water, but this all-in-one stove is easier to operate, lighter, and heats up faster than the original stoves on the market because the structure uses half the fuel. Combined with its concept of a private cooking system, it quickly became popular with backpackers.
The Spot satellite communicator was created at a time when cell phone reception was not available in the mountains and satellite phones were too expensive. The palm-sized personal locator can send pre-edited messages to contacts, record trips, and call for emergency assistance. Since its launch, it has saved about 9,000 people. With the addition of Bluetooth and two-way communication, the new model remains one of the best satellite communication devices available.
Altra Lone Peak (2011)
Waterproof Down (2012)
Downtek solved the century-old problem of water-resistant down by introducing the first DWR-treated hydrophobic down, or water-resistant down, which was first used in the L.L. Bean Classic Ultra Light down jacket. This technology allows down, warm material with an optimal space/weight ratio, to be used in humid environments and partially solves the problem of condensation and moisture in down sleeping bags. This technology, once used exclusively for down gear in wet climates, is now ubiquitous in down jackets and down sleeping bags.
As the popularity of hiking has grown over the years, the creation and distribution of new gear that makes hiking easier and safer have also risen. Of course, this change has not been limited to hiking gear but is true in all aspects of life. Whether it's clothing, shoes, boots, or some other piece of equipment, we are often blessed with new options that make our lives better and easier. Yes, there are more choices for hikers today than ever before, but that means more people will be able to experience the wonderful world of hiking in many new ways.