7 Pieces of Equipment That Changed the History of Hiking From 1990s to 21st Century

7 Pieces of Equipment That Changed the History of Hiking From 1990s to 21st Century

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)

By Amelia Arvesen
Before the introduction of Smartwool, socks were made of cotton, synthetic fibers, or coarse wool that was wet, matted, smelly, and not many happy feet on the trail. 1994 saw the founding of SW by former ski instructors, Mr. and Mrs. Duke, who discovered New Zealand's soft, slim merino wool that was perfect for hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities with its odor-suppressing, moisture- and temperature-managing properties.
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.

Courtesy: Smartwool

Patagonia R1 (1999)

By Ryan Wichelns

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.


Courtesy: Patagonia

Crocs Classic Clog (2002)

By Justin La Vigne

The most hated and most loved shoe in modern history, the Clog has sold 850 million pairs since 2002. For backpackers, these recyclable closed-cell foam shoes are timeless, comfortable, toe protected, drainable, super lightweight, and easy to clean. It is the camp shoe of choice for a large number of backpackers, many of whom use it as a backcountry shoe or even as their main hiking shoe.
Courtesy: Crocs

Jetboil (2004)

By Amelia Arvesen

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.

Courtesy: Jetboil

Spot (2007)

By Justin La Vigne

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.

Courtesy: Spot

Altra Lone Peak (2011)

By Nathan Pipenberg
The Altra Lone Peak has received overwhelming support from hikers, trail runners, and casual hikers over the past decade. With its classic sneaker breathable mesh upper, comfortable midsole, and wide lugs, it adds an unusual design: a zero-drop sole, retro styling, and, most importantly, a wide fit that changes the smooth, narrow shape of most trail running shoes (often resulting in blisters) and is certainly more comfortable for wide feet than any hiking boot, and has been so popular it has been released in six generations and is practically hand-held by hikers. It has been the most worn shoe in the PCT line for five years in a row, according to surveys.
Courtesy: Altra

Waterproof Down (2012)

By Ryan Wichelns

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.

Courtesy: L.L. Bean

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.

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