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Low-tech gear

I’ve been backpacking for well over 50 years and looking forward to my Big 7-Oh season next year.  Over that time backpacking gear has gone high-tech but not always for the better.   My first stove was a Trangia that burns denatured alcohol.   Simple (no moving parts), lightweight, cheap, bombproof and it doesn’t burn fossil fuels.   I have tried high-tech fossil fuels stoves, Optimus, Peak-1 but for the last 25 years have gone back to the Trangia.   I’ll never burn fossil fuels in the backcountry again!

I often camp in places such as mountaintops, so carrying and storage of water is of the utmost importance to me.   I still use what REI used to sell as the “watersack” -  a plastic bladder covered with a nylon shell and simple stopper/spigot – under 5 oz.   Unfortunately, REI no longer sells the watersack – and neither does anyone else!     Instead for water storage you have to buy an expensive, heavy, high-tech alternative with a fancy name, i.e. Dromedary bag, etc.

These two items indicate how backpacking has changed.   Instead of simple, cheap but highly effective gear like the Trangia stove and watersack, you now have all this expensive high-tech gear.    Why would you sell a watersack for $5 when you can sell something for 5 or more times that?   Same for the stove, it’s now all about making money for the corporations, not getting out.

For All Things Wild,

Ed Lytwak

3 Replies

Greetings Ed,

Thanks for checking in with us!

I have been backpacking for twenty some years and it is my first love! I spend all winter looking at maps and dreaming about spring. I love to talk gear and find lighter more efficient products. I was out on the PCT section hiking this summer where I met many thru hikers with varying opinions on what is the "best". I had a blast talking to all of them!

So here is what I use for a is the Jetboil. I do not like to cook in the backcountry and prefer to dehydrate my own meals. I have had this product forever. It is lightweight and easy to use.

As for the water filter, I use the Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System. It is inexpensive, weighs 3 ounces and all you need is a 2 liter water bottle. Check out the video on

I just want to say you inspire me to backpack into my 70s (8 more years for that landmark)!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I have been backpacking for more than 60 years, starting out when even a Trangia would have been high tech.  We cooked on open campfires and slept under a poncho..

For water containers, my fave is a recycled sports beverage bottle (usually Gatorade).  Very reasonable price and it comes filled.  I also have some fancier things,, but basically, all that any of them do is hold water.

My gear is a mix of low tech and high tech (GPS and topo map) and some of the new stuff is pretty cool..  Some ofit is junk, just like some of the trad material.

Things cost more now, but iI make more, even in retirement.  There is this thing called inflation


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

OK, you guys have me feeling young here, I've only been at this for 40-some years. My first trips consisted of a blanket, a sheet of plastic and a rope for a tent, a huge multi-tool that had a fork, knife, spoon, can opener, and about 50 other tools, along with a couple cans of beans or something I could just set on the fire LOL. And a book of matches, and heaven help you if they got wet.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.