Mad Men of the Mountains: Vintage Gear Ads - Appalachian Mountain Club

Mad Men of the Mountains: Vintage Gear Ads

October 26, 2016
Ads for many familiar outdoor recreation products began appearing in AMC’s Appalachia in the late 1930s. Scroll down to view more vintage ads.
AMC Library & ArchivesAds for many familiar outdoor recreation products began appearing in AMC’s Appalachia in the late 1930s. Scroll down to view more vintage ads.

Humans have hiked and paddled and climbed for centuries, but specialized outdoor-recreation gear is a relatively new invention. Advertisements in Appalachia, AMC’s member-publication-turned-journal, mirror the evolution of this industry across the decades.

Clothing and equipment ads started appearing in Appalachia in the 1930s, as interest in skiing spread. Early ads featured fur-trimmed snowsuits and parkas, and in 1936, Idaho’s Sun Valley Resort was the first ski area to pitch its charms via paid placement.

Ads all but vanished from the journal during World War II and the decade that followed. Then came the backpacking boom. Hiking and camping suddenly were big business, and in the 1960s a wave of new products, from boots to sleeping bags, filled each issue’s expanding advertising section.

Even in an increasingly crowded market, many of those early advertisers—manufacturers and retailers alike—remain in business a half-century later.


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By the mid-1950s, ads increasingly reflected the nation’s growing interest in hiking and backpacking.
AMC Library & ArchivesBy the mid-1950s, ads increasingly reflected the nation’s growing interest in hiking and backpacking.

 

By the mid-1960s, specialized outdoor gear retailers were popping up, supplying early adopters of the backpacking boom.
AMC Library & ArchivesBy the mid-1960s, specialized outdoor gear retailers were popping up, supplying early adopters of the backpacking boom.

 

Not every advertiser was new to the scene: The iconic company Limmer and Sons had been making custom shoes since the 1920s.
AMC Library & ArchivesNot every advertiser was new to the scene: The iconic company Limmer and Sons had been making custom shoes since the 1920s.

 

Companies weren’t just focused on the trails. Paddling got some attention as well.
AMC Library & ArchivesCompanies weren’t just focused on the trails. Paddling got some attention as well.

 

“A new food discovery called ‘Freeze-drying’” promised to revolutionize backcountry meals in 1964.
AMC Library & Archives“A new food discovery called ‘Freeze-drying’” promised to revolutionize backcountry meals in 1964.

 

Even automobile manufacturers tried to capitalize on the growing interest in camping circa the 1960s.
AMC Library & ArchivesEven automobile manufacturers tried to capitalize on the growing interest in camping circa the 1960s.

 

With this 1972 ad, Eastern Mountain Sports aimed to bridge the gap between climbing in the White Mountains and international expeditions.
AMC Library & ArchivesWith this 1972 ad, Eastern Mountain Sports aimed to bridge the gap between climbing in the White Mountains and international expeditions.

 

This 1974 Browning ad showcases lingo of the era.
AMC Library & ArchivesThis 1974 Browning ad showcases lingo of the era.

 

Color and craftsmanship highlighted many 1970s ads, including one for these “built like crazy” backpacks.
AMC Library & ArchivesColor and craftsmanship highlighted many 1970s ads, including one for these “built like crazy” backpacks.

 

By 1976, EMS was prepared to outfit its customers for just about anything.  Scroll down to see more vintage ads.
AMC Library & ArchivesBy 1976, EMS was prepared to outfit its customers for just about anything. 

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Emily Monac

AMC Outdoors, the magazine of the Appalachian Mountain Club, inspires readers to get outside and get engaged. Learn more.