Monday, 7 December 2009

Whatever happened to...

Here's the bit where I show my age and reminisce about hiking equipment from the late eighties / early nineties. I get a few emails about the equipment mentioned on this page, so it seems I'm not the only one with fond memories of equipment I've used in the past. If you have any information to update what appears below, leave a comment.


I grew up as a hiker with two pairs of Trailbusters T3s by AP Lubbe in Stellenbosch - you know, the classic hiking-boot-meets-velskoen approach, complete with red laces.. I found them comfortable and easy to wear in, and I've got fond memories of both pairs, although they were a bit lightweight and only lasted 3 years per pair. T5's were a heavier duty boot, but I never owned those. Trailbuster seems to have faded, although in 2005 they still had a website running.


When I was a lightie, Dachsteins were the serious boots the older guys were wearing, imported from Austria. In 1995 I bought a pair of leather Dachstein Semmering boots from Camp & Climb in Claremont (Camp & Climb vanished in about 2003). The boots lived up to expectations and, with the help of new soles from Rocksole, managed 10 years of hiking.

The Dachstein brand (named after the Dachstein region in Austria) was owned by ski-manufacturer Kneissl-Dachstein. In 2003 Kneissl-Dachstein filed for bankruptcy and sold off a lot of its brands: Dachstein was sold to DeeLuxe, and Raichle to Mammut, but it seems the brands are all still functioning and closely related.

After a lot of searching, I finally found pictures of current Dachstein boots under "Hiking Classics" on the website in late 2004. They seem to be panelled boots, part leather and part synthetic. However on the same website I found leather Raichle trekking boots. Raichle operates in Switzerland and some of their boots (like the Raichle Mountain Trekker) look a lot like the great Dachstein boots that were sold in South Africa in the 1980s and early 1990s. I don't know if you can find Raichle boots in South Africa in 2005 - if you can, let us know.


The superb Backpacker range was best known for their packs and their Benedorm hollow fibre sleeping bag. My pack is a Boulder 75l, which I've used since 1996, still going strong despite several overseas plane trips which have taken their toll on the straps. Backpacker also made a great pack called the Thar (a cylindrical pocketless pack) which was a popular serious bag. (Some day, I'll figure out what I mean by "serious" hiking equipment, and let you know. I hope I'm not just being a snob...)

My favourite daypack was the Backbacker Kranz, a 40l rock climber's bag. The Kranz was similar to the Thar or Krakadouw pack, but smaller, expandable with expedition pockets. Two problems - some burglars liked my Kranz even more than I did, and Backpacker stopped making them.

In the 1990s the Backpacker factory moved to Botswana, and they gradually faded from view. In 2004, BackPacker was bought by Scavenger and is still in business with a postal address in Centurion and allegedly something in Duncan Street, Pretoria, and hopefully they'll regain their status as a major player in the local market.


Coleman used to be a contender in the market for serious outdoor equipment - their stoves were a competitor (and in some - but not all - ways superior to MSR). However, when my expensive Coleman stove packed up through a blatant design flaw (I've ranted about it elsewhere on this site), nearly causing a nasty blaze, I contacted Coleman's local agents. How naive. It turned out Coleman wasn't remotely interested in repairing it - not free, not for money, nada, niks. So Coleman is no longer a serious player in the outdoor equipment market either. Good riddance.

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