Historical and Outstanding Mountaineering Rucksacks


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Social climber
Omaha, NE
Jan 20, 2017 - 03:10pm PT
I know I'm a weirdo, but I must get my hands on my own Millet le Sherpa Varappe.
The circa 1974 blue/gray 331 pack that Nutstory and later Tarbuster posted is my ideal.
Anyone know of any resources other than waiting it out for one to pop up on eBay or, gulp, Etsy?

Trad climber
Golden, Colorado
Feb 4, 2017 - 10:06am PT
Yosemite backcountry 1965 (Free Speech Movement for reference). Army rucksack as-issued except for leather rumpband. Army wool pants converted to knickers by mom, Northland skis, Marker cable bindings with "Touren Zusatz", leather boots. Pot from home, newest Ensolite pad.
Jay Wood

Trad climber
Land of God-less fools
Feb 4, 2017 - 06:26pm PT
More of a hiking sack, but vintage...


Trad climber
No. Tahoe
Feb 5, 2017 - 07:41am PT
Excellent, storer, probably didn't run into many other backcountry skiers in '65. Wool knickers sure did the job...got a bit smelly drying out as I recall.

Trad climber
Feb 5, 2017 - 08:18am PT
My climbing buddy called his " sacs middle ages" mine was a " wilderness experiment".
Happy Cowboy

Social climber
Boz MT
Feb 5, 2017 - 12:18pm PT
I love the storer b&w, and by the way, could this be John Storer?
I climbed in the Tetons summer 71' w' John and his friend Shari McVoy.
Have these b&w's from the day.

Trad climber
Mancos, CO & Bend, OR
Feb 5, 2017 - 07:14pm PT
Truth of the matter.

I was disappointed from the get-go with the discomfort and malperformance of my Millet rucksack purchased BITD from REI circa 1972 (when I also bought some classic gear from REI like the McKinley pyramid tent and an ice axe like the ones used by the American Mt. Everest expedition in 1963).

I quickly quit using the Millet and never looked back with any regret. In fact, I can't even remember what became of it (by contrast, I still have lots of gear acquired in the same time frame, like my Kelty backpack and Chounaird gear sling, my Jumar ascenders - and even still use same when occasion arises.)

So, truth be told, Millet sacks were torture devices. I have as many "fond memories" of my Millet as I do of my first backpack - issued to me when i went to Colorado Outward Bound in 1967 - twas a World War II surplus backpack (its date of manufacture embossed into the plywood: 11/44).

This mankiller was made of shaped plywood with canvas held in suspension via a webbing tied off with parachute cord to keep the wood from riding directly on ones back. That is, until, midway through the 26 day course, the parachute cords broke and the plywood did rest directly on my back. What's more the pack lacked any hip belt to transfer the weight to the hips, so mid-course I improvised a workaround with a thin leather belt for my britches which I turned into a "hip belt" of sorts.

Sorry to go on so. I am going crazy during a fifth day of enforced bed rest with the flu.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Feb 6, 2017 - 04:50pm PT
I hope you feel better soon, man.
Chris Jones

Social climber
Glen Ellen, CA
Feb 6, 2017 - 04:51pm PT
Certain Lafuma models had an odd feature on one of the shoulder straps whose purpose is hard to fathom. At least it was to myself. Normally the shoulder straps were connected to the adjusting strap and buckle with a solid ring and rivets, as shown on Marlow’s post of Sept 24, 2016. But other models had a spring-loaded clip, which is well shown on nutstory’s post of Jan 11, 2017. Perhaps this clip was touted as an alternative way to un-shoulder the pack, but in practice it was a nightmare on belay stances as now and then it would self unclip. After one near-drop on the Gold Wall, I permanently closed it in some fashion or the other.

The Lafuma packs had an old-school look and feel even in the 1960s, still incorporating leather and its related hardware, for example, as compared to the Millet packs. The latter mostly had plastic bases and fittings and nylon straps, with canvas soon being replaced with nylon fabric. The Millets were far better for alpine environments. I recall having a model with a coated nylon inner liner that could be pulled out, thus making a (very) tight bivi sac, which was to be used in conjunction with ones equally awful cagoule. Somehow we survived.

Sport climber
Mar 12, 2017 - 09:49am PT

A good-looking Karrimor Alpiniste Dougal Haston up for auction on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/381994413299?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

Trad climber
The state of confusion
Mar 12, 2017 - 12:16pm PT

Here's me and my old Joe Brown (long since died) pack
in '76 on Mt. Helen in the Winds. . .

Ken M

Mountain climber
Los Angeles, Ca
Mar 12, 2017 - 05:25pm PT
While not likely a rucksack, but probably a wooden-framed pack, this photo is historic. If you blow it up, the fellow wearing the white T-shirt is Dale Ebersbacher, who on the trip pictured here, discovered the ledges that have become the standard North Fork route on Whitney (the ledges are in the picture behind him and to the right of him)


Sport climber
Apr 22, 2017 - 06:59am PT

An early Berghaus rucksack - late 1960s/early 1970s. Do you have a photo of the earliest Berghaus rucksack(s)?


Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 22, 2017 - 08:29am PT
Berghaus and Karrimor... I am very far from being a "specialist"...
Millet, just Millet, I am sorry...;-)

Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Topic Author's Reply - Aug 9, 2017 - 01:44am PT

Social climber
Aug 16, 2017 - 10:49am PT

Likely all bought from Fritz ")

Social climber
Great Basin
Aug 16, 2017 - 11:07am PT


Mountain climber
Durango, CO
Aug 16, 2017 - 11:54am PT
Here are a couple of my Millet sacs. The leather one was imported by us at Royal Robbins (Mountain Paraphernalia). The blue nylon RD is one I used for cragging. RR also imported the Whillans Alpinist pack from Karrimor (orange canvas w/black leather) shown in some of the previous posts. Later we also imported the Karrimor KGT 90, and expedition-sized (90L) sack with clips to fit on an external frame.

If I can remember I'll send along a pic of the KGT 90 and also some shots of the remaining set of Royal Robbins prototype WALL NUTS chocks. Need to write some of this stuff down before I forget it!

Coeur d\\\\\\\'Alene
Aug 16, 2017 - 07:03pm PT
Pardon NutStory, mais nous étions avec les anglais, chez sacs Joe Brown et Whillans. Désolé.......

But......the main thing, the Big Deal for technical climbers, was that these packs were among the first (sadly not the JB) to make the load long and slim, so that it would fit close to the back and not hang out and drag you over backwards.......pretty important in Les Alps, where you always seemed to be carrying a pack on technical climbs.........and it was Millet who figured it out.

Merci Millet............

Trad climber
Fanta Se
Aug 16, 2017 - 11:39pm PT
Thank you for this great thread— and the studio-quality photographs!!

I always loved the Millet Sherpa dearly~ the Lady model without the slanted pockets was my favorite. I had those cool clip-on pockets too that worked for the Chouinard 120cm approach skis. It was the red nylon model with gray straps. I got it used in 1975 when I lived in Leavenworth, WA.

With an MSR GK and fuel in one pocket and 1.5L water in the other, 3~5 days wasn't too far-fetched.

When it finally died, I had to make a few from scratch until the 2000 cu in dark blue senior ballistics-cloth Chouinard Crag Pack came out some time around 1980. That one was even better than the Millet. The pockets from the Millet fit perfectly in the Crag Pack's wide slotted neoprene side strap/ski patches.

I suspect that the Chouinard design was heavily influenced by the Millets in some respects. But the way the curved side-panels of the Crag Pack were cut really was brilliant— very stable and body-hugging. I did miss the "box-lid" of the Millet though.

The Chouinard Ultima Thule rocked as well— that was a copy of the Rivendale pack someone showed earlier in the thread. That was my first "big pack". I learned a lot about loading a pack with that one.

It didn't have a frame at all so since then I've never understood what an "internal frame" pack was for— then again, I've never worn a pack bigger than 50 liters. The first thing I do is pull out the aluminum ribs.
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