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Outdoor Suppliers That Have Gone Away

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  • Outdoor Suppliers That Have Gone Away

    The thread I started on outdoor supplier scout discounts got me started thinking about some of the mail-order outdoor suppliers that have gone out of business, but whose catalogs I pored over as a youth. Anyone else remember any of these, or recall any others?

    THE SMILEY CORPORATION - based around San Francisco (I think), they sold real old-timey stuff to prospectors, mule-packers, and others - the sort of people who planned to stay in the outdoors a good long while. Stuff you couldn't find easily anywhere else, like packable wood-burning stoves.

    HOLUBAR MOUNTAINEERING - pioneered lightweight down sleeping bags made out of nylon, based out of Boulder, CO. Very customer friendly return policies in their stores (similar to REI). Later purchased by North Face.

    HERTER'S - went bankrupt in 1981, but sold a line of outdoors, fishing, and hunting products, and a memorably whacky catalog. The founder sold his self-published books through the catalog, including his 656-page "How to Get Out of the Rat Race and Live On $10 a Month" (on outdoor and survival skills, "The Professional Guide's Manual," and lots more. Here's a NY TImes article remembering his somewhat unhinged books and catalog empire: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/bo...s-t.html?_r=2&

    RANDALL KNIVES - I first read about them in the book "We Seven" about the Mercury Project astronauts. One of the chapters detailed their survival preparations, and the special survival knife the commissioned Bo Randall to make. They're still in business, although the founder has passed away, but I used to love looking at their catalog and seeing the beauitiful hand-made knives I couldn't afford. (I finally bought one in the Army. It was a work of art.)
    Last edited by AZMike; 08-20-2014, 09:03 PM.

  • #2


    Oh yes! Books of dreams.

    It's a long wait after you order your Randall knife due to demand. As a result, existing knives sell on the secondary market for a significant premium over retail.

    Almost as good were the old Army Navy stores, perfumed by the odor of U.S.G.I anti-mildew treatment on everything canvas. One troop in our distirct used old Japanese bayonets, purchased at $.10 each from the Santa Ana Army Navy, as tent pegs. (I wish I had bought a garbage can or two of them, but we all "knew" Japanese steel was junk.)

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    • #3
      Frostline kits. I built two of their sleeping bag kits and a set of bike panniers. I still have one of the sleeping bags but I need to do a major rehab on the internal 'pad' material.
      Somewhere in the morass I call a garage I think I still have a Holubar 'day pack'. I really liked that thing all those years ago, but I suspect it needs to be recycled by now. And somewhere I still have a copper Hudson Bay Company panning pan from Herters (that so far still awaits its first fleck of gold, lol)

      I'm glad to see that Tandy still is in business. I made and wore out countless pairs of their moccasins. Tempted to do it again.

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      • #4
        Eclipse, Buster Brown Shoes, Campmor is still cataloging.....American Chair Co. made my pack frame....

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        • #5
          Originally posted by TAHAWK View Post

          Oh yes! Books of dreams.

          It's a long wait after you order your Randall knife due to demand. As a result, existing knives sell on the secondary market for a significant premium over retail.

          Almost as good were the old Army Navy stores, perfumed by the odor of U.S.G.I anti-mildew treatment on everything canvas. One troop in our distirct used old Japanese bayonets, purchased at $.10 each from the Santa Ana Army Navy, as tent pegs. (I wish I had bought a garbage can or two of them, but we all "knew" Japanese steel was junk.)
          Oh, yeah. Here in Arizona we had a department store chain called "Yellow Front" that sold work clothing, hardware, athletic gear, camping and hunting gear, firearms, and military surplus. There were big cases of (probably) Korean War-era c-ration cans that you could buy for 25 cents, big boxes of random miltary insignia and unit patches, mess kits, gas masks, and that Proustian military canvass smell you recall. It was a great place for kids to spend their allowance.

          Other catalogs I recall from times past:

          STEPHENSON WARMLITE, a mail order business run by an aerospace engineer that designed some of the first ultralight backpacking tents and sleeping bags...and I had to stop receiving the catalog because he used nude models in the catalog. (my mom wasn't happy when she opened my mail and skimmed through it, and told me I shouldn't receive "that" catalog again.)

          L.L. BEAN - still around of course, but still a catalog I looked forward to receiving each season back when it was more backpacker/hunting/fishing.

          BERETTA - Like Orvis, had very high-end gentlemen's clothing for hunting and fishing (the sort you would wear if invited to a grouse hunt in Spain). They are still around, but I think web-based instead of catalog. They have an awesome store in New York that is worth a trip: http://thetrad.blogspot.com/2014/08/...york-city.html

          INDIAN RIDGE TRADERS KNIFE BLADES - great knifemaking supplies.

          NEW ENGLAND DIVERS - Now out of business, I think.

          BANANA REPUBLIC - still around as a hipster clothier catering to the young and too-skinny, but when it opened, it marketed travel/outdoors/"adventure" type clothing, as well as some authentic military surplus. I used to enjoy reading their catalogs in the mid-1980s. Times have changed.
          Last edited by AZMike; 08-22-2014, 04:10 PM.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by AZMike View Post
            BANANA REPUBLIC - still around as a hipster clothier catering to the young and too-skinny, but when it opened, it marketed travel/outdoors/"adventure" type clothing, as well as some authentic military surplus. I used to enjoy reading their catalogs in the mid-1980s. Times have changed.
            Same for American Eagle Outfitters. When I was a kid, it was a store for my dad: Canoes and snowshoes hanging from racks on the walls, mounted animal heads, etc. with a focus on outdoorsy clothes.
            Now it's just "American Eagle" and their idea of a large shirt is anyone else's medium.

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            • #7
              Scoutmaster stuff.... Filson... Made in the USA...http://www.filson.com/mens/the-cruiser-shop/-1015/ I still have a vest made out of my dad's cruiser coat, Scoutson wears it now, 70 plus years old...

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              • #8
                I don't know if this qualifies or not, since they were bought out by Dick's, but I used to like Galyan's Trading Company. I guess they were reincarnated as something in Dick's now.

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