With our lives becoming markedly more technologically advanced over the last few decades, many of our hobbies, pursuits, and day-to-day activities have been fundamentally altered. And, while there’s been no shortage of high-tech outdoor gear released since the turn of the millennium alone, the fundamentals of camping and the majority of other mainstream outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, or fishing all remain thoroughly rooted in simplicity. As such, plenty of pieces of gear from yesteryear still lend themselves just as well to camping today as they did upon their release decades ago.
So, whether we’re talking contemporary items inspired by vintage offerings or tried and true essentials that have served as camping staples for years, retro-style camping gear offers a more minimalistic alternative to modern equipment, making it immensely conducive to the spartan living experience of roughing it. Having scoured outdoor stores and a near-endless array of product catalogs from manufacturers — both old and new — we’ve compiled this hand-picked selection of the best vintage camping gear that’s currently on the market.
What To Consider When Buying Vintage Camping Gear
Buying retro-style camping isn’t all that different from purchasing normal modern-day equipment, however, there are a few select areas that are unique to vintage items. To help bring you up to speed on the segment as quickly as possible, we’ve pieced together this guide on what to look for when shopping for vintage camping gear.
Construction & Materials: One of the biggest differences separating modern pieces of camping gear from items of the vintage variety is the construction styles and materials that are employed. Not only typically lighter and more durable, but modern materials also boast supplementary properties such as being moisture-wicking, quick-drying antimicrobial, and multi-way stretch — all of which markedly increase a garment or bag’s overall performance and comfort.
Aesthetic Design: Recognizing the public’s admiration for all things nostalgia, a great many gear brands currently offer products that combine modern materials with vintage-inspired aesthetic designs, thereby allowing for what many consider to be the best of both worlds in terms of old-school looks and contemporary performance. There are also quite a few items that are essentially modern-day replicas of items from decades past that have been recreated using their original silhouette and present-day materials.
Technology: Whether its Suunto’s cutting-edge smartwatches or Biolite’s smart camp grills, we won’t even begin to deny the fact that there’s some seriously impressive high-tech camping equipment out there, though by and large, the more low-tech offerings tend to be a better option as they don’t require batteries, are often impervious to the elements, and generally possess fewer components and parts that can break or fail.
History: The history of a particular product can actually be immensely informative. If a single item has remained in production for several decades going entirely unchanged, this would at the very least point to the fact that this is a tried and true product that doesn’t necessitate an update. This includes products like cast iron skillets, compasses, flannel sleeping bags, and so on.
When Not To Go Vintage: As previously stated, old-school gear lends itself pretty darn well to camping and other off-grid activities. However. there are a few vintage items that objectively fall well short of their contemporary counterparts due to advancements in technology. An obvious example would be a flashlight, as modern torches are tremendously more powerful and compact, and boast much more potent batteries.
First introduced in 1933, the Zippo lighter is a bonafide outdoor staple, utilized by hundreds of thousands of campers and EDC enthusiasts — so much so, in fact, that the company sold its 500,000,000th unit back in 2012. These lighters come available in a range of sizes and in an absolutely enormous array of colors, designs, and finishes, though you really can’t go wrong with the classic chrome model (seen here).
Dietz #80 Blizzard Oil Burning Lantern
For more than 180 years, Dietz has been producing old world-style camp lanterns that are basically the same today as they were upon their release more than a century ago. The brand’s #80 Billiard lantern offers a 12 candle-power output thanks to a replaceable 7/8” wick that allows for a whopping 26 hours of burn time using just 31oz of fuel.
Stanley Insulated Thermos
Founded in 1913, Stanley has long been one of our favorite outdoor gear brands, with a steadily growing catalog of modern items — such as its titanium construction drinkware — as well as vintage classics like the two-quart thermos seen here. Also offered in a one-quart size, this thermos features a rust-proof, double-walled 18/8 stainless steel construction that can keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold for up to 32 hours and is backed by a lifetime warranty.
Tru-Nord Zipper Pull Compass
Machined from solid brass, this item replaces standard zipper pulls with a magnetic compass with a 1” thumb tang and a 5/8” split ring. Protected by a lifetime warranty, this compass boasts a cobalt steel magnet, a sealed watch-style case, and a face adorned in luminous glow paint. And, while this compass comes set to zero, it can be sent to its manufacturer for recalibration for different locales.
Deus Field Blanket
Measuring 73.2” x 53.5”, this rugged camp blanket from custom-motorcycle and lifestyle powerhouse Deus Ex Machina features a durable primary construction that’s reinforced with a 100% polyester waterproof backing and treated to a heavy enzyme stone wash. This vintage-inspired item also comes adorned with a special “DEUS EX MACHINA” camp patch that was designed especially for this field blanket.
ALPS OutdoorZ Redwood Flannel Sleeping Bag
A traditional flannel sleeping bag capable of delivering modern-day performance, ALPS OutdoorZ’s Redwood sleeping bag is rated to -25-degrees thanks to the use of a two-layer offset construction and 8lbs of multi-hole staple-length micro-denier TechLoft Silver Insulation. Built around a durable cotton canvas shell, this sleeping bag also features #10 YKK zippers and a 100% Cotton Flannel liner.
Field Company Cast Iron Skillet
Made in America in small batches, the Field Company’s Field cast iron skillet model is a minimalistic, modern-day take on the classic piece of camp cookware. Produced in five different models/sizes, these skillets are crafted from recycled iron that’s sourced from American vendors, using green sand castings, just like the heritage brands of the 1800s.
Fjällräven Canada Shirt
Good for being worn as a traditional standalone button-up or as a fashion-forward overshirt, the Fjällräven Canada Shirt is a contemporary take on a lumberjack-style flannel that’s made from the premium outdoor brand’s own proprietary G1000 material and decorated with a leather Fjällräven arm patch and custom-branded snap buttons. This decidedly top-shelf flannel also comes in a myriad of plaid color options, as well as some solid color designs.
Benchmade Saddle Mountain Skinner
A timeless-looking outdoor fixed blade knife made from a combination of top-shelf modern-day materials, Benchmade’s Saddle Mountain Skinner packs a 4.2” CPM-S30V drop point blade that’s rated at between 58-60 HRC and is mated to a set of stabilized wooden scales. Made in America, this fixed blade knife weighs just 4.3oz and comes with a traditional leather sheath.
Coleman 425C S Stove
A long-running camp classic that’s remained in production for decades going almost entirely unchanged, Coleman’s 425C S Stove is a rugged and portable two-burner unit with a primary burner spitting out a cool 7,500BTS and a secondary burning putting out 6,500. Sold with a 2.5-pint fuel tank that accepts Coleman liquid camp fuel, this camp stove also features a Windblock shield system and Band-a-Blue burners that can accommodate pots or skillets up to 10” in diameter.
Filson x Council 24” Pack Axe
Born out of a collaboration between Northwestern heritage brand Filson and North Carolina’s Council Tool Company, this 24” pack axe sports a tempered 5160 steel head with an HRC rating in the mid-50s that’s incredibly resistant to chipping and does a superb job of retaining its edge. The steel head is mated to a grade-A hickory wood handle that’s been selected for its straight grain and fixed to the head using traditional wood and steel wedge-style mounting.
Fracap M120 Ripple Sole Boot
With their unmistakably retro-inspired appearance and use of ultra-top-shelf materials, Fracas’s M120 Ripple Sole Boot is unequivocally one of the finest pair of vintage-style boots currently on the market. Made in Italy, these premium hiking boots feature genuine calf leather uppers adorned in embossed branding paired with a leather lining and a natural “Ripple” rubber outsole.
Tanner Goods Koru Rucksack
Offering 34-liters of storage space, Tanner Goods’ Koru Rucksack is a top-shelf bag created through the use of old-world-style craftsmanship. Built to legitimately last a lifetime, the bag is constructed from 10oz waxed canvas that’s accented with English bridle leather trim, nylon webbing straps, and aircraft-grade hardware throughout. Designed in Portland and produced in Mexico, this vintage-style backpack also features a 15” laptop pocket, an adjustable shoulder strap system, and a single-sided catch-all compartment.
Cowboy Cauldron Cauldron Fire Pit
The Cauldron Fire Pit allows you to enjoy cowboy-style cooking while off-grid or when hanging around the backyard. The suspended tripod design features a 35lb solid steel cauldron hanging from an overbuilt chain that’s supported via segmented steel legs. Sold with an included rain cover and a stainless steel cooking grate, this item can act as a grill, or as a camping fire pit. What’s more, it’s also been designed for easy breakdown and transport.
Springbar ‘Hot Tent’ Package
Offering pioneer-style shelter, this robust Hot Tent Package from Springbar includes everything needed to stay warm and toasty, no matter how nasty the elements get. Sold in a bundle, the package includes one of Springbar’s Classic Jack 140 canvas tents, a Winnerwell Stove and fireproof mat, and everything else needed for setups, such as pipe sections, supports, and a flashing kit. If you are interested in this item, we’d urge you to act fast as Springbar routinely sells out of all of its stuck rather quickly.
The 10 Best Vintage Hiking Boots
Interested in checking out some additional vintage-inspired outdoor items? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best vintage hiking boots for a diverse selection of top-notch footwear modeled after offerings from decade’s past.