Friday 10 April 2020

The Great Outdoors began 42 years ago

A thread on Twitter started by Mark Waring - @mjdwaring - had me searching out my copies of the first issues of the magazine, which I found in an old plastic box buried under a pile of sleeping bags. Other than the cover the first issue was all black and white and printed on fairly rough matt paper. There were 70 pages, of which only 30 were editorial, the rest being advertisements, a surprising number from companies that are still around - Vango, Mountain Equipment, Karrimor, Nevisport, Optimus, Gore-Tex, Cotswold, Silva, and Berghaus - though many are long gone - Ultimate Equipment, Insulatawear, Javlin, Pointfive, Robert Saunders, MOAC, and Bukta amongst them.

Of the features Robin Adshead's first Solo Pitch column is about lightweight camping and shows that attitudes haven't changed. He writes "the dedicated lightweighter ... is constantly seeking new ways of making his kit smaller, lighter and more versatile ..... the reduction of kit is always a worthy aim". Showell Styles, author of the excellent books Backpacking in Alps and Pyrenees and Backpacking in Wales, starts a good six-part series with a look at preparation for long trips, starting and finishing his piece "so you wake up in the tent on the first morning of your backpacking journey". The Great Outdoors has always had history pieces. In the first issue this begins with an interesting piece on William Crossing, Man of Dartmoor, by H.D. Westacott.

This first issue came out just before I set off on my first really long walk, from Land's End to John O'Groats. At the time I hadn't had anything published. On my return I approached The Great Outdoors editor Roger Smith with some ideas and eventually had a short gear review published in the April 1979 issue. I had no idea then where this would lead.

Two years ago I wrote this piece on the fortieth anniversary.

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