Holubar — No Better Gear Around

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 11, 2018      
Holubar mail order catalog, 1965-1966.

Holubar mail order catalog, 1965-1966. Peter Lev cover shot was taken from 13,400′ during first ascent of Denali East Buttress. Click images to enlarge.

By 1965 I’d been on our fine planet for a few years, but “adult” climbing and ski mountaineering were not much more than an itch in my toes. Nonetheless I lusted after gear catalogs like I was a monastic pledge going after full membership. I wanted to be like the guys hanging from cliffs, or like the alpinist hardcores in Peter Lev’s cover shot, enjoying the view of Great Gorge of Ruth Glacier from 13,400′ on Denali during their first ascent of the East Buttress. Holubar was one of the books that stoked my fancy, I thought you guys might enjoy a few excerpts. Perhaps to jog memories, of if you’re younger, enjoy your roots.

Holubar was run by, yep, the Holubars.

Holubar was run by, yep, the Holubars. Back then and into the present, Boulder, Colorado was a college town with lots of outdoors people. Businesses such as Holubar were created to supply that population (though according to research the Holubar husband-wife team actually founded the business on mail order, and were thus reaching beyond Boulder from the start). Mail sales were consummated by phone, or you’d fill out an order form and mail it. I scratched out quite a few of those, turnaround was sometimes weeks, the anticipation would kill any normal teenager of today.

These were actually my first rock climbing shoes.

These were actually my first rock climbing shoes. I was so proud of them I wore them to visit family on the beach in Florida. The $15 year 1965 price is about $160 in today’s money. Expensive beach shoes.

Sorry to disappoint, but I never owned nor wore this.

Sorry to disappoint, but I never owned nor wore this. The double D-ring belt is actually a strong and simple way to tension a belt, though you have to thread it.

I also had a pair of these fine shoes.

I also had a pair of the Kronhofer mountain boot, for which I’d saved many pennies from dish washing and bicycle mechanics. They really were beautiful, but during a long march they gave me such bad Achilles tendinitis I had to cut out the heel pocket with my pocket knife. My design was eventually copied by Birkenstock.

The original dedicated ski mountaineering backpack?

The original dedicated ski mountaineering backpack? Leather straps, steel buckles, canvas sack, what more could one want?

I'm not sure why everyone thought climbers were supposed to wear lederhosen.

I’m not sure why everyone thought climbers were supposed to wear lederhosen. But you could get them at Holubar, along with “whipcord knickers” and of course an “alpine hat” complete with feather.

While one might assume Holubar was mostly an equipment importer, they were innovative in the down insulated sleeping bag space, making beautiful bags that at one time might have been the best you could get. For more about Holubar, Google is your friend, wiki here. From a business standpoint, it’s interesting the brand was bought by The North Face in 1981, perhaps indicative of the business chops that resulted in TNF becoming such a successful and long lasting outdoor brand? More, apparently some sort of effort is afoot to relaunch the brand. It’s a good, unique name, yet has little to no meaning for the current outdoor consumer demographic. But when creating a new brand you’ve got to start somewhere, and an old respected moniker can be a good foundation.

(Thanks Stan Badgett, author, climber and educator, for dropping the catalog by WildSnow HQ, it’s going into the archive.)


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21 Responses to “Holubar — No Better Gear Around”

  1. Billy May 11th, 2018 12:23 pm

    So if I’m reading correctly, you’ve been modifying gear for 53 years. Has Birkenstock or any other manufacturer paid you for your innovations?

  2. Lou Dawson 2 May 11th, 2018 12:29 pm

    Ha, that’s just about right, and actually in the 1960s I was not only modifying a lot of stuff, but making quite a bit of it from scratch as well. We made some pretty nice one-offs, even had an industrial sewing machine installed at my parent’s house for a while. Never made a cent from any ideas, they were usually way too ahead of their time, or way behind (smile). Lou

  3. Jim Milstein May 11th, 2018 5:30 pm

    I sort of think of Gary Neptune’s shop in Boulder as the successor to Holubar’s. Neptune is another good choice for a mountaineering brand.

    We used to go in Gary’s shop and measure stuff, then try to make it at home cheap. It never worked. The materials always cost at least as much as the finished goods. Eventually, we caught on. Lest you wonder, the yard goods and zippers were bought there.

  4. Thom May 11th, 2018 6:43 pm

    Somewhere in my junk drawer, there’s a leather, Holubar key fob floating around.

  5. See May 11th, 2018 7:50 pm

    Colin Fletcher’s Complete Walker made a big impression on me at a similar age. I learned a lot about sleeping bags, stoves, and more important things from his books. One of the many lines that sticks with me— “The way to move across snow country is to ski. But on skis you are no longer walking.” He left it at that, but now I think I know what he meant.

  6. Halsted Morris May 11th, 2018 9:26 pm

    I still have and use a Holubar sleeping bag. On my first Alaska and winter Wind Rivers trip I used my 5 pound down Holubar sleeping bag

  7. Russ Cooper May 12th, 2018 9:48 am

    Yes they were great. Also remember The Ski Hut in Berkeley and Trailwise. The classic climbing/bski outfit was a pair of herringbone tweed knickers, red wool knee socks and a Pendelton wool shirt. Of course with a Norwegian fishnet under shirt and suspenders for the knickers. The knickers were solid enough to last several lifetimes.

  8. Jim Milstein May 12th, 2018 10:20 am

    Knickers! Yes!

    I am happy to say they never got in a twist. Much older generations can be seen skiing in old books with ties beneath their V-neck sweaters. A race of giants long since perished.

  9. Terrance May 12th, 2018 10:41 am

    I use the knickers made by Amundsen Sports, they are awesome!

  10. See May 12th, 2018 6:27 pm

    The original softshells.

  11. Jim Milstein May 12th, 2018 6:48 pm

    and then jeans. At one time skiing in jeans was cool, showing you do not fall. Then it wasn’t cool. So uncool that there was an old bumper sticker that read “Dick Cheney skis in jeans”. The point is moot now.

  12. Scott S Allen May 13th, 2018 12:37 pm

    Holubar’s 60/40 Parka with a dozen or so zipped pockets was the ideal Colorado softshell. I had one in navy blue and my father’s was a navy grey, worn with Boulder pride before goretex!

  13. Lou Dawson 2 May 13th, 2018 1:09 pm

    The 60/40 parka was indeed a gold standard in the 1960s, would still be totally viable, was fairly waterproof and totally breathable, though it would soak through if rain lasted very long. For those reading this, the 60/40 referred to the ratio of nylon to cotton, or cotton to nylon… Lou

  14. Frank Kvietok May 13th, 2018 1:21 pm

    Hi Lou, Good stuff! Have you ever met Bruce Johnson or read his histories of outdoor brands?

    Pretty cool: https://www.outinunder.com/content/history-gear-backpacking-revolution-table-contents

  15. Don Bachman May 13th, 2018 3:46 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Just now looked at my well soiled but still intact Holubar very puffy down parka, and well, my Kronhofer boots have been subjected to lots of mouse interest while languishing out in the shop for the past 25 years. This was a great store in the sixties with good – I’d guess called “vibes” or is it stoke nowadays..

  16. See May 13th, 2018 7:27 pm

    When I was a gear obsessed kid I studied the EMS catalog and Sierra Designs made much of the stuff I spent my wrenching wages on. I finally tossed my old #100 sleeping bag a while back after holding onto it for 30 years for sentimental reasons. (How do I know it was called “#100” after so many years? I still have a copy of the catalog with the sleeping bag circled in pencil. The lederhosen were listed at $23 in ’72.)

  17. Lou 2 May 14th, 2018 6:08 pm

    Thanks for the tip on that Frank, good stuff. My recollection is the 60/40 Parka was first made by Holubar? Wrong? Lou

  18. See May 14th, 2018 8:45 pm

    Who invented the fabric? Making a jacket out of it seems like the easy part.

  19. Frank Kvietok May 15th, 2018 6:26 am

    Based on the info on Bruce’s site, I’d give the nod to Holubar for the concept and first execution of a type 60/40 parka. SD seems to have come along a little later and dubbed it a ’60/40 Parka’.

  20. Jim Milstein May 15th, 2018 6:49 am

    After languishing in Japan for many years, the 60/40 parka was reintroduced by SD a dozen years ago.

    From the reports, I would like to languish in Hokkaido winters.

  21. Bard May 17th, 2018 9:50 pm

    Dude, I have an Austrian Stubai alpenstock (like four feet long) with Holubar Boulder Colo stamped on the head. Always wondered about the vintage, heritage.

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