President Kennedy said that it was patriotic, or something.
Today they would be considered child abuse. I remember seeing a movie of part of the worst of them a few years back. It was on the Kettle Moraine Glacial Trail in Wisconsin, 18 miles long as the crow flies and 22 miles by pedometer. On the hottest day in August. With only a two-quart canteen.
I remembered that it was bad, but the movie amazed me- dehydrated kids literally staggering like they were drunk, with white salt deposits encrusting their lips and vacant expressions on their faces. Like so many things when you get to my age, your memories of experiences are a great deal more pleasant than the experiences themselves.
March 14, 1964- I know the date because Jack Ruby was convicted of killing Lee Harvey Oswald that day- we were on another long, punishing hike. That it was spring rather than summer didn't change the fact that it was hot, and we were very, very thirsty. I remember thinking that rather than being limited to a canteen you could carry around, it would be easier to simply carry some sort of portable apparatus that could condense water vapor from the air somehow. I'm not mechanically inclined, and I was 13 years old at the time. Naturally, none of the concepts I tried to develop in my head as I trudged alone made any sense.
But an Israeli company has actually done it. Granted, the watergen is far too big for a Boy Scout to carry on his belt. But the concept is valid, and who knows? If I hadn't been such a klutz when it comes to physics and mechanical stuff, maybe I could have gotten rich off the idea.