21st Century Longhunter comparisons

Once you master fundamental bushcraft using modern gear and skills the challenge of outdoor living eases. Confidence in your skills can often lead to one of two things, discontent with the modern skills set or a type of apathy where sitting around the campfire and not doing much else becomes the norm. And yes before someone says it I have heard all the excuses from those who practice the later. (Personally I've been there done that. I've been a member of a group where skills eventually became secondary to arriving on site, claiming a place close to the fire, setting up your food and beer and then not doing much else - others excluded from the fire circle could cut fire wood and do the chores!! This is most common and you only need look at pictures from "meets" on the various forums to see it everywhere!)

So to my mind the expedition style "type" bushcraft group camp thing is not for me - glamping, rough camping whatever - I personally got into bushcraft with one ideal and that was to be able to go out with just a billy, a blanket and a knife for a overnighter or even a couple of days. And this is more in keeping with the longhunter view than the modern bushcrafters. 

I like the challenge of using older skills and simpler kit as much as I like the idea of carrying less kit. With this in mind then lets look first at our line of defence against the elements, our clothing.

Below is a list of clothing worn by a type ranger during the French and Indian war, we will use this as a comparison to what modern equivalents there are.

Ranger -
Hat - knitted torque, Canadian cap, tri-corn or wide brimmed.
Shirt - typically linen or wool
Waist coat (short or long sleeved) - typically cotton, linen or Wool
Trousers - breeks or long trousers generally a canvas or wool make
Shoes - 18th century model leather shoes with brass buckles but when these wore out moccassins.
Hunting Shirt - often canvas or Linen - sometimes wool (used as a protective coat over normal clothes)
Ranger Uniform coat - wool coat usually for dress with wool facing and pewter buttons etc.
Blanket - says what it does on the tin.
Blanket coat - wool
Gloves and scarf - wool

OK so if the above is a typical "ranger" wardrobe what can we the modern "ranger" wear that is similar?

Modern similarity -

Hat - knitted watchcap, wool felt hat (brimmed)
Shirt - flannell or wool (swanndri ranger is you have the coin or army surplus wool if you prefer)
Waist coat - this would be a mid/outer layer - if we stick with traditional materials then ideally wool.
Trousers - canvas work trousers are available but ideally poly-cotton trousers are a as tough alternative.
Shoes - not many of us would wear shoes to the woods these days so we have to accept hiking boots but there is still room for moccassins!
Hunting shirt - bearing in mind its roll is protection not insulation ventile is a good alternative although canvas or tin cloth jackets are available.
Ranger Uniform coat - isn't really applicable but a modern army great coat would make for a excellent warm option.
Blanket - says it all but bear in mind the other uses of a blanket - ie matchcoat, wrap/shawl etc
Blanket coat - capote or similar - a swanndri Mosgiel would be a good alternative but as before a better option would be to make your own from an old blanket.
Gloves and scarf - wool, avoid acrylics as these melt around the fire!

So we can dress in a modern fashion but using traditional material, this means we can also replicate the layering system and type of clothing worn without recourse to look like a re-enactor. Wool being preferable for its warmth when wet abilities but bear in mind the amount of linen, hemp, Linsey Wolsey etc worn in 18th Century colonial days - due primarily to the scarcity of wool in the colonies at this time.

Next and more importantly we'll look at the kit our ancestors used - this to my mind is key as its here the real differences lay in both skills required and how we use them. It is here we can lighten our load and simplify or outdoors life!!


Ross Gilmore said...

Very interesting post. It is something that I have been thinking about for a while, and more recently specifically about the long hunter traditions.

You are absolutely right. There are only so many times you can start a bow drill fire before it turns into a competition, which inevitably leads to someone figuring out how to start a bow drill fire while holding the drill with their butt cheeks. At that point a good laugh is had by all, a winner declared, and the bacon cooking and beer drinking can start.

I've thought about switching to more traditional gear to create more of a challenge, but instead I decided to continue to use the full range of skills and technology available to me, but simply use them to further push what can be done in the woods; how far we can go, how long we can stay out, under what conditions we can go into the woods.

We often forget that people in the past were relatively limited in what they could do in the woods. While there are examples of great exploits, for most people the wilderness was something to avoid. Winter was a time to stay home because no one could figure out how to carry enough wool to stay warm, navigation was limited, mountaineering skills were almost non existent. Even the long hunts, which could take up to six months were done expedition style, with camps set up along the way.

Many of the things we can do in the woods were unthinkable back in the 19th century.

I think both approaches offer interesting challenges and opportunities. I would be interested to see if we can develop a set of woodsmanship skills and equipment that would allow for a modern long hunter-someone who can travel through the woods for long periods of time and for long distances with as little resupply as possible using all of the techniques and skills we have gathered from our history all the way through today.

Survivall said...

As ever the voice of reason Ross.

And I agree with your points it would be cool to marry old and new and create a hybrid - this is partly what I am trying to sort out in my head too.

For me, these days, its about the challenge of doing more with less, or at least ONLY the right gear - my dream is and will always be the billy, blanket and knife - I have been fortunate to do this several times but never for longer than a week at a time - one day I'll go longer and further ........

Ross Gilmore said...

Like you, I am a fan of a minimalist approach. Perhaps not to the same degree as you. My main goal is to be able to go where I want and do what I want in the woods under all conditions. Sometimes that requires more gear. I'm not climbing mountains without crampons for example.

The part that throws me off is the connection to gear from the past. For example, why a blanket, billy can and a knife? Why not a sleeping bag a billy can and a knife? Or for that matter, for the exact same weight, why not a sleeping bag, a puffy jacket, a billy can and a knife. It gives you more capability for the same weight and volume. It lets you go further and do more.

Survivall said...

Interesting, I never thought why a blanket a billy and a knife, maybe I'm just a romantic? I don't know it was always the trinity mentioned while I was learning to fundamentals.

Or maybe its the more practical aspects of a blanket in as much as its not going to get holes burnt in it around the fire in a natural shelter, plus it can be worn as a match coat, used to gather leaf litter for shelter building etc etc - the weight sacrifice is off set by the advantages.

I am not sure why Ross - I certainly don't do it often enough that's for sure!

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