21st Century Longhunter

So what is this? I've heard the term popularised by Dave Canterbury and his disciples and frankly like the sound of creating a kit based on what our ancestors carried for hundreds of years using items that are simple and can be used for a multitude of tasks, its something I have promoted many times myself over the years.

I, personally, don't have the money to buy the fancy Duluth canvas pack or a Duluth canvas tarp (that's the posh gear of tv presenter types) so if I were to build my own budget longhunter kit then if would have to be a combination of gear I already own and surplus etc.

So first lets define a longhunter ............ then why we need to bring him into the 21st century!

A Longhunter (or long hunter) was an 18th-century explorer and hunter who made expeditions into the American frontier wilderness for as much as six months at a time. Historian Emory Hamilton asserts that "The Long Hunter was peculiar to Southwest Virginia only, and nowhere else on any frontier did such hunts ever originate"[1] although the term has been used loosely to describe any unofficial American explorer of the period. The parties of two or three men (and rarely more) usually started their hunts in October and ended toward the end of March or early in April (Wikipedia)

So these were guys who could live in the backwoods with minimal kit (which they carried with them - sorry bushcraft expedition camp fans - but longhunters hiked the woods and they didn't have 4x4s and often didn't have horses either as they needed more care and were hard to hide from hostile natives)

My own research has dug up a few examples of kits carried by backwoodsmen and rangers (rogers rangers for example) and if we look at them closely we can see similarities between 17th/18th century gear and the gear we carry now ...............
  • Blanket roll
  • Tarp or oil cloth
  • Rifle or smoothbore, shooting pouch and horn
  • Belt knife
  • Tomahawk or hatchet
  • Fire-making kit, candle and tinder
  • Canteen    
  • Food
  • Boiler or folding skillet and eating utensils
  • Period compass
  • Primitive fishing kit

The above is not meant as an all-inclusive list, but rather as a guideline.

So a 21st Century version of the above -
  • Sleeping bag and bivi
  • Tarp or Poncho
  • Rifle and ammo
  • belt knife
  • belt axe
  • fire steel - tinder (cotton wool and vaseline?)
  • Water bottle and purification device
  • boil in a bag rations
  • Billy can or frying pan .... maybe a Swedish army mess kit complete
  • Silver compass
  • fishing kit
Obvious items missing to me - sleeping mat, more types of fire lighting kit, drinking vessel, waterproofs etc.

Most importantly is the means of carriage - for the 17/18th Century backwoodsman the blanket roll would be the obvious choice but these days a rucksack would be needed due to bulk of items like sleeping bags and the "additional" gear modern man seems to need.

Now do we need to bring said Longhunter chappy into the 21st century? Correct me if I'm wrong using the kit comparisons above then he's already here!

So the term 21st Longhunter is incorrect - If we watch Dave's videos -


- I think it becomes clear that his idea isn't to bring the longhunter into this century but the reverse - to take us back, to try to teach us and get us to simplify our kit, expectations and budget and in so doing take us away from the petrochemical world more bushcrafters seem very dependant on.

I will be writing further articles along this theme as I experiment and explore - why not join me?




Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! Keep up the good work!

moose said...

hi buddy
please follow link to to school of longhunting blog loads of cool pictures to get the kit you are getting together authentic looking.
keep having fun it keeps you young

Survivall said...

Nice link Clive thanks Buddy - how's life in the colonies treating you these days - all well I hope!

Lee said...

Well said. I like Dave's ideas but I really am more interested in looking at linking the early explorers with modern sensibility.

moose said...

every thing is great.. new baby due any time now. we still have snow on the ground but the spring is round the corner. off to the river in a few weeks the steelhead trout are on the move and that will put food in the freezer. should have snagged more deer in the fall only have a few bundles of meat left. getting into the self harvesting the seeds are growing and will be ready to plant out in a few weeks, the coop is all built the chicks arrive in april missing the outdoors but turning into a back yard bushcrafter. looking to get a spoon knife for round the camp fire. but i still drink plenty of captain morgans spiced rum oh yer the memories of that in the woods.

enough of that how were the cooking pots to cook in?? have not seen the review yet

stay safe

Survivall said...

Sounds good mate - sounds like your become mr self reliance!!

Not used the pots yet mate - they are for hiking not shrafting ...... and I aint been hiking this year ..... yet

Ross Gilmore said...

Very good post. I'm just not sure that what Dave is doing, or us taking the modern woodsman back in time in terms of technology actually simplifies anything.

It's true, many campers/bushcrafters seriously overdo it, but so did most people back in the 19th century. How many of them set out to travel a few states over with a caravan of ox drawn wagons? Now that's over packing if I've ever seen it.

Similarly, int he past there were people who did it with minimal gear, just like there are such people today. I think you are very right, the 21st century long hunter already exists. I don't see how using outdated gear that doubles or triples the weight simplifies things.

I think you put together a great list for what the modern long hunter would carry, and I think that is great. I think now we need to take that gear and the skills we have learnt throughout our history and see what we can actually accomplish with it in the woods. Let's see how far, for how long, and under what conditions the modern long hunter can travel.

I think there is a flawed assumption out there that the 19th century woodsman had simpler gear, less gear, and was able to do more int he woods. People like that can be counted on our fingers, and books were written out them even during their own time. A modern ultralight backpacker most likely carries less (both in terms of items and certainly in weight), travels longer distances and stay out longer than most 19th century woodsmen.

Limiting the kit by historical period is an interesting exercise, but it doesn't get us anywhere in terms of woodsmenship. It is an artificial barrier. I think we should be striving to combine the skills we have acquired as woodsmen throughout history, and use the best suited equipment in order to further woodsmanship.

Survivall said...

A story I was once told "I was teaching survival skills at fort Lewis when a ranger sergeant marched up to me, saluted, and said, "Sir I have 42 kilo's of light weight gear, Sir!" ...... the point being he was still carrying 42 kilo's of gear light weight or otherwise.

I personally am not interested in going lightweight or hiking further longer - for me the ideal is billy, blanket and knife, I want to take my haversack and blanket roll and go out on a Friday evening with the dog, stroll into the local woods or forest and not have to worry for gear and happily bimble about under sunday lunch time .........I certainly don't want to go out dressed like Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone

One thing I do think pertinent too is "traditional" skills should possibly be learnt before modern i.e we should master bow drill before being allowed to progress to flint and steel etc etc ........

Great reply though Ross .....thanks

David said...

Dave doesn't just use outdated gear. He uses gear that may have been used years ago that is still the best option for "him ". One example is wool. Nothing better on the market yet. You seem to post a lot of negative comments about Dave everywhere. Jealousy is such an ugly thing. Lol

Survivall said...

David, Thanks for the comments - Ross' reply to my post whether you agree with it or not is just as valid as yours in as much as we all have an opinion about our hobby and the kit we use.

I, like you it seems, do get frustrated when people seem to feel the need to be negative or try to prove they know better than others about certain subjects - live and let live - if you want to be a traditionalist and go down the long hunter route great - it you prefer sleeping bags and modern gear, your choice too - all I would say is don't feel your any righter than the other guy .

And btw David if you are the DC - thanks for the good work - keep em coming.

Neil Newman said...

I have been involved in bushcraft for about thirty years now, and I am part of a local bushcraft group. Over the years you get to meet a wide range of different people and different personalities! I think a large percentage of the bushcraft community get mixed up with bushcraft and camping. The feel the main difference between the 1800 equipment, and the kit we use today, is a higher level of skill is required to use the 1800 kit! I see a large percentage of people struggling to use a modern fero rod,so using traditional flint,steel and char cloth would seem a impossible task! And instead of eating just military rations,being able to take some beiasic ingredients like flour,salt and honey into the wild combined with wild edibles which have been gathered using knowledge to make a meal.
One of my favourite quotes goes something like this, the better your knowledge, the lighter your load!
And the main advantage with knowledge,is that you will always have it with you.