18.3.13

21st Century Longhunter ...........or just bushcraft

OK bit of a spin on the theme ............. the longhunter as well as everything else would have been a man who could replace almost all the items of his kit with items found or manufactured by himself from nature (unlike most of us today)

So with this in mind I thought I'd have a little go at making my own gear (I also have a fancy dress party to go too so two birds one stone!)

Anyway  the end results - I made the moccassins, the trousers, the hunting shirt and some time ago I also made the fur Canadian cap and the possibles bag. I think I did a good job and am confident that if worse came to worse I could cloth myself in the woods too ..............

BUT more importantly I have learnt new "real" world skills because at the end of the day your clothing is your first line of defence again the elements, learning to light a fire is a very important skills, but if in the long term you can not repair or replace your clothing then maybe your skills aren't altogether perfect?




9.3.13

21st Century Longhunter ............ what would they do

So, dear Reader, to finalise the articles about the long hunter - or more correctly the 21st Century Longhunter let me first remind you of my original thought/post that started us off ................

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.

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)

We've explored what a 18th/19th Century long hunter would carry and we've also considered what modern models of their traditional kit we could use, but lastly lets us put ourselves in their shoes.

Firstly, and this is where we sometimes can go wrong, we imagine the longhunter as a figure of romanice, the back woodsman fighting the cunning savage while at one with nature. And while I grant they may have been more experience and more in tune with their environment I doubt the longhunter was any different than a modern outdoorsman in his mind set. And this is the key for as we all know 99% of us into bushcraft or wilderness living aren't adverse to kit. Indeed this series or articles are really about kit, old fashion style!

So what would the 21st century long hunter do for kit? He'd have all the modern gear or at least the best he could afford - and this is where I think our 21st Century Longhunter AKA DC fans have gotten it wrong.

Traditional skills and kit are great fun and we should all espire to learn the skills and have a working understanding of traditional skills and clothing, what worked and why but we, like a modern longhunter shouldn't ignore the modern alternatives if available and better.

Now that is another question, are they better? As I have mentioned before a Swandri Mosgiel or bushshirt is only a modern version of a blanket coat or wool hunting shirt so very similar and very effective garments (as is a modern blanket coat you make yourself provided to get the correct materials) so in this light we see traditional items or skills as being better than some modern alternatives.

Undoubtedly some modern kit is superior, its no coincidence that sleeping bags have replace blankets or a nylon tarp a canvas diamond shelter for example - but don't write the old stuff off either - a blanket, for me, still has its place in bushcraft and I always carry one. Indeed back in the days when I worked for Woodlore even the great bushcraft guru Ray Mears used to recommend them and we even had them on the kit list for courses! A blanket is a item of multiple uses and anything that has more than one use should always be considered at least.

So in conclusion my friends, what is all this fuss about the 21st Century longhunter?? Sure, travelling back in time, taking to the woods with old time gear and using only old time skills makes you a better bushcrafter, or at least a more well rounded one skills and experience wise. And to me it's also fun to challenge myself to find food, keep warm etc etc using minimal kit but lets not lose track of the fact that Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett or Jim Bridger if they were alive today would all be out there in goretex smocks and be using blue flame lighters ....................

But that doesn't detract from the purest skill - the zen of bushcraft which to me is still a weekend in the woods with just a blanket, a billy and a knife!!



5.3.13

Longhunter kit ..... a comparison for modern man

In a previous article we looked at clothing, discussing modern alternatives to more traditional clothing options in as much as we want to have the option to select more traditional clothing but in so doing not to look like a re-enactor. Now let us look at kit, what was carried and how it was used.

Firstly, we're not interested in traps, long rifles and such, these are items of specialist interest and not pertinent to the average bushcrafter - certainly not in the UK!

So already our load is lightened!

What typical items then did our longhunter or mountain man carry? Below is a list via a historical trekking/living history site .........

  1. Haversack/knapsack
  2. folded course linen cloth
  3. length of cordage (hemp or sisal)
  4. linen tow bow (used to clean weapons etc)
  5. Hussif (sewing kit)
  6. Small fishing kit
  7. fork and spoon
  8. salt horn
  9. pot of pepper
  10. firebox - Flint and steel in a brass or similar tin
  11. small tin char
  12. two x tin cups (1 x litre 1 x 1.5 litre)
  13. Cloth bag of provisions ( corn meal, pease, salt pork, jerky, coffee, leaf tea, chocolate)
  14. small wooden plate
  15. Blanket,
  16. extra shirt,
  17. wool socks
  18. canteen
  19. Shelter
  20. belt axe
  21. belt knife
  22. pocket knife
So what can we carry to emulate this without recourse to modern items?
  1. Haversack/knapsack - my choice is a haversack and a blanket roll - a daysack made of canvas and leather would be a traditional alternative as the knapsack was around although a knapsack was really just a haversack with shoulder straps initially. Bear in mind what we are trying to do - by limiting the size of our pack we limit the amount of kit we carry thus simplifying or needs and increasing our skills (also note this is not to my mind a hiking kit or long duration kit as modern alternatives, personal safety and environmental issues are such that practical considerations go against it - that's not to say it couldn't be but most bushcrafters are weekenders at most and that is how I am viewing this kit at present (maybe a longer term kit review will follow as I am already planning a week long hike with this type of outfit) 
  2. folded course linen cloth - any old bandana even a cotton triangular bandage (used for cleaning, first aid or as a supplemental char cloth source)
  3. length of cordage (hemp or sisal) - para cord and similar but bear in mind this again could be used as tinder.
  4. linen tow bow (used to clean weapons etc) - with no weapon to clean we don't need this but it is a source of tinder too
  5. Hussif (sewing kit) - Always a good item to carry for running repairs to kit and clothing - on reason I like traditional kit and natural materials in repairs are possible and easier in the field.
  6. Small fishing kit - handline or similar
  7. fork and spoon - no need for a knife and often no need for a fork to be honest
  8. salt horn - most modern food contains salt, boil in a bags and such probably contain to much but if we must carry salt a small bag of 5g satchets will easily suffice
  9. pot of pepper - bottle of tabasco sauce or similar
  10. firebox - here our modern options are vaste - I don't mess around with gimmicky stuff though matches in a waterproof case with a back up firesteel on my knife are all I need.
  11. small tin char - wet fire or tinder card but with a little skill or foresight birch bark etc can be carried in preparation
  12. 2 x tin cups (1 x litre 1 x 1.5 litre) - personally I carry a plastic folding cup in my haversack. My cooking pot is a 775ml MSR stowaway
  13. Cloth bag of provisions ( corn meal, pease, salt pork, jerky, coffee, leaf tea, chocolate) - rations are strange for some boil in a bags will suffice for others it will be a tin of beans. We can carry fresh too a small loaf of bread, a lump of cheese and a salami sausage are other options - time out is key to what and how much you carry. season also has some effect if you supplement your rations with wild food gathered.
  14. small wooden plate - I wouldn't bother with a plate as I use my cooking pot or eat boil in a bag out the bag
  15. Blanket, - or a sleeping bag?? Here is probably the main difference, a sleeping bag is more popular for a reason BUT a blanket or two is more versatile, the choice is for the individual and will reflect their skills and knowledge as well as what they are trying to achieve. Personally, I know with a blanket have a bed as well as clothing having slept outdoors in 1 blanket with temperatures down to -7c I am a blanket fan but its courses for horses on a long trip or if I am hiking I would likely take a sleeping bag and maybe a blanket as extra insulation
  16. extra shirt, spare warm clothing
  17. wool socks
  18. canteen - water is gold to a thirsty man, a means of carriage and purification is key, personally in my haversack I carry a bottle with a built in filter
  19. Shelter - like a blanket this is a key item as much of our bulk and weight can be here - on a recent trip one of my companions was having kittens at the thought of sleeping out one day without a shelter (even though he had a sleeping bag and bivi and it was a dry night) if the weather looks fine I will carry a poncho in my haversack so I'm not caught out - if its wet then I will carry a laavu which is a modern version of a baker tent.
  20. belt axe
  21. belt knife
  22. pocket knife
Most of the above I can fit in my haversack - all really baring the blankets, items I cant fit in the haversack I can roll up in my bedroll. Obviously we need skills to aid us in a good nights sleep for example - we need to make a bed, we may need fire to increase our warmth etc but this is the whole idea of what we are discussing - roughing it to smooth it ............... if the prospect of this, if the idea of minimal kit fills you with trepidation then its not for you. But if, like me, you like the idea of having to use your skills, your common sense and a trusted kit that can be pushed into various roles then give it a try - you will learn more about bushcraft and yourself if you do!

4.3.13

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.

http://www.prickettsfort.org/Resources/18th%20Century%20Clothing.pdf

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!!











2.3.13

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 -

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6B3D89B23CDE649F

- 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?