26.8.14

18th Century Soldier's kit and the modern alternatives

Further to my below post I have spent many days researching the typical kit of the 18th century outdoorsman. My findings have been interesting especially when compared with my modern gear and that promoted by guys like Dave Canterbury who I am growing to admire immensely.

So what would a 18th Century soldier have?? Below is a list taken from the diary of a French officer from the 1700's, I have left out none relevant items like gun flints and powder horns ect btw.

Summer issue items
  1. Blanket
  2. Capote
  3. Shirt x2
  4. Trousers
  5. Underpants
  6. Socks
  7. Hussif
  8. Fire Steel and Flint
  9. Butcher knife
  10. Comb
  11. Mocassins
  12. Tomahawk
Additional winter items

  1. 2 extra pairs of socks
  2. Mittens
  3. Vest
  4. Folding knife x2
  5. Long underwear (material for the use of)
  6. Bearskin
Also issued per 2 men

  1. Cooking pot
  2. Axe
  3. Tarpaulin

With their wool uniforms this kit seems pretty good for the prevailing conditions that would have been found in the wilderness north of New York well into Canada.

So my own kit or the equivalent of -

  1. Blanket
  2. Wool smock (made from army blanket)
  3. 5.11 shirt and t-shirt/Zip neck shirt
  4. Trouser
  5. Underpants
  6. Socks
  7. Sewing kit
  8. Fireset - firesteel and Bic lighter
  9. Butcher knife
  10. Wash kit inc comb and tooth cleaning items
  11. Walking Boots
  12. Tomahawk


  1.  2 x Socks
  2. Mittens (with leather choppers)
  3. JHW (army jumper)
  4. 2 x Opinel knives or 1 x Opinel 1 x Mora No1
  5. Long underwear
  6. Sleeping bag - MSS or similar inc thermarest and bivi bag

The similarities are there - mostly even the materials are similar - really only the tech has changed for example a flint and steel replaced with a fire steel (ferro rod) ......... some stuff missed out were items not considered as personal issue for example candles as these were issues per 100 for guard duties etc and considered part of the rations hence here we don't mention them or a torch - one thing I wouldn't leave out of my modern gear is a first aid kit but I doubt the 18th C soldier had access to anything we might consider as even the most basic of kits.

So what does this mean? Well in light of the previous post it certainly means changing my kit isn't really necessary, it also means my skills, while always having room to improve, wont require to much adapting.

This means two things firstly, that my kit is pretty basic and that my skills are pretty good, I already carry less by knowing more as the saying goes. Secondly, that I will need to caste my net further a field to find new inspiration - although even with modern kit I can still "play" the same scenario I mentioned before as the rules of the game are still the same!

With all this in mind tomorrow I'll be in the loft sorting out my kit and then watch out ebay here I come with the surplus - a few smart bushcrafters are about to be made very happy with some bargain kit!!





5 comments:

Ross Gilmore said...

For me the challenge with using older kit is that while all of the items seem to have a one to one equivalent, all of the small changes add up to a very different type of gear use.

It looks like you based your list on the 1757 Boston Gazette publication of Francois-Pierre Rigaud's account of the French forces. What he leaves out of his account is the form of transportation for the gear. Francois Charles de Bourlamaque's account from the same year specifies the use of sleds by each man to move their winter gear, and the common items were almost certainly carried by pack train even during warm weather.

The difficulty is creating a one to one correlation between these gear lists and a modern equivalent is that a woodsman these days typically carries all of this gear on his back. If one had to do that with a bear skin, let alone any of the other gear, the task would be impossible.

That is why even during that time, we see that people who traveled on foot alone really cut down on their gear. A blanket was usually all that was carried for protection from the elements, which necessitated a very different type of camping.

A typical account is that of George Bouchier Worgan in 1788 where he writes: "As for my part I shall be obliged soon to make a Virtue of Necessity for I have torn almost all my Cloaths to pieces by going into the Woods; and tho' we do not want for Taylors, We do, Woolen Drapers. Our Excursions, put me in Mind of your going a Steeple Hunting, We sometimes, put a Bit of Salt Beef, or Pork, Bisket, a Bottle of 0 be joyful, in a Snapsack throw it over our Backs, take a Hatchet, a Brace of Pistols, and a Musket, and away we go, scouring the Woods, sometimes East, West, N. S. if Night overtakes us, we light up a rousing Fire, Cut Boughs & make up a Wig-Wam, open our Wallets, and eat as hearty of our Fare as You, of your Dainties, then lie down on a Bed, which tho' not of Roses, yet staying out all Night, accordingly We laid down our Bread an Cheese Wallets, make up a Wig-wam of green Boughs, cut some dry Ferns for a Bed, lit two or three rousing Fires near our Hut, and set down to Dinner. We sung the Evening away, and about 9 O’Clock retired to Rest, taking it by turns to keep watch, and supply the Fires with Fuel."

I have had a difficult time creating a one to one equivalent when it comes to duplicating the experience of the woodsman from that time. Sure, a sleeping bag is kind of a replacement for a blanket, but the way in which each has to be used in order to allow the woodsman to spend time out in the woods is very different.

All of those small changes in degree add up to make a change in kind.

John Leopold said...

Do you know why they would only get folding knives in the winter? Just seems like they would always be useful. Also, were both of them the same knife?

Survivall said...

John I could find no reason for the 2 x folding knives issued in winter so my own assumption is that the butcher knife was carried year round as were pocket knives but winter was the time they were most likely to loose a pocket knife so they received two one as a spare. In the articles I read no real reference was made to type of pocket knife but common sense stats that they would have been a cheaper model as army equipment generally is - Dave Canterbury has a couple of good video's on knives of that period including a penny knife which seems to be the likely model issued.

James Devine said...

What is the best Blankets for the Job? At least a modern equivalent that is not to expensive.

Survivall said...

Hello James, been a long long time mate - you ok?? How's the family?

Re BLANKETS - witney or whitney blankets on ebay are your best option - they made the original hudsons bay blankets - I have a beauty (its in the post about have to wear a blanket to make a match coat etc) cost me 9.95 and I have slept in it in Sweden at minus 10c (emergency shelter) ....... go for 100% wool the bigger the better but I find a standard double suits me for my needs ........... happy hunting mate