Three Little Piggies

The backwoodsman slowly left the scorching heat of the open plains and descended into the dapple shade of the woodlands. Might Pine trees surrounded him, their majestic tops thrust into a sky of clearest blue. The rope tump line of his blanket roll cut into his shoulder and he adjusted the rope with a smile for he knew in minutes he'd find his campsite and be free of its torture.

This weekend I collected together my kit and tried out my first (purely 18th century) trip. The reason I point out purely is because like all outdoors folk and particularly bushcrafters the instinct is to pack back up kit (just in case) - well on this occasion I didn't - if things went wrong there would be no modern tech gear as a back up - I'd be relying totally on my skill, knowledge and the few items I carried.

My kit consisted of a Haversack and bedroll ...........

In said kit I carried the following items (as a by the by - I was surprised how little I actually carried)

My cutting tools were probably the heaviest items - I had a trail hawk (cold steel) a butcher knife (Old Hickory) and a little necker or patch knife I made myself some years ago from a blade and a sheep bone. All three are well documented as typical carries and as such I was very pleased with each - The tomahawk or a belt axe was carried as a standard item and I found mine invaluable, especially when I was building my house of sticks!!

My kitchen, consisted of a Modern Mucket/billy can - a Hudson's bay tobacco tin which held my flint and steel, char cloth and a few birch peelings, my journal (which I never used) a small 500 ml water bottle with a cork stopper and a hip flask with the obligatory dram of whisky and finally a wood cup or as the svenska call it a kuksa.

Clothing wise, at least to period I had a cotton bandanna (tea dyed) and a Capote made from a Witney blanket. I also carried a scots Bonnet in forest green, a item typical of rangers and scouts and while to warm to wear in the day proved an amazingly warm cap at night and for sleeping in.

My haversack, as the name suggests, carried my food for the weekend and lacking a possibles bag it also doubled up for this task as well.

My rations were selected based upon the generally agreed issued rations of a soldier, which didn't very over much from the revolutionary war to the civil war - which, while plain, I found these plentiful and oddly enjoyable?? Smoked belly pork - jerky - rice - coffee - tea and sugar - rye bread and a wooden spoon. Oh ja and salt - Salt during the revolutionary war was considered more valuable than gold! As a note - I only found out the day before I left that paper or waxed paper wasn't even invented for wrapping foods pre-1840(ish) linen bags were the norm before this!!

With such a small canteen I was very dependant on water and found a small stream close at hand which offered up close water - boiled for safety, this water source was very important to me (and truth be told I have drunk from this stream before to test its purity - and no shits or problems prove it a safe clean source)  (clearly I don't recommend this to viewers at home as Giardia and its buddies etc can kill or severally debilitate people. The whole native peoples thing about evil spirits guarding water holes etc wasn't really based of huge powerful ghost or demons - rather their lack of understanding of how the cryptosporidium and bacteria etc effected the water and them.

I built my camp from natural materials - my bedroll was a blanket and my Capote with my kitchen items etc - so I needed a roof over my head especially as I knew (thanks to modern technology and the dark grey clouds forming over head that someone had really pissed off Thor) a potential wet night was on the cards.

My shelter would have made the three little piggies proud as it was made of sticks ... I thatched it with pine bows initially then moss and finally a good layer of bracken. When the heavens did open I'm pleased to say my hard work (about 4 hours all told) paid off and apart from a few random wind blown drips I was snug as a bug.

My fire was built against a fallen tree root which acted as a reflector - I built a base of stone and sand (I was in a pine woodland after all)  and as the picture shows I built a crane for my billy and cooked my pork Es Appaloosa (or on a stick)

Above is my fire kit - the flint and steel worked really well although in my area I had to really work to find a decent tinder bundle - the materials I gathered I split into three - one for the fire I was making - one for the fire in the morning and one as a back up I stored (as is still there) in the roof of my shelter for the next fire.

 As the sun went down the fire became the centre of my world.

Evening came and with no torch I found darkness an issue, however in the area of camp the fire light did my well enough - I can imagine our ancestors went to bed with the dark and woke with the sun as it really was hard to do anything requiring minute detail in such poor light.

I will review the kit I carried in greater detail later - although over all I was amazed how little iI NEEDED and how well it all worked, although I would point out also that the little I needed I really needed! - with practise the kit really would be all I needed - carry less by knowing more - for sure.

Cons -

  • my bedroll as I didn't have a tumpline was carried on 9mm Cordage - this was like hiking wearing barbed wire - very painful as it bit into my shoulders.
  • My bedding made from pine and bracken proved to be Ticksville and I returned how with a small private party of the buggers eating me (oddly the dog didn't have a one) 
  • It was hard work building the shelter and gathering the materials needed - but I guess getting toughened to the trail would sort that out.
Pros - 
  • my woollen items were brilliant - the blanket had a lot of sparks and embers land on it - with no damage and when it rained although it got alittle wet I never noticed a drop in its warmth.
  • My flint and steel worked really well with poor quality tinder, the char cloth allowing me to build a bigger ember and ignite the damp semi green tinder bundle.

And there dear reader (and I say reader as I know there is one and she's lovely) it is - the whole experience was great - hard work - but really fulfilling and well worth the effort.

As promised I will do a greater review of kit in a later posting - especially due to the fact that the whole exercise has been put on hold temporarily due to the fact I have been lucky enough to be selected to attend a selection event for my local Mountain Search and Rescue team and this as I am sure you will understand is a huge honour and privilege and I am now committing myself to training for the event in question.

That said, dear reader, don't despair I still have plenty to tell you about my adventures so far!! 

Watch yer top knot!