Quand na pas clioual, monte bourique; Quand na pas bourique, monte cabri; Quand na pas cabri, monte jambc.
(When you have no horse, you ride a donkey; When you have no donkey, you ride a goat; When you have no goat, you ride your legs).
The man who goes afoot, prepared to camp anywhere and in any weather, is the most independent fellow on earth. He can follow his bent, obey the whim of the hour, do what he pleases whenever he pleases, without deference to anybody, or care for any beast of burden, or obedience to the course of any current. He is footloose and free. Where neither horse nor boat can go, he can go, seeing country that no other kind of traveler ever sees. And it is just these otherwise inaccessible places that have the strongest lure for anyone who delights in new discovery, in unspoiled nature, and in the charms of primitive society.
The man with the knapsack is never lost. No matter whither he may stray, his food and shelter are right with him, and home is wherever he may choose to stop. There is no anxiety about the morrow, or the day after. Somewhere he will come out—and one place is as good as another. No panic-stricken horse, or wrecked canoe, can leave him naked in the wilderness.
But how to do it? This is the hardest problem in outfitting. To equip a pedestrian with shelter, bedding, utensils, food, and other necessities, in a pack so light and small that he can carry it without overstrain, is really a fine art. One can't enjoy wild scenery and backwoods characters if bending and chafing under a load of fardels, all the time conscious that he is making a pack animal, a donkey, of himself.
Consider, then, your personal equation. If you are a middle-aged city man, soft from a year or more of office work, about twenty pounds on your back is all the weight that you ought to carry. Even that little will be burdensome the first day out; but soon you will be striding along all day hardly knowing it is there. A younger man, or one who gets a good deal of daily exercise in the open air, can do the same with thirty pounds, until he gets in training, and then go considerably more.
I am speaking of all-day hikes, across country, through the woods, uphill and down dale. In un-tracked wilderness, especially if it be mountainous, it takes a husky fellow, in good form, to pack fifty pounds without over-exertion. Yes, infantrymen carry seventy, sometimes, but they don't do it through thickets, over rocks and down-logs, up and down ravines, where there are no trails—nor* are they out for the fun of the thing. The personal equation, then—your own—regardless ot what other folks do, or think you ought to do. Find out what is light and easy for you, and then GO LIGHT, Weigh the essentials. Are you to sleep out? You need a comfortable bed, shelter from rain, and security against venomous insects. Food, then, for how many meals ? Choose what can be cooked with the simplest and lightest utensils, and what will give you the most nourishment for its weight and bulk, and such as does not require more than half an hour to make ready and fit for the stomach. Bedding, shelter, food and something to prepare it in: those are the essentials, besides the clothes on your back and the contents of your pockets. Anything else is dispensable, to be picked with care and weighed with scales, and balanced against some other thing that might be of more real use or pleasure.
Then how is the weight to be carried? A great deal depends on getting a pack so adjusted that it will "ride" just right, shoulders and hips each bearing their due part of the strain, with as little binding and chafing as possible.
Finally, will you go in company or alone? A party of three or four uses the same tent, utensils, and some other articles in common. That means less weight for each man to carry. Two in a bed require less bedding than if they slept separately. A satisfactory kit for one man who goes alone and afoot is the last refinement in camp equipment. Because this is a particularly difficult problem I shall give it special attention. Whoever masters it will have little trouble in getting up a squad outfit.
This topic has been considered in detail in Vol. I. (pp. 138-163). Little need be added. Footwear is the most important item. Shoes and socks must FIT, or you will be made miserable by blisters. For dry weather and fair roads, the standard U. S. Army shoes are excellent; but for rough country, heavier ones, made over the Munson last, are required. In the wilderness there is considerable wading to do, sometimes over the shoe tops. The only shoes that will stand it are those that are waterproofed and have no lining whatever: they dry out soon on the march, and do not get hard or "bowed up." Buy them of some firm that makes a specialty of sportsmen's footwear.
Up to the season when Mackinaws are needed, do not carry a coat. You would not wear it on the march, and, when the cool of evening comes, a sweater coat or a Mackinaw stag shirt is more comfortable, besides being a good night garment, which the coat distinctly is not. Then have a light-weight rubber cape reaching just to the knee. From the knee down you will get wet anyway, even though you wear a long poncho or rain coat, and any garment that flops against the legs at every stride is a positive nuisance; besides, it will soon tear when you thrash through brush, and it will trip you at every step in climbing. A cape has the merits of a poncho, in that it is airy underneath, and it can be slipped on over the pack-sack, while it has the advantage of leaving your arms free to fend off bushes, to climb with, to shoot, paddle, and so on.
There is a pattern called the "Fairy," 34 inches long, that weighs only 21 ounces and takes up hardly any room when packed. It and a medium-weight sweater coat together weigh only about six ounces more than a duxbak hunting coat. Worn together, they form good protection against a cold, keen wind.