For me it was an eye-opener to find the lightest camp equipments of the world in England, a nation 1 had always associated with one-ton "caravans'* at home and five-ton "safaris" abroad. Verily here was the art of open-air life evolved to a type undreamed of in our own country.
Back of this development, I learned, were years of patient, thoroughgoing experiment by scores of men and women whose one fad (if it be a fad) was to perfect a Camping kit that should be light, lighter, lightest, and yet right, righter, rightest. Then it came to me from faraway years that the father of modern lightweight camping was not the Yankee "Nessmuk," but the Scotchman Macgregor, who in 1865, built the first modern canoe, Rob Roy, and cruised her a thousand miles with no baggage but a black bag one foot square and six inches deep. Ii was said of Macgregor that he would not willingly give even a fly deck passage.
Featherweight Camping in "civilized" fashion began with the Rob Roy, progressed with the flotillas of British and American canoeists who followed its skipper's example, was refined by the squadrons of cycle tourists and the pedestrian campers who scour the highways and byways of all Christendom in their yearly holidays.
To one whose camps have always been pitched in the wilderness the seven-pound English kit seems amusingly frail and inadequate. Such a one might exclaim in mock reverence, as my partner used to when he caught me modeling some new-fangled "dingbat": "Great and marvelous art thy works, Lord Geeminy Criminy!" But such an outfit is not meant for the wilderness. It is for the independent vacationist who wants to ramble off the beaten track, to see what conventional travelers always miss: the most interesting and picturesque places and peoples in their own and foreign countries.
European outfitters have been catering for years to this class of trade; but what have we done for it? Precious little. Whoever goes in for that sort of vacation must either pack around with him twice as much weight and bulk as there is any sense in, if he buys his kit ready made, or he must build an equipment for himself, which few tourists have either the time or the skill to do. Perhaps, then, this foreign cult may be worth looking into.
First, the featherweight kit already alluded to. It was designed by Owen G. Williams, and marketed by J. Langdon & Sons, Duke St., Liverpool. The constituent parts, with their weights, and prices before the war, are given below. If ordered together the price of complete outfit was £4 4s, or about $21.00.
"Featherweight" tent complete ____£1 10 0 2 8
Ground sheet and pegs for same......0 4 3 IS
"Comfy" sleeping-bag (eiderdown).. .2 2 0 1 4
Compact brush and comb and mirror.0 19 2
Japanese rubbered air cushion .......0 16 2
"Compleat" cooking outfit and stove.0 3 6 15
Aluminum knife, fork and spoon.....0 14 2 l/4 pint aluminum flask and egg cup...O 2 8 3
Enamelled cup, plate, and mop, per set 0 0 9 5
Canvas bucket and wash basin.......0 2 3 6
Pole clips and candle holder .......0 0 6 2
£4 10 6 7 lbs.
The tent is barely large enough for one man to sleep in: 3 feet high, 6 feet long, 3 feet wide on the floor, with front and rear extensions of 32 inches and 36 inches respectively. It is a modification of the common "A" or wedge pattern. The doorways are cut so as to peg out straight in front, affording an outside windshield for cooking. The back end is rounded for storage accommodation and to provide in the worst of weather for cooking without risk of spilling foodstuff on the ground sheet.
The top, which shields the sleeper, is made of 'Wallow-wing," unprocessed but rain-proof. The bottom portion of the tent is of a lighter material that helps ventilate, but still is spray-proof. The tent alone weighs 22 ounces, poles and case 10 ounces, pegs and lines 8 ounces. The tent rolls into a package 8^ inches long by 4 inches thick. The poles unjoint to a length of 23 inches.
I am assured that this midget shelter will stand up in a hurricane that overthrows wall tents, marquees, and the army bell tent. Enthusiastic campers use it even in winter, sleeping out without a fire when the tent sags heavily with snow. They find it satisfactory protection in torrents of gusty rain so fierce as to wet through a common tent in spite of the fly, by driving through the material of back or front. It has stood nine months' continuous service in Canada.
The ground sheet is of a special fawn waterproof sheeting, 5 feet by 3 feet, eyeletted at each corner, and with pegs to hold it down.
The sleeping-bag is shaped narrow at the foot to save weight and bulk, and is of the old-fashioned pattern closed with a draw-string. It is stuffed thinly with eiderdown, the warmest of all known materials for its weight and (rolled up) bulk. It has a thin rubbered cover bag, waterproof and wind-pi oof. For those who dislike the stuffiness of so small a "sleeping-pocket" the same outfitters provided down quilts of two sizes, the 6x4 foot size, with valance, weighing 3^4 pounds.
The air-pillow is a Japanese contrivance, in-ciedibly light and compact. A reeded form, more comfortable than the plain oblong one listed with the set, is 12 x 10 inches, weighs only 2^2 ounces, and three of them can be carried in a coat pocket when deflated.
Since the English camper seldom could get wood for fuel, or permission to make a fire in the open, he was obliged to carry a miniature stove and some alcohol or kerosene. In this instance it is an alcohol burner of common pad form, which is wasteful of spirits, but less likely to get out of order than an alcohol vapor stove. The cooking outfit is made up of two little kettles or deep stew-pans with handles, a miniature frying-pan, a toaster, a tea-ball, and the stove, all nesting in the outer kettle, which has a cover.