The problem of what to take on a trip resolves itself chiefly into a question of transportation. If the party can travel by wagon, and intends to go into fixed camp, then almost anything can be carried along — trunks, chests, big wall tents and poles, cots, mattresses, pots and pans galore, camp stove, kerosene, mackintoshes and rubber boots, plentiful changes of clothing, books, folding bath-tubs — wrhat you will. Such things are right and proper if you do not intend to move often from place to place. But in any case beware of impedimenta that will be forever in the way and seldom or never used.
It is quite another matter to fit out a man or a party for wilderness travel. First, and above all, be plain in the woods. In a far way you are emulating those grim heroes of the past who made the white man's trails across this continent. We seek the woods to escape civilization for a time, and all that suggests it. Let us sometimes broil our venison on a sharpened stick and serve it on a sheet of bark. It tastes better. It gets us closer to Nature, and closer to those good old times wdien every American was considered " a man for a' that" if he proved it in a manful way. And there is a pleasure in achieving creditable results by the simplest means. When you win your own way through the wilds with axe and rifle you win at the same time the imperturbability of a mind at ease with itself in any emergency by flood or field. Then you feel that you have red blood in your veins, and that it is good to be free and iog out of doors. It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.
Let me not be misunderstood as counseling anybody to " rough it " by sleeping on the bare ground and eating nothing but hardtack and bacon. Only a tenderfoot will parade a scorn of comfort and a taste for useless hardships. As " Nessmuk " says: " We do not go to the woods to rough it; we go to smooth it — we get it rough enough in town. But let us live the simple, natural life in the woods, and leave all frills behind".
An old campaigner is known by the simplicity and fitness of his equipment. He carries few " fixings," but every article has been well tested and it is the best that his purse can afford. He has learned by hard experience how steep are the mountain trails and how tangled the undergrowth and downwood in the primitive forest. He has learned, too, how to fashion on the spot many substitutes for " boughten " things that we consider necessary at home.
The art of going " light but right " is hard to learn. I never knew a camper who did not burden himself, at first, with a lot of kickshaws that he did not need in the woods; nor one who, if he learned anything, did not soon begin to weed them out; nor even a veteran who ever quite attained his own ideal of lightness and serviceability. Probably " Nessmuk " came as near to it as any one, after he got that famous ten-pound canoe. He said that his load, including canoe, knapsack, blanket-bag, extra clothing, hatchet, rod, and two days' rations, " never exceeded twenty-six pounds; and I went prepared to camp out any and every night." This, of course, was in summer.
In the days when game was plentiful and there were no closed seasons our frontiersmen thought nothing of making long expeditions into the unknown wilderness writh no equipment but what they carried on their own persons, to wit: a blanket, rifle, ammunition, flint and steel, tomahawk, knife, an awl, a spare pair of moccasins, perhaps, a small bag of jerked venison, and another of parched corn, ground to a coarse meal, which they called " rockahominy " or " coal flour." Their tutors in woodcraft often traveled lighter than this. An Indian runner would strip to his G-string and moccasins, roll up in his small blanket a pouch of rockahominy, and, armed only with a bow and arrows, he would perform journeys that no mammal but a wolf could equal. General Clark said that when he and Lewis, with their men, started afoot from the mouth of the Columbia River on their return trip across the continent, their total store of articles for barter with the Indians for horses and food could have been tied up in two handkerchiefs. But they were woodsmen, every inch ot them.
Now it is not needful nor advisable for a camper in our time to suffer hardships from stinting his supplies. It is foolish to take insufficient bedding, or to rely upon a diet of pork, beans, and hardtack, in a country where game may be scarce. The knack is in striking a happy medium between too much luggage and too little. Ideal outfitting is to have what we want, when we want it, and not to be bothered with anything else. A pair of scales are good things to have at hand when one is making up his packs. Scales of another kind will then fall from his eyes. He will note how the little, unconsidered trifles mount up; how every bag or tin adds weight. Now let him imagine himself toiling uphill under an August sun, or forging through thickety woods, over rocks and roots and fallen trees, with all this stuff on his back. Again, let him think of a chill, wet night ahead, and of what he will really need to keep himself warm, dry, and well ballasted amidships. Balancing these two prospects one against the other, he cannot go far wrong in selecting his outfit.
In his charming book, The Forest, Stewart Edward White has spoken of that amusing foible, comii2 Camping AND WOODCKA* r mon to us all, which compels even an experienced woodsman to lug along some pet trifle that he does not need, but which he would be miserable without. The more absurd this trinket is, the more he loves it. One of my camp-mates for five seasons carried in his " packer " a big chunk of rosin. When asked what it was for, he confessed: " Oh, I'm going to get a fellow to make me a turkey-call, some day, and this is to make it 1 turk.' " Jew's-harps, camp-stools, shaving-mugs, alarm-clocks, derringers that nobody could hit anything with, and other such trifles have been known to accompany very practical men who were otherwise in light marching order. If you have some such thing that you know you can't sleep well without, stow it religiously in your kit. It is your " medicine," your amulet against the spooks and bogies of the woods. It will dispel the koosy-oonek. (If you don't know what that means, ask an Eskimo. He may tell you that it means sorcery, witchcraft — and so, no doubt, it does to the children of nature; but to us children of guile it is the spell of that imp who hides our pipes, steals our last match, and brings rain on the just when they want to go fishing).
No two men have the same " medicine." Mine is a porcelain teacup, minus the handle. It cost me much trouble to find one that would fit snugly inside the metal cup in which I brew my tea. Many's the time it has all but slipped from my fingers and dropped upon a rock; many's the gibe I have suffered for its dear sake. But I do love it. Hot indeed must be the sun, tangled the trail and weary the miles, before I forsake thee, O my frail, cool-lipped, but ardent teacup!
There is something to be said in favor of individual outfits, every man going completely equipped and quite independent of the others. It is one of the delights of single-handed canoeing, whether you go alone or cruise in squadron, that every man is fixed to suit himself. Then if any one carries too much or too little, or cooks badly, or is too lazy to be neat, or lacks forethought in any way, he alone suffers the penalty; and this is but just. On the other hand, if one of the cruisers' outfits comes to grief, the others can help him out, since all the eggs are not in one basket. I like to have a complete Camping outfit of my own, just big enough for two men, so that I can dispense a modest hospitality to a chance acquaintance, or take with me a comrade who, through no fault of his own, turns up at the last moment; but I want this outfit to be so light and compact that I can easily handle it myself when I am alone. Then I am always " fixed," and always independent, come good or ill, blow high or low.
Still, it is the general rule among campers to have " company stores." In so far as this means only those things that all use in common, such as tent, utensils, tools, and provisions, it is well enough; but it should be a point of honor with each and every man to carry for himself a complete kit of personal necessities, down to the least detail. As for company stores, everybody should bear a hand in collecting and packing them. To saddle this hard and thankless job on one man, merely because he is experienced and a willing worker, is selfish. Depend upon it, the fellow who " hasnst time " to do his share of the work before starting will be the very one to shirk in camp.