Woodcraft: George Washington Sears

Go light; the lighter the better, so that you have the simplest material for health, comfort and enjoyment.’ So he said way back in 1884. A ten pound canoe way back then! There are so many treasures you can download for free from Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive for example. I mentioned some others here. So much of what Sears recommends is still relevant today. Here is a little more to whet your appetite:

‘Of course, if you intend to have a permanent camp and can reach it by boat or wagon, lightness is not so important, though even in that case it is well to guard against taking a lot of stuff that is likely to prove of more weight than worth—only to leave it behind when you come out.

As to clothing for the woods, a good deal of nonsense has been written about “strong, coarse woolen clothes.” You do not want coarse woolen clothes. Fine woolen cassimere of medium thickness for coat, vest and pantaloons, with no cotton lining. Color, slate gray or dead-leaf (either is good). Two soft, thick woolen shirts; two pairs of fine, but substantial, woolen drawers; two pairs of strong woolen socks or stockings; these are what you need and all you need in the way of clothing for the woods, excepting hat and boots, or gaiters. Boots are best—providing you do not let yourself be inveigled into wearing a pair of long-legged heavy boots with thick soles, as has been often advised by writers who knew no better. Heavy, long legged boots are a weary, tiresome incumbrance on a hard tramp through rough woods. Even moccasins are better. Gaiters, all sorts of high shoes, in fact, are too bothersome about fastening and unfastening. Light boots are best. Not thin, unserviceable affairs, but light as to actual weight. The following hints will give an idea for the best footgear for the woods; let them be single soled, single backs and single fronts, except light, short foot-linings. Back of solid “country kip”; fronts of substantial French calf; heel one inch high, with steel nails; countered outside; straps narrow, of fine French calf put on “astraddle,” and set down to the top of the back. The out-sole stout, Spanish oak and pegged rather than sewed, although either is good. They will weigh considerably less than half as much as the clumsy, costly boots usually recommended for the woods; and the added comfort must be tested to be understood.

The hat should be fine, soft felt with moderately low crown and wide brim; color to match the clothing.

The proper covering for head and feet is no slight affair and will be found worth some attention. Be careful that the boots are not too tight, or the hat too loose. The above rig will give the tourist one shirt, one pair of drawers and a pair of socks to carry as extra clothing. A soft, warm blanket-bag, open at the ends and just long enough to cover the sleeper, with an oblong square of waterproofed cotton cloth 6×8 feet, will give warmth and shelter by night and will weigh together five or six pounds. This, with the extra clothing, will make about eight pounds of dry goods to pack over carries, which is enough. Probably, also, it will be found little enough for comfort.

During a canoe cruise across the Northern Wilderness in the late summer, I met many parties at different points in the woods and the amount of unnecessary duffle with which they encumbered themselves was simply appalling. Why a shrewd business man, who goes through with a guide and makes a forest hotel his camping ground nearly every night, should handicap himself with a five-peck pack basket full of gray woolen and gum blankets, extra clothing, pots, pans and kettles, with a 9 pound 10-bore and two rods—yes, and an extra pair of heavy boots hanging astride of the gun-well, it is one of the things I shall never understand. My own load, including canoe, extra clothing, blanket-bag, two days’ rations, pocket-axe, rod and knapsack, never exceeded 26 pounds; and I went prepared to camp out any and every night’.

Ebook here (to read online) http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/24579/pg24579-images.html or here (to download for free): http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24579

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