In alphabetical order. Add other items you might consider essential:
☐ First-Aid Kit
☐ Flint, Steel & Tinder
☐ Food for one day more tan you expect to be out
☐ Fur (sheep or reindeer preferred
☐ Leather Thong
☐ Optional Cup
☐ Personal Medicines
☐ Pot if you plan to cook
☐ Sewing Kit
☐ Wool Blankets (at least two; a blanket can be used as a cloak if necessary)
WRITING & READING
Chances are that most people of the time were illiterate unless they were ecclesiastical. For ecclesiasticals, any books carried should probably be biblical or religious homilies.
Blank books could be useful, and they can be marked with pen and ink, with pieces of charcoal or pencils of lead. Those marked in lead will fade and must be copied in a more permanent manner within a few days.
Wax tablets are period and can be used to take notes and hash marks. They can be erased or marked over to be re-used, or the wax can be remelted if the surface becomes too choppy.
GAMES & ENTERTAINMENT
Do not die of boredom. Some sort of entertainment might be necessitated by circumstances.
Know period tales to relate or songs to be sung (note that tunes are unknown for the period, except for religious music, but poems probably used as songs were known.
Trekkers may be amused or entertained by games. Period games of various types can be brought or produced. Dice and sheeps’ knuckles are small and light, and tafl boards can be drawn on the ground or on rocks, with rocks or coins being used as gaming characters.
A BIG DECISION BEFORE YOUR TREK
The large decision is whither you plan to record your effort, either with still or moving pictures.
If your decision is affirmative, you have to decide whether you should be accompanied by a cameraman. He might dress in modern clothing, overtly using modern devices. Many people would find this to be a direct contradiction to what you are trying to do, but the decision must be yours, for we all live in a modern world no matter what our goals and actions are.
These are all legitimate possible variations on trekking, and each one could be a chapbook by itself. If any of these intrigue you, you can do the research and do a great impression!
• Horseback Riding
• Bringing a pet
The bedding should be a size that fits beneath the shelter you bring. It is usually furs and blankets, though sometimes there are other constructions that these are placed on or in. For example, you can cut down boughs to hold the bed, though this is not really recommended.
If they are available, lay down a mattress of pine needles for mattress. Set out a fur or an oilskin tarp, then the woolen blankets you will sleep between. Some people cannot sleep without a pillow to support their heads, and I have found that a smaller fur makes comfortable pillows.
Hands on History notes that sun drying not tanning the fur makes it water resistant.
In most cases, you will not find it advantageous to bring along a full tent—geteld or wedge—on a trek. All the equipment and poles needed to set it up a full tent are heavy and awkward, even if you plan to cut poles each time you stop rather than bringing them with you. It is also wasteful of natural resources.
For a temporary shelter, you will want a water-resistant tarp or blanket with leather or sewn grommets. Modern brass or copper grommets are entirely farby, being invented in the mid-nineteenth century. Densely woven wool is recommended. It should be coated on at least one side with fat and ochre or with linseed oil.
It remains controversial about how far back oilskin—linen painted with linseed oil—dates, though it is advantageous. To make oil skin, the linen should be stretched out, perhaps pinned or nailed to a wall or stretched over some sort of frame. Equal amounts of mineral spirits and linseed oil is mixed and is then painted onto the fabric. It takes different lengths of time to dry, but the fabric will dry more quickly if stretched out in a warm sun. Sometimes, a second coat is preferred, but the first coat must first be completely dry. Note that linseed oil can combust if the wet, linseed-oil-soaked fabric is not taut.
The simplest and most desirable shelter is just a lean-to consisting of a tarp. The tarp should be at an angle to protect and augment the water resistance. The water resistance, however, is better when the tarp is just taut. Touching it with your hands or head, or even from some external source, can decrease the water resistance.
Hemp rope should be brought, though rope has many uses. Hemp rope is mainly smooth and will not leave splinters in your hand. It is best to learn a few simple knots:
• Square (Reef) Knot
• Two Half-hitches
• Taut Line
• Clove Hitch
• Figure 8 Knot
• Sheet Bend
Slides—wood or metal rectangles with two holes through which the rope slides. It is advantageous when needing to adjust the tautness of the rope.
Cordage may be wrapped in a figure 8 and then wrapped around the middle and tied. No knots are necessary, and the cord is easily deployed. Leather thong or lacing are also useful and essential.
Stakes can be metal, but they can also carved out of wood or simply from sharpened sticks as well.
The tarp can be suspended from support poles that can be manufactured or are so small that they can be carried with you. The tarp also can be suspended from a rope tied to two trees. There are several ways to do this. Practice setting up your shelter—in several ways—before the expedition even starts.
BACKPACKS & BEDROLLS
Transporting materials should be done in the easiest and most convenient manner you can find. For the most part, this means that you need to make either a backpack or a bedroll which will carry a lot of your gear.
When packing your backpack, make certain that the weight is evenly distributed. It is suggested that you practice packing your gear and lifting the result. Do not be afraid to start over an d prepack it to make it easier to carry.
Set out your fur and blankets. Place the gear you are taking in the middle. Then roll it tightly and secure it with rope or a strap. I will repeat, roll it tightly! The ends can tied with a rope or a strap for carrying over your shoulder (either by the rope or strap or with the roll over your shoulder. It can also be separated into several bundles and secured by a strap for transportation on a simple frame that can be attached to your back so that it resembles a knapsack.
The Gokstad backpack is a basket that may contain the goods and then is strapped to the back. It is unknown how common this was, since all that remains of it are a solid wooden top and bottom (with holes where the upright spines were inserted) . It is unknown, in fact, if the sides were basketwork or solid leather. Interpretations have been both.
Anything secured in this manner is not readily available and should not be considered accessible. Anything that does need to be readily available should probably be placed into a scrip and carried over the shoulder.
FOOD & LIQUID
While it is possible to bring along raw materials on a trek, that can be cumbersome and requires at least a metal pot and some way to suspend it over the fire. It makes a lot more sense to bring along prepared foods and to eat them cold or, if you want warm foods, suspended on a road or stick over a fire.
Suggested Prepared Foods
Keep it simple. An eighteenth-century refers to the bag that contains food as his food wallet.
• Bread, Crackers and/or Flatbread
• Jerkeyed meat
• Fresh Fruit (such as apples, grapes and cherries, but not sweet oranges)
• Dried Fruit and Vegetables
• hard-boiled eggs
• Fresh vegetables including kale, turnips, peas and (not a vegetable) mushrooms
• porridge dried
Collect fruits and berries as you trek, but make certain they are safe and edible. Do not consume anything that you are not certain may be safely eaten!
If you have the time, you might want to hunt or to fish along the way, but keep in mind that the meat must be prepared before consumption. You must have the knowledge for doing this, as well as the time to do it. Keep in mind that if you have to take the dead animal for later preparation, it will add to the weight being transported, and the discarding of unwanted parts of the animal is not advised just on moral grounds.
Many trekking videos and articles are obsessed with telling you how to cook. If you want to cook, that is okay, but I have a tendency to love cold camps! If you are unable to exist without warm food, and want to cook food rather than just heating it, you must bring along the necessary equipment—pots, skillets, spits, trivets, griddles and cooking utensils such as ladles and cooking forks.
Recommended equipment are a wooden bowl, a spoon (wood, horn or metal) and a cup (wood or metal; ceramic cups can be too delicate). Drinking directly from the kestrel without a cup is entirely acceptable. Horns are for feasts and horn cups are probably not period
Every person on the expedition should have a personal kestrel or two, a leather or ceramic canteen. Fill it with enough or other liquid to last the trek. The liquid might be milk (if the weather is not too warm), fruit juice, cider or near beer. If a leather kestrel is wax lined, alcoholic liquid might very well destroy the lining!
Any alcoholic beverage—beer, wine and hard liquor—can be brought in a separate kestrel but should not be used as a primary source for drinking.
If you replenish water—don’t get involved with making juice—you should make certain that the source is potable. Wells or clean streams are good sources, as is rain water which is not strained through branches. Do not drink water that is not moving
WARMTH & ILLUMINATION Part Three
Kindling & Larger Firewood
Choose a barren level place, if possible, to build your fire. You probably do not want to dig a pit, lining the edge of the pit with blocks of the dug sod (which should be replaced) since you will probably not take along a shovel. Instead, line the perimete of the fire ara with rocks if possible. Kindling is smaller wood that can catch fire easily. Larger firewood must not be too large and should often be split into four or more sections with an axe. Depending on how long you have to keep the fire going, you might very well have to add wood to the fire.
The wood should be dry, which can make accumulating the kindling and firewood more difficult, but it is advised that you not bring larger pieces of wood with you on the trek. Find it in the immediate area around your camp if possible.
The Tipi is the most important layout for a fire. They burn steadily for a short amount of time.
Connor FitzGerald says: “Start by placing the tinder bundle into the fire pit. Build a cone over the tinder bundle by leaning small pieces of kindling against each other, making sure to leave gaps for air, and a door to light the tinder. Build a few more layers on the teepee with larger and larger kindling. Light the tinder!”
The lean-to, is most useful when you need cover to start a fire in the wind or rain.
FitzGerald notes, “Take a long piece of kindling and stick in into the ground at a 30-degree angle. Make sure the end in the ground points into the wind, and the end sticking up points in the direction that the wind is blowing. Place the tinder bundle underneath that stick, and build a very small teepee of kindling around it. Take the smallest pieces of kindling you have and start leaning them on either side of the piece stuck in the ground, building a tent shape with one side left open. Add a few layers to the lean-to with increasingly bigger pieces of kindling. Light the tinder inside the teepee to get your fire started.”
The lean-to campfire lay uses the same principles as the teepee to get started, but it also adds the protection of the outer tent. This means that you can use a lean-yo to start a fire in strong winds and even rain – the tent keeps the fire sheltered as it grows, and by the time the structure burns and collapses the fire will be big enough to survive the weather on its own.
For a campfire lay that provides all the warmth and comfort of a log cabin, look no further than the log cabin campfire lay. This is a lay that you can get started quickly and easily, and, depending on how you build it, can keep burning for hours with no extra work.
Fitzgerald writes of the “log cabin variation,” where a roof is made over the square, “Start with a small teepee built around a tinder bundle. Take your two biggest pieces of firewood and place them on either side of the teepee, parallel to each other. Take the next two biggest logs and stack them on top of and perpendicular to the first two. Anyone who has ever played with Lincoln Logs will start to see where this is going. Continue stacking logs on top of your cabin in sets of two, each set in the opposite direction of the one before it. As you start using smaller logs, [you can] start placing them closer together, until you’ve built a closed roof on top of your log cabin. Carefully reach in to the center and light the tinder, and soon you’ll have a slow-burning fire on your hands.”
Making a Fire in the Wet
Build your fire under some sort of shelter—either natural or a portable shelter or blanket of some sort Gather small pieces of wood—the more the better so that you do have to go out into the wet too often to accumulate wood. If the wood is not too wet, you can find flammable inner wood by using your axe to cut away the outside of dead wood and creating flammable shavings.
Make a platform—often just two or three steps that keep the shavings off the wet ground. Select small slicks that will dry quickly and build the firepit using the driest kindling and larger firewood that you can find, drying the wood by stacking the wood around the fire. This process may take a while but will become warmer and sustainable if you use patience.
Make certain that the fire is out before you leave the site. Using water or dirt, extinguish the fire, stir the ashes and pour on more. Only when you are certain the fire is totally out should you move on.