Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hiking Gear Checklist - Retro Edition

I admit it, I love me a good gear list. Even a retro one. The one below is taken from The Boy Mechanic, a book I couldn't resist renting from the library. The Boy Mechanic chronicles old Popular Mechanics articles, mainly to remind unsuspecting readers just how pathetic we are nowadays (What? You can't make your own steamer trunk for travel? What's wrong with you?).

Camping in the early 1900's was in many respects quite a different affair than it is today. For one thing, setting up camp meant cutting down a good bit of lumber to create your tent and other structures. And hunting and fishing was all but assumed. Most of the gear looks painfully heavy to schlep, but still, it's fun to browse through and definitely has inspiration value.

Below is what we'd probably term a Personal Survival Kit or PSK. Here's the explanation:

The woodsman well knows that it is an easy matter to stray farther from camp then he intended to when starting out, and that it is a common enough occurrence to lose one's bearings and become temporarily lost. To prepare for this possible emergency and spend a comfortable night away from camp, he carries in his pockets a little packet of useful articles and stows away a tiny package containing a small amount of nutritious food.

And here it is, the recommended gear list:

  • Soup tablets
  • A piece of summer sausage
  • Some tea

Naturally, this is wrapped up in an "oiled silk" and packed in a flat tin box. (Even then, Altoids Tins were essential equipment.)

Gear Pouch contains:

  • Fishing line
  • Finishing hooks
  • 1 ft. of surgeon's adhesive plaster
  • Need and thread
  • Safety pins
  • Coil of copper or brass wire

Pockets and Belt contains:

  • Rife & cartridges
  • Knife
  • Match safe
  • Compass
  • Map
  • Pipe
  • Tobacco
  • A little money
  • Lightweight axe or Tomahawk
  • Tin cup

In some respects, that's not too terribly far off from what I carry on a somewhat serious hike. Though, my absolutely minimum kit these days consists of:

Of course, that's assuming I'm hiking in a place where there's a good bit of traffic and civilization isn't far off.

It sure would feed the ego carrying a Tomahawk on my hip, though I can't imagine it would be of any use. Well, other than hurting myself with it of course.

Update: Earlier today I was reading about a recommended way to create a quick shelter. Just find an Evergreen tree, and chop it most of the way down, about 5 feet from the ground. The result will be a big o'l tree laying on its side that you can pull branches from to create a shelter. A clever idea and a good use for a hatchet, but oh my gosh, think of the amount of damage one hiker is causing. Yikes.


  1. I just started working for Buystand (a company that carries hiking gear, among other things), so all my co-workers are avid hikers. I'm more of a swimmer myself, so the hiking gear is new to me... but I'm pretty sure soup tablets aren't the typical hiking grub nowadays.

    Altoid tins, though? Yes.

  2. Sarah -

    I'm about 99% sure you commented on my post as an attempt to get a link to

    But you know, what you wrote was so..."human" that I've got to give you credit for the comments. Thanks!