Thursday, June 14, 2012

Camping conveniences

Kristin and I went camping this past weekend.  We pitched a tent, cooked a meal over coals (and then figured out that it takes forever to cook anything over coals, and instead broke out the gas stove), and climbed a mountain, and eventually managed to climb down the mountain.  It got me thinking about some of the conveniences that modern backpackers have that would not have been available in any of that fantasy fiction I write and read.
  1. Lightweight, warm, and waterproof clothing.  Getting one of three was possible.  Maybe two of three.  But all three?  If it existed at all, you couldn't afford it.
  2. Comfortable backpack. As far as I can tell, the Romans used a sturdy forked stick which rested on the shoulder, and suspended their pack from the forked end.  Illustrations from the crusades show a backpack consisting of a shapeless sack with shoulder straps.  Overall, not as comfortable as today's form-fitting aerated backpacks.
  3. Matches. Have you ever tried to start a fire with flint and steel?  It's not as easy as fantasy fiction makes it sound.
  4. A camp stove.  Recent experience suggests that it takes a really long time to cook anything on a wood fire or hot coals.
  5. Well-preserved food. There were ways of preserving food: smoking, salting.  You could make bread (sort-of) that lasted a while.  None of it tasted good.
  6. Insect repellent. I'm still itching from a variety of bug bites.  I can only imagine what it'd be like if I hadn't used bug repellent.
  7. Sunscreen. This might not have been as big a deal.  Most people spent a lot of their time outdoors, and were likely pretty well tanned.  And you can always wear long sleeves and hats if you weren't.  But see above for the lack of lightweight clothing.
  8. Well-marked trail.  There were actually such trails.  They were called roads.  The lack of a Park Service meant that any other trail you found couldn't be trusted to lead where you wanted it to, to be safe and manageable, or to always be well marked and easy to follow.  Most folks stuck to trails they knew well.
And I'm sure I'm missing more.  These are just the things I was glad we had during this trip.

1 comment:

  1. People did usually carry around a tinderbox with their flint and steel: a (hopefully) watertight container holding fluffy combustible material. It probably still wasn't as easy to get a fire going with this as fantasy fiction makes it sound, but if you had a tinderbox, you would have had a fair amount of practice using it. And it's not like you had to scrounge around in the forest for dry bark shavings.

    I suspect that large groups (like a caravan or army) would have brought along pots of smoldering coals buried in ashes, to avoid having to fuss with the flint and steel.

    Also, as far as food goes, they could have had jerky. That's not so bad. Hard to keep it dry without ziploc bags, though.

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