Travel Essentials

This is part of an ongoing theme to document travel and camping gear that has served me over the years.  These will be mirrored on the Traveler’s Gear page as I get them up.

As a traveler, primitive technologist, peaceful survivalist, affected provincial,  long-time Idler, and sometime field scientist I find the necessity for a shoulder bag to carry essentials.  I have two size shoulder bags as well as various backpacks, brief cases, and messenger bags that have served me well over the years walking thousands of miles on survey and in my travels.

DSC_0005I made this bag a few years ago based on an 18th century gentleman’s shooting bag.  If you are interested to see it’s construction, it is documented HERE.  Carried by naturalists, sportsmen, and explorers, this small compartmentalized bag keeps the essentials handy.  Sturdy 10-12 oz vegetable tanned leather from Hermann Oak means that this bag will serve many decades without fear of damage from wear.


This is most of the contents from the above bag; mostly things I don’t like to be without. Clockwise (more-or-less) from the upper left: Brunton pocket compass with signal mirror, Moleskine notebook, pencil, folding knife, whetstone with bag, belt knife, wooden spoon, 550 paracord, insulated mug, hand lens, sunglasses.

Since I was eleven, I have been infatuated with mountain man style wilderness survival.  It was, by far, my favorite merit badge as a Boy Scout.  The merit badge book taught about the old idea of a “possibles” bag carried by early explorers that we now think of as a survival kit.  Although the above is far from a complete survival kit, this little bundle, with the addition of a water bottle, gets me through many long days of travel and field work.  Additional items include: lighter, flashlight, bandanas, and some first-aid essentials.  However, traversing the wilderness, or even through civilization, means more than having the right stuff handy, being dressed properly is probably even more important.  After years of walking in the wilderness I have learned the same lessons that our forefathers did; the importance of being well shod and covered with a proper hat.

Those topics will be covered down the trail.

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Archery in Art; David Teniers the Younger


Peasants at Archery, David Teniers the Younger, 1645.  Wikimedia source.

Painted when the common man still met at the butts for an afternoon of shooting and relaxation.  Then hopefully, off to the pub for a pint.  I love to scan old images for the details.  Some nice redware jugs, probably for beer, a great little bench, and clothing details for the historical-minded.  Most interesting to me are the bows themselves, as the ones depicted here are reflexed recurved flat bows.  Also notable is the conspicuous absence of anything like a quiver.  I expect everyone just showed up with a handful of arrows tucked into the belt.

Here are a few older posts on archery from previous years.

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Phenomenal Archery Skills

Some epic archery shooting here.  Lars takes it to an extremely high level.

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Sibley Tent, an Early Review

DCF 1.0

The Sibley tent.

A tent has been invented by Major H. H. Sibley, of the army, which is known as the “Sibley tent.” It is somewhat similar to the Comanche lodge, but in place of the conical frame-work of poles it has but one upright standard, resting upon an iron tripod in the centre. The tripod can be used to suspend cooking utensils over the fire, and, when folded up, admits the wooden standard between the legs, thereby reducing the length one half, and making it more convenient for packing and traveling.

This tent constituted the entire shelter of the army in Utah during the winter of 1857-8, and, notwithstanding the severity of the climate in the elevated locality of Camp Scott, the troops were quite comfortable, and pleased with the tent.

In permanent camps the Sibley tent may be so pitched as to give more room by erecting a tripod upon the outside with three poles high and stout enough to admit of the tent’s being suspended by ropes attached to the apex. This method dispenses with the necessity of the central upright standard.

When the weather is very cold, the tent may be made warmer by excavating a basement about three feet deep, which also gives a wall to the tent, making it more roomy.

The tent used in the army will shelter comfortably twelve men.

Captain G. Rhodes, of the English army, in his recent work upon tents and tent-life, has given a description of most of the tents used in the different armies in Europe, but, in my judgment, none of them, in point of convenience, comfort, and economy, will compare with the Sibley tent for campaigning in cold weather. One of its most important features, that of admitting of a fire within it and of causing a draught by the disposition of the wings, is not, that I am aware, possessed by any other tent. Moreover, it is exempt from the objections that are urged against some other tents on account of insalubrity from want of top ventilation to carry off the impure air during the night.

Randolph Barnes Marcy, The Prairie Traveler: A Handbook for Overland Expeditions, with Maps, Illustrations, and Itineraries of the Principal Routes between the Mississippi and the Pacific, 1859.

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Wise Words


Roman Carpenter, 1st century C.E.

From my governor … I learned endurance of labour, and to want little, and to work with my own hands, and not to meddle with other people’s affairs, and not to be ready to listen to slander.

Marcus Aurelius: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, A.D 167

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Skew it (or how to increase your spoke shave proficiency)


Possibly my favorite tool. So versatile and a pleasure to use. Push, pull, even one handed over the top like a little plane sometimes. Excellent for small work too.

Originally posted on A Woodworker's Musings:

I’ve noticed that when most folks begin to use a spoke shave, they are inclined to pull the tool towards themselves.  I suspect that it’s very natural to associate the method of using a draw knife with that of using a spoke shave.  In truth, the spoke shave is more closely related to a plane, in that the blade is supported in a body and here’s where the trouble often starts.  The length of a spoke shave’s sole is very short.  Consequently, when the spoke shave is pulled towards the user, especially when being held perpendicular to the workpiece, the shave will tend to follow the existing contour.

The simple way to eliminate this tendency is to skew the shave in relationship to the workpiece.  Two things happen when the shave is skewed.  First, the length of the supporting surface (sole) of the shave is lengthened.  Second, the effective cutting angle of…

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An Assessment of the Llano Estacado, and a Little About the Dangers of Prairie Travel

Originally posted on BLACKWATER LOCALITY #1:

A hilly portion of the northern Llano Estacado.  37,500 square miles (97,000 km 2 ) of short grass cold, semi-arid prairie scrub.

In his report to the Secretary of War, after making a survey of the Southern Plains in 1849, Captain Randolph B. Marcy described the lands of the Llano Estacado in less than enthusiastic light.  “Not a tree, shrub, or any other object, either animate or inanimate, relieved the monotony…” It is “the great Zahara (sic) of North America.”  Furthermore, it is “a land where no man, either savage or civilized, permanently abides,” and it “always has been, and must continue, uninhabited forever.”


It’s a tough ride from Fort Smith to Santa Fe on the southern route.

Marcy was no greenhorn or soft skinned parade soldier.  In his 49 year career, he did much to aide American settlers heading west through his immensely popular book: The Prairie Traveler. A…

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