Traveller Life

Every traveler has a campfire has the center of daily life. The hearth has been our home for 1.5 – 2 million years now. No wonder it fascinates us and brings so much comfort.

Nomads in a stationary culture are often tolerated at best and left only marginal space to congregate. This will probably never change.

These high-end vardos with fancy covers are probably “gentlemen travelers,” the antecedents to modern RVers.

Yes, I know that Traveller has two Ls in our title but since we’re looking at Britain and the Continent that’s how we’re spelling it.

Classic Liquid Fuel Stoves

A look at the origins and evolution of our favorite camp stove…

This post was going to be a few words about the Primus stoves we all love and some images I’ve collected from around the web.  As usual, I found myself rambling all over the topic without a clear direction but here is a bit of an overview of liquid fuel stoves and how they have evolved over the past 150 years.  Clicking the image will link to a larger version in most cases.
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Primus advertisement 1899. Image found on the Classic Camp Stove Forum.

Outdoor cooking has become something of a lost art for those of us raised in the industrial world, but not too long ago, what we think of as camp cooking was just plain cooking.   Several major advances made in the 19th and early 20th centuries resonate in our lives without a second thought from most of us.  Most of our grandparents or great-grandparents cooked with solid fuel (mostly wood, peat, manure, or charcoal) and their grandparents may have felt fortunate to even be able to cook indoors in bad weather. Much of the world still cooks this way and it is an eye-opener for those raised in the more industrialized countries if and when they travel abroad.

In the 19th century, the Caravan Craze, global expansionism, and long-distance campaign warfare sent massive numbers of otherwise “civilized” people back to the outdoors; often with high expectations about the board-of-fare.  Although we, as a species, have cooked over campfires for many thousands of years, this is not always convenient or desirable; whether for speed, lack of fuel, or need for a low profile in the hedgerows.  An early response to this need was the brazier or hibachi-type grill reinvented on numerous occasions in various parts of the world.  These  stoves can use small wood or charcoal but are heavy, smoky, and need large volumes of solid fuel for sustained use.  Not a good option for the traveller (sic).  When coal oil and kerosene became common, liquid fuel appeared to be the answer.

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Tea at the Caravan with the Classic Svea Stove.

Although common now, liquid fuel stoves have not always been a good or safe choice for cooking on the road or in camp.  Early portable stoves used a wick and some variety of coal oil for the fuel.  The flame created with a wick is relatively low-temperature, causing incomplete combustion.

In fact, the early instructions for safe stove use are nearly the same as that of fireworks. 

“LAY ON GROUND. LIGHT FUSE. GET AWAY! – USE OUTDOORS ONLY – UNDER ADULT SUPERVISION.”

Another feature of the earliest wick stoves, due to their relatively low burning temperature, is that they exude fumes and soot, like a low-quality oil lamp. This sooting and smoke make them unpleasant at best, especially in confined spaces.  Though not a terrible option for the 1850s, they are nothing as good as what would come in the next generation.

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Soyer stove.

The advancements of Alexis Soyer – The contraption above is one of the many inventions given to us by Alexis Soyer, celebrity chef and cooking guru of mid-19th century Britain.  Many of his cookbooks are still referenced and can be found for free on the web.  He was, by the way, born a Frenchman but we can forgive him this oversight for his many wonderful contributions to the world of food.

Not only did Mssr. Soyer invent several useful contraptions for cooking, but he is credited with organizing the first Soup Kitchen to help the starving Irish during the Famine.

As a further claim to fame, the large unit stove he developed for the British army during the Crimean War was such and excellent design it was still regular issue 120 years later.  But I digress from our theme.

Soyer_StoveSeen in use above, this little stove was revolutionary for the time but still left much to be desired, especially if one wanted to cook with it indoors.  I don’t believe you’d catch a sane cook using something of this sort on an actual tablecloth unless it was made from asbestos but it seemed like a good idea for the advertisement.  In the 19th century, both camp and home cookery were beginning to change drastically; up to this time the two were not very different.  Along with improvements in stoves, better cooking pots, and roasting pans, other kitchen gadgets were being developed to help make cooking better and easier.  A humble and often overlooked kitchen appliance was invented in this period…

The wind-up cooking timer –

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Soyer’s Alarum.

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This little beauty is something that all modern cooks take for granted.  It seems obvious now, but Soyer realized that mothers, chefs, and camp cooks have many things to attend to at once.  He wisely decided that a dinging countdown timer timer could take some of the strain away from cooking and make for better prepared meals.

The coming of the pressurized stove – The Crimean war, the Raj in India, and other colonial ventures undertaken during Queen Victoria’s reign spurred on great advances in campaign living and long-term camping.  The East India Company and the regular military encouraged officers to bring the comforts of home as whole careers were spent thousands of miles from home creating and running an empire.  From this period, the Brits gave us great folding furniture, camp bedding, portable furnishings, and the Gypsy caravan but it took a Swede to take us to the next level, and camp technology has never looked back.

The pressurized kerosene stove –

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Image 1914.

From the Wikipedia Entry as of October 2014:

The Primus stove, the first pressurized-burner kerosene (paraffin) stove, was developed in 1892 by Frans Wilhelm Lindqvist, a factory mechanic in Stockholm, Sweden. The stove was based on the design of the hand-held blowtorch;

From this...

The origins of the camp stove!

Lindqvist’s patent covered the burner, which was turned upward on the stove instead of outward as on the blowtorch.

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Improvements and variations came quickly after their introduction.

…The Primus No. 1 stove, made of brass, consists of a fuel tank at the base, above which is a “rising tube” and the burner assembly. A steel top ring on which to set a pot is held above the burner by three support legs. Other Primus-style stoves may be larger or smaller, but have the same basic design. The No. 1 stove weighs about 2½ pounds, and measures about 8½ inches high with an overall diameter of just under 7 inches. The tank, about 3½ inches high, holds a little over two pints of kerosene and will burn for about four hours on a full tank.

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We think of this type stove as a camp stove but they were marketed far and wide for household use as well.

…Prior to the introduction of the Primus, kerosene stoves were constructed in the same manner as oil lamps, which use a wick to draw fuel from the tank to the burner and which produce a great deal of soot due to incomplete combustion.

The Primus stove’s design, which uses pressure and heat to vapourize the kerosene before ignition, results in a hotter, more efficient stove that does not soot.  Because it did not use a wick and did not produce soot, the Primus stove was advertised as the first “sootless” and “wickless” stove.

sverige270These stoves are still celebrated worldwide and are in use on every corner of the planet.  They are a labor-saving device that frees their owners from fuel collection and actually lower airborne pollutants in the immediate area.  They are also credited with limiting the natural deforestation that accompanies humans living in concentrated communities.

The ads give a hint as to how far and wide the Primus stove reached around the globe.

This Radius ad is interesting as it shows the kinship or reapplication of technology from blow torch to stove with only a little modification by the engineers.  Below, this advertisement for an aftermarket pressure cap shows the need for improvement as stoves could easily become clogged and explode as a pressurized bomb.  I narrowly escaped this hazard myself when my stove nozzle became clogged on an outing.  A chemical fire-extinguisher is never a bad Idea to have handy living on the road.

The designers continually improved this simple device with, among other features, a safety cap that intentionally failed at a lower pressure than that which would have caused the stove to turn into a brass grenade.  Although safety features were invented to reduce the number of serious accidents, I suspect these little contraptions are responsible for a fair number of burns and the loss of more than a few homes, autos, and RVs.

As with any successful product, there were and are many imitators of this relatively simple design and many still on the market models come from former Soviet Union, China, and India.

Judging by the marketing, they bring nothing but bliss and happiness to the laboring mother… but seriously, these devices were probably a huge boon to the housewife no longer in need of wood or dung for cooking fuel.

The switch to gasoline –

Although introduced in the early 20th Century, the Second World War and subsequent decade saw widespread popularity of the gasoline stove for military use.  Unlike kerosene, gasoline (or purified “white gas”) is truly explosive, not just flammable.  Placed under high pressure, these are potentially bombs.  However, gasoline or derivatives can now be found almost anywhere on earth with the spread of the internal combustion engine, making this a fuel of choice for international travelers.  As per usual with us humans, we chose practicality and convenience over safety.

The iconic early stove of this design is the Svea 123 as it it is a beautiful combination of design features including simplicity of construction, easy field repair, and heating power.

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Classic Svea 123 and a close cousin.

Here’s a link to lighting the Svea 123 (and a little info about why they are so cool):  “DEMYSTIFYING THE SVEA 123

n.b. The original link was dead when I last checked but I have saved an archive copy here with credit to the author.

Variations on the theme are endless, from the Svea 123 (gasoline) to the Ultra-Primus double burner home range (kerosene).  The various designs proved themselves in kitchens, on river trips, mountain tops, and in virtually every modern backpacker’s gear in one form or another.  For much of the world, this style stove is still the centerpiece of kitchen cooking.

A different spin on the basic Svea design. The main feature of the 71 is it's convenient packaging.

A different spin on the basic Svea design. The main feature of the 71 is it’s convenient packaging for the traveller.

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Summitting  Everest, a pretty great endorsement.

As a side note to history, the design was so successful that many other companies copied the essential design.  Here are just a few ads for the Optimus line of stoves and lamps, another spin-off, from their own website showing a wide range of related products over the last century.

The modern era of the camp stove –

In my lifetime, liquid fuel backpacking stoves have undergone some serious refinements but overall, the system for liquid fuel stoves is essentially the same.  Safety has been a big issue, of course, but size (decrease) and fuel capacity (increase) are probably the biggest changes.  Many stoves use canister fuel (butane or propane), alcohol, or solid fuel pellets; but I won’t get into those as they are beyond our scope and interest here.

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A new era; the MSR XGK multi-fuel stove.

The final round of changes came from Mountain Safety Research and its later competitors.  The big innovation was to separate the fuel tank from the burner assembly and add a pressurizing system to the tank.  Small but efficient details were added like the self-lighting sparker, self-cleaning tube, and the inclusion of a lightweight wind screen.  I have used one of these for used with pretty good success but I still find myself choosing the Svea 123 for many journeys.

Links and Further Information –

This post is woefully inadequate in so many ways but it is meant as a quick overview of the pressurized liquid fuel stove we all love so much.  Here are some links to some great information on the web.

And my all time favorite, the Svea 123. We have been friends for many years.

The Base Camp is a specialist equipment internet retailer based in Littlehampton, Southern England since 1986.  They stock classic stoves and have an excellent selection of obsolete parts.

A H Packstoves Supplies and Parts – is an online seller with a wide variety.  He always has good stuff and some hard to find parts.

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The Fettle Box is a good source for pieces and parts for your classic stove. I have had good luck with them.

Finally, the Classic Camp Stoves Forum.  Several images above were found here.  Information about virtually every kind of stove available.  History, art, repairs, tutorials, and reprints are all available on the Forum.

Click here for the mother load of information about Classic Stoves.

More stove ramblings to come…

Boy Scout Gear from 1925

This is a pretty good setup for any outdoorsman (our outdoors woman for that matter). By 1925, the scouts had worked out a pretty good uniform and gear setup based on many old experts not the least of which was the US Army.

If there’s a bit of a paramilitary look to the scouts it certainly owes much to its military background in Britain and further as a result of the Great War. Still, there’s a lot of good info to take away from this. These are truly the essentials.


The new internet Bushcraft world has very little on the old-timers knowledge.

Car Camping – bathing in camp

For most of human history we have moved across the surface of the Earth as more-or-less self-contained units. Rarely alone and generally with all the stuff we owned.

Obviously, this was before the age of Consumption as a way of life.

I love to see the details; the wash basin, table and chair, the little mirror…

Car camping in the 1920s.

It’s really no surprise then that we took to car camping as a natural progression in travel, especially in the West where movement was a theme and great open spaces we’re available. With an auto, long distances can be easily covered, there is plenty of space for essential gear, and we bring the solidness and security that the auto provides with us anywhere we need to go.
As for this photo, the beauty is in the details. I really enjoy the domestic scene here as the daily routine continues no matter where we are. The non-travellers I know seemed to lump life while camping or traveling as something very different than life at home. Maybe it’s different for me having been fairly transient for much of my early life and working on the road for many years. Living is done wherever you are.

Traveler’s Wallet

Once again, I am producing some large, traveler’s wallets.  While some are waiting their finishing touches, here’s the first of six.  They are all of the same general size and design but each has some variation in shape and closure type.

A simple wrap closure. This can accommodate a bulging wallet.

I think my dying is improving.  Having read more on the subject, I’ve been able to create a nice overall finish.  The dye is applied in many diluted layers and hand rubbed to force it into the leather.

The right size for many applications.

The leather is from a 6 – 7 ounce vegetable tanned cowhide that was a real beauty.   The side was just shy of 30 square feet.  To start working the nine foot long hide, I had to move my operation into the kitchen and onto the floor for initial cuts.  Maybe someday I’ll have a shop table big enough to accommodate something this size again.

The interior divider provides four pockets. Big enough to hold a load of cash, passport, and the separated slots are sized for standard identification or credit cards.

This wallet is perfect for keeping everything in one place for log term travel or to be used as a small clutch purse.

Edges are burnished to give a finished look and the body has been waxed with all-natural dubbin.

The thread is heavyweight bookbinder’s linen in dark gray (nearly black) so is absolutely period correct for the reenactors out there.

If you are interested in this or some of our other work, check out our Etsy shop, look at the previous sales, and read the reviews.

Have a great day!

https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts

Leather Knapsack Prototype

Why do this?

In my life-long quest for better designs and finer gear, I am constantly on some sort of hare-brained mission to make something new.  Some readers may remember the earlier backpack I made and eventually traded off to a new owner.   My friend Jacob, even made a fine copy for himself and it now lives happily in Botswana, hopefully seeing many great adventures.

Snapshot of the pack, ready for waxing.

Leather and Brass? (or, what the hell were you thinking?)

One thing that can be said about real leather is that it will, barring some mishap, last a lifetime but eventually fade back into to earth, leaving little trace.  Leather is strong, wears well, is abrasion and heat-resistant, feels good to the touch, and cannot be beat for beauty.  While I considered antler for buckles, I decided to go with a slightly more modern closures and fasteners made from solid brass.  As I use antler in most of my creations, I chose to make a few well-shaped toggles as practical accents.

The downside? These materials are heavier than modern, lightweight materials but, for me, the trade-off is completely worth it.

It begins with the little things. There are many repetitive steps in large projects such as this.

This backpack started off as some daydreaming and sketches on graph paper sometime last November but other projects and commitments made me set it aside again and again.  This was good though; it allowed me to rethink the plans and make modifications as they occurred to me in the quiet hours of the night.

The harness system took some time, thought, and modelling before work could commence.

What were the design parameters?

Design is always the toughest part when creating something new.  I’ve been looking at handcrafted bags and packs for years so I’m sure there are a thousand images bouncing around inside my skull influencing the composition of this piece.  Honestly, choosing a size was the most puzzling part of all for me.  I’m a biggish guy and have a tendency to go big when I make gear so I was determined to keep this one reigned in.

Once the more difficult decisions were made, cutting and sewing could begin.

I already had a “look”  in mind and already decided on the construction technique.  Should it be a six panel body for easier layout or single panel around the body for a more seamless build?  Should it be sewn, laced, or riveted and what pockets does it need?  Will it be “turned” (seams hidden inside) or will the closings be visible?  Finally, where to begin construction?  We can’t close the body until the external sewing is done so pockets and straps were a good place to start.

Not long after getting most of the parts gathered and cut, I found myself wounded, with only one arm for practical use.  This slowed down sewing to a crawl.  What should take fifteen minutes took over two hours so this bag became an exercise in patience.

Still, I managed to make headway and the pack came together over several weeks.

A “turned” pocket freshly attached to the body.

Maybe not my prettiest stitching ever, but as it will be mine, and not for sale, I will still cherish every flaw.

Large pocket accessible with the main flap closed.

As a prototype, there were changes that must be made on the fly but overall I was happy with the design.

The shoulder straps were made to be replaceable without too much hassle and are long enough to accommodate a heavy coat in winter.

A carry handle was a heavy debate in my mind but makes a lot of sense for modern travel.

Each side has a slip pocket, tie down D rings and a compression strap at the top of the pack.

Bottoms up! I was able to place a scar in the hide on the bottom of the bag. The two rectangular patches are for blanket straps.

Details – brass rivets, antler toggles, and beautiful leather called for a heavy pillow ticking to serve as the liner.

Waiting to be packed for an adventure. I hope to get it waxed and outside later this week. Hopefully, I’ll get some photos of the new pack in use.

  Specifications:

  • Materials – 8 ounce veg tanned leather body, 4 – 5 ounce leather pockets, brass and antler
  • Height – 16 inches
  • Width – 12 inches
  • Depth – 6 inches
  • Weight – 5 pounds

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  Selfies of your hand-made gear?

Work from the Leather Shop

  • Long, cold nights in the Midwest. 
  • Limited mobility due to injury. 
  • A need to create new things
  • A desire to fund my trips later this year…

This is a recipe for high productivity in the workshop.

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Hot off the workbench.

Fortunately, I have a fairly large stockpile of leather and supplies to see me through my projects as I find inspiration in different projects.  I am leaning toward things that have been popular in the past years but if anyone has ideas or suggestions, I will gladly consider them.

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Sam Browne button in solid brass.

This is my travel wallet design.  It’s a simple clutch-style document case to keep things safely stowed when you want more than a card wallet.

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Simple, rugged design.

No frills but elegant in its own way, this one was left natural color and rubbed with dubbin (a mix of neatsfoot oil and beeswax).  Full-grain veg-tanned leather like this ages beautifully and takes on a golden brown patina.  This wallet should outlive its owner.

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Hand stitching.

As always, the stitching is double-needle saddle-stitch for strength and hard-wearing.  If you are interested in this or similar goods, please check out our new Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts or just click the banner below.  We hope to have the site fully running and stocked with new goodies in the coming weeks.

lostworldcrafts

 

Campsite Life

Scenes of life on the road and around the campsites.

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October 1951: Mrs Robert Matthew, an MP’s wife, campaigning at a gypsy encampment.

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Kids at the campsite.

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A classic image of Traveller children.

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Modern gypsies (Romany) in their simple accommodation.

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I really love these little bender tents.

Family Life

A fine caravan for a successful traveller.

This is part of a series of images, mostly Romany, Irish, and Scottish Travellers collected from around the internet.  Many of these historic images found on the web are without citation.  When a clear link to a source is found, I try to include it.  If a source is known, please pass it on and I will gladly include it or remove it if necessary.

Caravans

Here’s another excellent photo of a pack of vardos (caravans) in the wild.  It looks like everyone came out and maybe even spruced themselves up for the photo.  I couldn’t find any metadata on this one but it looks fairly early, probably late nineteenth century.  These appear to be high-end models in great condition still.

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Happy travels!

Community of Wanderers

Nomads are not loners.  In fact, humans do not do well alone in any setting.  We have always been communal people, depending upon one another for help and support.  Many hands make light work and it is essential to be near others you can depend on.

1930sI have been collecting images of Traveller communities for many years and I really enjoy the gritty, homespun feel of the old encampments with peeling paint and makeshift tarpaulin shelters.  I’m sure this image was not welcome in settled communities around Europe and the shiftless nature of these wanderers led to many suspicions, both unfounded and real.

4203n Woonwagenkamp, een draaiorgel komt langsThese are not the rolling home of the wealthy showmen of idle rich but the best compromise for families destined to live on the road.

FamilyVardoThe vardos bear many differences but within fairly tight physical contraints of size, weight, needs, and technology.  It’s important to remember as well that historic travellers of most varieties didn’t design or build their own accommodations but often modified or improved that which they acquired.

Dutch1940Even though they show few relevant details of the caravans themselves these are some of my favorite images; they give us a glimpse of the people who called them home.

Although Traveller families lived (and live) on the margins of “normal” society they were (are) more like their neighbors than not.

I hope you enjoy the photos as we head into the season of Thanksgiving here in North America and give thanks for what we have.

We are at our best and worst in groups, whether that is family or friends.  Humans are social animals.

Close Call at 65 mph

I decided this was worth a re-post. An incident that could have gone far worse in many ways.

Preindustrial Craftsmanship

I had to wait a while to publish this one but maybe I just need to get it out…

I like to think I’m a safe person.  At least to the point of looking out for others if not always myself.  I don’t drive aggressively, I maintain my vehicles, and don’t take big chances on the road.  That said, I probably stress my truck and the vardo more than most people would.  The truck has spent sixteen years as an archaeologist’s field vehicle and has gone into places I would have never thought I would take it.  I have crept into BLM campsites with the vardo that required it to be tipped up to 45 degrees and I was certain it was going to go over.  I’ve intentionally jack-knifed the whole thing just to push it into place between boulders.

These things are just the nature of travel in the…

View original post 861 more words

More Wallets

Maybe this is a little mundane but I’ve been using the cold and snowy weather as an excuse to do some cutting and sewing of leather.  I completed a passport wallet and finished up another minimalist wallet design.  I got the pattern for the larger travel wallet from Tony, the owner/designer at DieselpunkRo.  He sells finished goods, patterns, and gives a lot of good advice for makers working from his patterns on his Facebook group page.

My three newest creations.

If you follow his Facebook group, he will occasionally share free, downloadable patterns.  I have two patterns from him so far and they are both great.

 

The large wallet is a handy, four pocket affair that snugly holds a standard passport, cards, and cash.

 

This is another good starter project that easily yields a great product.

We were acting like shut-ins today because of a surprise snow storm so I’ve been able to jump to another leather-related project.  I’ll share some photos soon.

A View from the Vardo

Working away on a weekend day a little while back.  Enjoying time on the prairie in my little rolling home; coffee, a banjo, and connection to a HotSpot so I can get some work done.  The best of all worlds.

A reminder to myself as to how the vardo is in constant change. Little updates happen all the time and I often forget them until looking back on a photo like this one.

I don’t remember for sure but I suspect there is a dog or two laying on the floor or, more likely, under the wagon keeping an eye out for wildlife.  I’m itching to get back out on the road.

Early Car Camping

I love finding old images like this.  They show that we never really change yet are on a continuum of adaptation.  The bows that support the canvas top on this (I believe aftermarket) truck bed are reminiscent of much earlier wagons of the Old West.

Camping in Yellowstone 1924 – Mattress on the fender, pots, pans and a tool kit on the side board, these spiffy fellas were ready for an adventure. Image – https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/

Space was extremely limited in the cab of these old vehicles so if there were three on-board, I suspect someone, probably the boy, rode in back with the luggage.

Gymnacyclidium

That’s quite a velocipede indeed!

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Gymnacyclidium – This sounds like something for which you could be administered a shot to clear it up.  I thought these monstrosities worth looking at for the danger factor if nothing else.  Let’s hope the young lady is wearing adequate undergarments as it seems certain she will be taking a spill or two in the very near future.  I do like the curly cue fender thingy on the front though.

A bit of history about the bicycle: Invented more-or-less as we know it around 1817 with various propulsion systems added from about 1839 through the 1860s when bikes became more like what we know today.  A major step forward occurred in 1888 when Dunlop developed the pneumatic tire, making cycling more comfortable and practical.

The Rover Safety Bicycle 1886.

Wooden Packframe – The Final Draft

Expanding on Lessons Learned

In 2012 I decided to build a wooden packframe.  What started out as a Sunday afternoon project led me down many paths, from Iron-Age Europe to 21st Century military designs and it took about a year of stewing around before I actually got around to building something. It was fortuitous for me that Markus at 74 FOOTWEAR DESIGN CONSULTING wrote and excellent little history of frame packs at almost exactly the same time I began researching them myself.  Shortly thereafter, I discovered Steve Watts and Dave Wescott were delving into the same subject (great minds think alike I guess).  After collecting many photos and drawings I dove in, and using human measurements as much as possible, I built the frame below.

A few hickory boards and some simple steam bending created a design I liked.

I decided against metal fasteners for the original project so everything was pegged and tied with rawhide.

It didn’t take long to build and tying it all up with rawhide was a simple evening job. The next step was to create some sort of support to keep the frame from my back and attach shoulder straps.  This wasn’t as easy as it sounded since comfort and strength had to be combined while keeping possible chafing to an absolute minimum.

The two horizontal rods keep the uprights from converging under tension and the three cross-strakes are stabilized by being set in grooves on the uprights. The steam bent support and top bar add to the overall sturdiness of the frame.

I decided that simple was best so I used heavy leather, stretched tight, across the back kept the straps fairly straight-forward.

Several people asked about the need for a curved top bar; well why not? I like curves and I think it reminiscent of the Otzi-style simple frame.

 

An Otzi reconstruction. Click the image to see the article there.

Was it good enough?

The answer is probably.  It was mostly used to pack gear in for demonstrations and spent most of its time as a show-piece.  Honestly, over the years I owned it, it only went on one real backpacking trip, and that was even a fairly short one.  However, I learned some things along the way.  I like the shape, it was fairly comfortable, it was certainly sturdy enough,and it carried a heavy load without much difficulty or discomfort.  So the design was more-or-less right for me.

On problem was that I didn’t like the tensioning of the leather back straps as it was difficult to draw them tight enough.  That’s how packframe number 2 came to be.  I began by deciding to improve the back padding system but with a few other minor changes in mind, this happened.

A bunch of new parts generated themselves on my workbench one lazy afternoon.

Parts –

Recycled fir for the uprights came from a 125 year old door frame, some planks for the cross-bars came from the scrap pile, and a couple pieces were pulled from the first packframe.  Before I knew it, I was bending a thicker and better arch for the top piece and construction began.  Since I wasn’t working from a plan and there is no real standard for this type frame I pondered the whole thing for a couple days to decide how to fasten the parts (pegs, lashings, screws, or glue) and began assembly a few nights later.  I have gathered quite a few old screws of various sizes over the last couple years in my housing restoration so I decided to use those for the basic construction.

After too long a mental debate, construction went pretty quickly.

Construction technique –

As can be seen in the images, the cross-bars are let into the uprights in a simple lap joint for strength and racking stability and fastened with reclaimed brass screws.  The platform support is lapped and pegged with wooden dowels.

Side view showing lap joints and side supports.

I added a small oak angle brace to further support the platform support which is also lapped and pegged.  The small missing piece visible here is operator error.  When I was cutting the laps I was in such a groove that I cut the low one on the wrong plane.  I’ll probably fill the gap with a small wood piece, but for now, I live with the hideous disfigurement.  Also visible here are the walnut caps I pegged to the bottom of the uprights.  Old Douglas fir is a fine wood but can be very brittle and the end grain would probably not fare very well under hard use on rocky terrain.

The frame in all its glory, waiting to be packed and carried off into the sunset.

Straps and Suspension –

I chose 12 oz Hermann Oak leather for the lower pad stretched tight and permanently fastened to the frame with brass screws and finishing washers.  The essential suspension depends solely on the cordage being strung tight while the leather pad distributes to stress across a smooth and wide surface. I think it will be quite comfortable.

Shoulder strap connection, a whittled oak dowel that is easily removed.

I would like to make a removable rucksack for this frame and would like to be able to utilize the straps either so making them easily removable was a must.

Waist support, 12 oz harness leather. 6-7 oz leather was used for the back pad.

As for hip belts; I’m still undecided at this time but I suspect that sometime soon I will be constructing one.

A better view of the top arc and the overall harness.

I’ll continue to update the progress here and try to remember to take more photos along the way.  It really hinders work to have to think about documenting yourself along the way but I know people appreciate seeing the steps.

Walk in peace…

GTC

Hiking, Backpacking, or Just Enjoy the Walk

“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”   John Muir
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I’ve spent a lot of my adult life walking long distances, without a trail to follow, through wild and untouched places, mostly as part of my job. This can be a thousand miles or substantially more some years and it was usually the most enjoyable part of my work.
Walking gives you a lot of time to think or meditate and is really a lost art to modern folks.  I have worked with college students who don’t know how far or fast a human can walk in a day or even in an hour.

Hiker with walking cane, hat and backpack – Photographer: Eduard Schlochauer – via Getty Images)

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I find that I walk a little slower than most of my colleagues and friends.  I am a natural saunterer and like to look around which is maybe why, as an archaeologist, I find a lot of artifacts and cultural features when I walk.  I want to take in the landscape, the plants, animals, the geology, and the smells of a place. I like to walk in silence.  It is rarely a race for me and I don’t like to focus on the destination as much as the walk.  Many people I know walk with a pack by putting their head down and looking at the ground while trying to walk as fast as their bodies will take them along.  This is no fun to me.  Walking is about the most enjoyable thing I can do.  That’s why I’m so fond of writers like John Muir and Henry David Thoreau.  They loved to walk and see its value on so many levels.
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So, I’d like to suggest leaving the insanity behind for a while, pack a small rucksack, grab your best guy or gal friend, and take a walk in the wild.  Your mind will thank you for the break.
Who knows what great memories you’ll make along the way?
When I’m asked if I want to go hiking or backpacking I usually say ‘no but I’ll walk with you while you hike.’
I’m strange that way, I know.
GTC

A Fine Old Sheepherder Wagon

I love these the old sheepherder camps.  I’ve seen quite a few parked on ranches from Colorado to Idaho and even a few in Arizona.  I know they aren’t highway capable but it seems they could provide a real housing alternative for low-income minimalists who have access to land.  Far better than a housing complex or apartment for sure if you can deal with a small footprint.

Originally designed on a narrow wagon box, the builders took advantage of every square inch of space.  Since weight wasn’t really an issue, many have large stoves like the one above for heating and cooking.  As most of these wagons were homes for ranch workers in the western U.S., they needed to be prepared for extreme cold and windy environments.  When I was building my vardo, I took a fair amount of design inspiration from these wagons, adding their vibe to the more European designs I was ingesting.  My stove is small and I envy this one above; at least the cook top.

Off-the-shelf or build it yourself?  It’s the details of hand-built structures that make them stand out and this chimney cap is no exception.  This looks far more interesting to me than the local hardware store option.

The photos are from Ken Griswold’s Tiny House Blog.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ve been a fan of his site for a long time now and recommend it for anyone with an interest in Tiny Homes.  Here’s a link to the full article about Lorna’s wagon.

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Scout Staff Hiking Stick

Sometimes I wish carrying a walking stick was more acceptable in daily life. Maybe it’s just my yeoman heritage or my fondness for the old ways…

A review of Scouts, Calgary 1915.

To do so now, you tend to either look like a hoodlum or the walking wounded.  Living for so long in wild country I found that a staff was a handy tool that lends some confidence when encountering a wild hog, a rutting elk, or dog.  In my professional work as a field scientist it isn’t common to carry one either due mostly to the logistics of carrying a map, notebook, compass, GPG unit, pin flags and the like.  The reality is, you only have two hands.

The author with his antler-fork walking stick and his dog begging for a walk.

However, in the perfect world of semi-fantasy that I inhabit, I tend to keep a walking stick nearby and have several on-hand at any given time.  I’ve wavered over the years as to whether or not the extra burden is worthwhile and the truth I have settled upon is “yes, mostly.”  Other than the confidence it gives in an unwanted encounter, a staff really helps a walker crossing a stream or other rough terrains when heavily loaded.

As the great traveler Colin Fletcher wrote many years ago,it converts me when I am heavily laden from an insecure biped into a confident tripedThe Complete Walker.

The staff instills confidence and provides stability for the walker.

Here are a few other ideas for a walking stick and its many uses found around the Web. I’ll post a few more pictures of my own in upcoming posts.

In the mean time, if you are contemplating becoming a walker yourself, or already are, you may enjoy Henry David Thoreau’s short essay on the subject.  It’s a favorite of mine from a surveyor and philosopher who spent much time walking in the woods.

Walking, 1862

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Three Men in a Boat (a book of subtle humor and deep philosophy)

“Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need—a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.”

~ Jerome K. Jerome. “Three Men in a Boat.”

I highly recommend this little book as an English classic about three young and idle gentlemen in need of a holiday; filled with good humor, philosophy, and observations about life.

Yet Another Sheepherder…

(from the Paleotool vault)

I love these things.  I saw quite a few parked on ranches from Colorado to Idaho last week.  I know they aren’t highway capable but it seems they could provide a real housing alternative for low-income minimalists.  Way better than a housing complex or apartment for sure.  The photos link to Ken Griswold’s Tiny House Blog.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a fan of his site.

I took a fair amount of design inspiration from these wagons but added a bit of class along the way.  I wouldn’t mind having a cook stove like this one though.

Off-the-shelf or build it yourself?  I love these details in hand-built structures.  This looks way better to me than the local hardware store option.

Have a look at Lorna’s old wagon here.

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More of The Beautiful Japanese Vardo

This is a follow-up to the previous post.

I say Vardo because that’s really what it is.  You can sense that the presenter of this show isn’t too familiar with true rolling homes, caravans, vardos, or whatever you want to label them but his enthusiasm is real.  I like this home a lot but there is too much gymnastic restructuring for my taste.  I’m probably just lazy.  I’m not knocking his aesthetic or design though; they are spot-on.  Mr. Tagami fit a lot of useful ideas together to create a wonderful living space.  Several of these innovations are being integrated into my future plans.

If you haven’t seen this yet, here’s a video detailing one of his creations and the happy owners who inhabit it.

Let me know what you think…

Enjoy the Ride; Happy Birthday Edward Abbey

Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Ride

This is a re-post from last year.  However, I think the message is a strong one and worth think about again.

Life is short.  If you’re fortunate enough to live with the means and privilege and food security, consider yourself lucky.  When I feel low or unhappy, I always want to remember the people subjected to abject poverty worldwide through no fault of their own.  It seems that the privileged, the comfortable, and those with the least to complain about are the most vocal and judgmental and superior acting.  A few words by Edward Abbey from a speech to environmentalists published in High Country News, (24 September 1976), under the title “Joy, Shipmates, Joy!”

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Columbia River 2015, G.T. Crawford.

One final paragraph of advice: […] It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space.

Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.

Edward Abbey

The Tobasco Donkeys, a little known musical group working at the Philmont Scout Ranch recorded a song using Abbey’s words in one of the verses.  It fits well and brings a smile to my face.

Man Powered Vardo

A desperate man with some ambition and the gumption to not be beaten can make himself a man-powered vardo (I’m thinking of you, Jim).  An alternative to homelessness with a minimum of skills and materials.

WeatherheadCaravan

In 1935 David Weatherhead, an unemployed shipyard worker from Sunderland, toured the county (England) looking for work in this one man caravan which he designed and made himself. From the Telegraph (UK).

Picture: Fred Morley/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Hamlet, A Tale of the Road Less Traveled

A mid-40s couple restores a tiny canned-ham trailer, leaves their mundane careers, and takes off on a journey across the continent.  Sounds pretty good to me.

When it comes to making enough money to get by, the two have a unique system.

“In our ideal setting,” Hutchison explains, “is four months of working somewhere, [or] four months of volunteering somewhere, and then four months of traveling.”

The little trailer has a Facebook link.  See more images and the restoration by clicking the photo above.

The little trailer has it’s own Facebook link. See more images and the restoration by clicking on the photo above.

FROM THE VERMONT PUBLIC RADIO ARTICLE:

“Many people spend most of their day in an office, and I was really, really tired of that and being tied to e-mail and my calendar.” Galiardi explains.

“We both had challenging careers,” she says. “The challenges were becoming, ‘How much more can I fit in?’ Rather than [fitting in] what I really want to be doing.”

Now the couple uses the trailer as a home base, spending much of their time outdoors: kayaking, biking and hiking.

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Dinette area.

On fitting the few things they own into a tiny space:

“It’s a lot like a sailboat. In that, everything has to have its place,” says Hutchison. “When you go look for that thing, it’s there. And then it goes back there when it’s done.”

ontheroad

If you are interested in learning more they have been keeping a blog of their adventures over the past few years.  You can read more by clicking here: Tales from a Mid-Lifeventure.

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Home sweet home.

Another Look

Here’s another look at an image I posted quite a while ago.  I really like this photo.  These Scottish Travellers give a glimpse of some less-than-stereotypical living waggons (sic).  Very few wanderers could afford the classic Dunton Reading wagon but made do with more affordable accommodations; possibly even owner-built.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Click image for link.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Click HERE for the source.

All three of the caravans pictured have mollycrofts for light and air but are of a pretty simple variety.  I am struck by the one on the right mostly by how plain it is (plank siding without exposed ribs) and it’s very small proportions.  I suspect there were many more of this variety than the elite, custom-built wagons on the roads in Britain in the heyday.

Grow in the Open Air

growintheopenairsm

“Here is the test of wisdom,
Wisdom is not finally tested in schools,
Wisdom cannot be pass’d from one having it to another not having it,
Wisdom is of the soul, is not susceptible of proof, is its own proof,
Applies to all stages and objects and qualities and is content,
Is the certainty of the reality and immortality of things, and the excellence of things;
Something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul.

Now I re-examine philosophies and religions,
They may prove well in lecture-rooms, yet not prove at all under the spacious clouds and along the landscape and flowing currents.”

Get out, travel, earn your wisdom, ignore lecture-room philosophy and religion…

Live life. It’s later than you think.