Woodcraft and camping – UL in the 19th century

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading “Woodcraft and camping” by George Washington Sears. The book was first published in 1920, and is an instructional book on outdoor life, with described trips from 19th century North America.

The book can be downloaded for free as an ebook at Gutenberg.

In many aspects it feels like it could have been written today. The author describes the need to get out in the wild to de-stress, how fewer people have to do more in shorter time, and describes burn-outs as a result of an ever increasing work load. This as early as in the beginning of 20th century.

The book describes how one can enjoy themselves a lot more with a lighter pack and lighter shoes, and that the outdoor magazines try to sell you a lot of stuff that you don’t need, and that might only make the trip into the wild a misery because of the weight.

He describes in the book that his own base weight never exceeds 26lb (~12kg), and that includes a canoe. He did however have a custom made canoe.

It’s an interesting book, but it’s far from “leave not trace”. The weight is kept down from making shelters by cutting down trees, long fires, fishing and hunting. All aspects of it might not be applicable today, but it is an interesting read, and much of the lightweight principles can be applied. In some aspects it reminds me of today, with the author buying expensive “cottage gear” to get the best custom made lightweight gear, to the amusement of his friend.

A big part of the book is about fly fishing, but since I’m not that interested in fishing, I only glanced through those pages.

A thing that’s a bit sad is how he describes how much land and wilderness that has been destroyed in the name of development, in his lifetime already. He writes a detailed trip report and ends it with how the forest he described is now gone.

It’s an interesting book, and I recommend it. If not for actual instructions, but for trip reports and history of hiking.

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4 thoughts on “Woodcraft and camping – UL in the 19th century

    1. It’s interesting from a historical perspective. In some terms it feels like it could be written today, which makes it almost mind blowing when the author refers to trips in the 80th, and it’s the 1880th he means.

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