Buckskinner Notes

We can all take lessons from what was carried in an 1800’s Mountain Mans pack. If they could survive with minimal equipment. There should be no reason why we couldnt do the same, in similar circumstances. The following is from the Buckskinners Notebook. The last time I checked the link and site were no longer available.


When going on treks, be they day long scouts, two day trips, week long or longer treks, there are some items that are essential to ones survival, if not then to ones comfort. These supplies are carried in a Haversack or Knapsack, or are sometimes rolled up in a blanket which is slung over the shoulder by a leather strap.


This is generally a bag with flap made of either light canvas or natural linen with a shoulder strap made of the same material. The flap cover is secured with one to three buttons, (pewter, brass, horn, or antler). These bags will vary in size but the average haversack will measure approximately 15″ X 15″. The Haversack strap is slung over the shoulder and across the chest and the bag hangs at the side about hip high.


The knapsack is constructed similar to the Haversack with the exception of it having two adjustable straps (generally made of leather) and is worn high on the back like a modern day-pack. There is a tie strap which when secured to the leather straps across the chest prevents the shoulder straps from slipping off the shoulders. From the bottom of the shoulder straps a blanket roll can be attached to hang below the Knapsack.

NOTE: Use of either the Haversack or Knapsack is historically correct. My personal use of them depends on the duration of the trek. For short treks where less gear is required the Haversack does well and may be used to carry little more then some food for the day. For long treks I prefer to use the Knapsack which carries more items much more comfortably.


In the following list are items that I carry on long treks. These items can be varied depending on the duration of the trek and when they are all carried are for living very high on the hog.

1. A small forged iron Fry Pan with a folding socketed handle. (The socketed handle allows the addition of a longer green branch to be added to extend the handle).

2. A Copper Corn Boiler with lid. (A tin boiler can also be used in place of the Copper Corn Boiler).

3. A Wooden Spoon.

4. A Sewing Kit containing the following:

(A). A wooden or antler needle case with sewing needles.�
(B). A small pair of iron scissors.�
(C). A bone bobbin of linen thread.�
(D). A leather awl.�
(E). A hunk of bees wax�
(F). A small bundle of leather scraps and thongs and a small roll of linen material.

5. A cloth bag Toilet Kit containing the following:

(A). A bar of Castel Soap carried in a greased leather bag (this soap will lather in hot, warm or cold water and can even be used with salt water and was a favorite of early explorers and sailors).�
(B). A Bone handle, bore hair tooth brush.�
(C). A Horn Comb.

6. A cloth or leather bag Fire Kit containing the following:

(A). A fire steel.�
(B). Flint shards�
(C). A small tin container of char cloth�
(D). A charring Tin (for making char over a fire) containing scraps of linen or wood punk.�
(E). A couple bees wax candle stubs�
(F). A huck of tow�
(G). A piece of pitch pine

7. A Salt Horn and Horn or Tin Container of Cyan Pepper.

8. Assorted Food Sacks

NOTE: All these items fit nicely into a Haversack or Knapsack and the total weight will average around 6 to 8 pounds. Packing in a Haversack or Knapsack of this size forces you to pack lightly.


The following list of food is historically correct and can be varied per trek length and personal taste. Although the list is relatively small it offers a surprising verity of fair. When supplemented with wild game, fowl, and fish it can not only keep you going but can provide an excellent and tasty diet.

1. A cloth or leather sack of Stone Ground Corn Meal Flour (generally carried in the fry pan with the handle folded over it).

2. A sack of Unsweetened Hunks of Chocolate and a Sugar Cone (Sugar Cones are made from the left over or junk sugar remaining after the processing of sugar. It is like brown sugar with a slight taste of molasses) This sack is carried inside my Corn Boiler.

3. A small sack of Ground Coffee (also carried inside the Corn Boiler). Loose leaf tea can be carried in place of the coffee or in addition to it. Roasted Coffee Beans may be carried but must be pounded or ground before use.

4. A sack of dry Split Peas.

5. A sack of Flour Mix ( I make this using brown flour, cornmeal, and brown sugar – see Stick Bread in the recipe list below)

6. A sack of Dry Corn (whole kernels)

7. A sack of Parched Corn (see recipe section below)

8. A cloth sack of Jerk (Jerky was simply called Jerk in the 18th century. If carried in a cloth sack where air can get at it, Jerk will last indefinitely)

9. A greased sack of Smoked Salt Slab Bacon (This type of bacon does not require refrigeration).

10. A sack of Stone Ground Oatmeal (Scottish Oatmeal).


A good wool blanket is a must. This is your bed and provides warmth on the cold nights. It can be used to wrap around your shoulders to keep the chill off in the evenings or when the weather turns unexpectedly cold and can be used to carry supplies when needed. Wool, even when wet, will help keep you insulated from the cold.

Choose a Whitney or Hudson Bay blanket if possible. These blankets have been around for a long time, are historically correct and were a standard trade items. They are made of thick 100% virgin wool and are well worth the price.

My favorite size is the 4 point blanket which is 72″ X 90″. I find this just the right size for making a primitive sleeping bag. After folding it in half the long way I fold up about 18″ of one end and secure it with two blanket pins. One along the side through all four layers and one in the middle through the first three layers. This provides my feet with three layers of blanket on top and one layer underneath.

In my blanket I roll up an extra pair of moccasins and a canvas bag stuffed with dry tinder and some bees wax candle stubs. This bag makes a great pillow at night and when protected on stormy nights assures me of having some dry tender to get my morning fire started with.

When rolled tightly and tied with leather thongs the blanket can be carried with a shoulder strap or attached to the bottom straps of my knapsack. On short treks or in emergences I can roll up my supples and gear inside the blanket for transport.

When not carrying an oil cloth (ground cloth) I use a small piece of canvas wrapped over the blanket roll to help keep it dry in the event of rain.


There are times when the whether and mother nature make the use of an oil cloth almost a necessity. An oil cloth can serve as a ground cloth insulating you from the cold or snow covered ground. It will help keep your blanket dry and can be used as a shelter. Its one draw back is its added weight as it can almost double the weight of your blanket roll.

While easy to make it takes about two weeks or more to finish. It can be made of light weight canvas or better still out of natural linen material which is a bit lighter in weight.

To make an oil cloth start with a piece of material 3 feet wide by 9 feet long (1 yard x 3 yards). Pre-shrink the material by washing it in hot water. You can pre dye the material with black walnut dye or you can add pigment during the waterproofing process. It is a good idea to hem the raw edges of the material to prevent them from unraveling.

Hang the material loosely on the north or shady side of a shed, cabin, or other structure. Use linen thread to string the material to nails. The thread placed through the material with a sewing needle will separate the fibers rather then produce holes. Apply Boiled Linseed Oil with a paint brush allowing it to penetrate the cloth. If you did not dye the material beforehand you can add pigment to the linseed such as red iron oxide (which produces a brown color) or yellow iron oxide (which produces a yellow color). Add the iron oxide to the Linseed and stir well. Add enough to make it the consistency of paint. It should stay on the brush without running off. Carefully work the Linseed into the fabric with the brush.

Once the entire surface is painted leave the material to hang for a week to 10 days. This will assure that the linseed oil is dry and properly cured. Don’t try to hurry this process. When the linseed is dry turn the material over and apply another coat to the back of the material. Leave the cloth hanging to dry for another week to 10 days.

Once the linseed is completely dry and cured rub the material lightly with a smooth round stone (being careful not to tear or rip the material). This last process will help soften the fabric which will be stiff from the linseed oil. The treads used to hang the material to the wall will seal the spots where it was pushed through the material and the excess thread can be cut off.


Corn, corn, and more corn. Corn was the staple diet of the longhunter, backwoodsman, early colonist and Indians alike. Woodland Indians could travel for days on no more then a handful of parched corn a day.

The standard corn ration was a handful a day given to hunters of organized hunting parties, militia groups and some military groups and one pound ( 1 lb) of corn was considered a months ration per man.

True, these hunters supplemented their meager supplies with game meat from the hunt but when traveling in hostel territory where hunting was often out of the question they survived primarily on the supplies carried with them.

Here are some simple and tested recipes for the trail along with preparation tips.

1. Johnny Cakes (Also called Hoe Cakes and Ash Cakes depending on how they are cooked. Hoe cakes where often prepared by slaves in the fields and were cooked on the flat of a hoe. Ash Cakes as the name implies were cooked in the hot ashes of a camp fire (the ashes brushed off before eating).

Open your corn meal bag and form a little divot in the corn meal (corn flour, or wheat flour) and add a small amount of water. Mix with you fingers until you have a dough (add more corn meal or water as needed) that can be formed into a round flat cake.

This cake can be cooked in a frypan, on a hot flat rock, or in the hot ashes of a fire. My favorite method is to first fry up a few pieces of bacon, remove the bacon from the skillet and set aside on a piece of bark and cook the cake (or cakes) in the bacon grease until the cakes are lightly browned.

2. Stick Bread

This is made from a Flour Mixture I prepare in advance of a trek. The mixture consists of 2 cups brown (wheat) flour, 1 cup of cornmeal (or corn flour) and 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Note: The brown sugar must be left out in a bowl to dry first and then sifted into the flour before mixing.

As in the Johnny Cake above, open your sack, make a small divot in the flour mixture, add a small amount of water and form a dough with your fingers. Because of the natural glutamates in the flour this will form a better and more elastic dough then if made with just cornmeal.

Wrap the dough around the end of a green willow stick and hold or support the stick over the coals until golden brown. Eaten with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate this is a rewarding treat.

Note: On a trek once, we were in a dry camp having only a canteen of water each to get us through the night. One of members of our small party had a small bottle of homemade apricot wine (almost a brandy) and we used this to make our stick bread dough with. The result was a very tasty treat that was enjoyed by all on that cold wet night.

3. Hot Chocolate

Add a few chucks of unsweetened chocolate with equal amounts of sugar carved or hacked from your sugar cone to some water and heat over the coals stirring until the chocolate has melted. While not as rich and thick as homemade hot chocolate it still produces a good hot beverage.

For a thicker hot drink add some cornmeal to your hot chocolate after it is made. Stir in the cornmeal while reheating the chocolate. The will be especially enjoyed on those cold damp nights.

4. Corn and Jerk Soup

Add a handful of dry corn and some pieces of Jerk to water and boil over the coals. Add salt and cyan pepper to taste. The dry corn will reconstitute itself and this makes a tasty soup.

5. Cornmeal Mush

Cornmeal mush can be prepared in several ways to provide some variety to the diet.


Mix cornmeal with water in your fry pan and heat over the coals stirring until it becomes thick (add more cornmeal or water as needed). Add salt and cyan pepper to taste.


Fry up some bacon , set it aside, and to the bacon grease stir in some cornmeal and then some water. Heat until thick stirring occasionally. You can crumble up the bacon and add to the cornmeal mush or eat it separately. The cornmeal mush will be flavored by the bacon grease. Add cyan peeper and salt (if needed) to taste.


Make your cornmeal mush using some of your hot chocolate drink in place of water to give it a chocolate taste.

6.Split Pea Soup

Place a handful of dry split peas into your boiler and add water. Boil over the coals of you fire stirring frequently until the peas are soft, add some pieces jerk or cut up bacon and continue to cook. Spice with salt and cyan pepper to taste. Depending on the amount of peas used and how well the peas are cooked they can be mashed up with your spoon and can be almost the consistency of porridge.

7. Hot Oatmeal

Easy to prepare and makes a great breakfast. A cup of hot oatmeal will stick to the ribs and is a great way to start a new day of trekking.

Add a handful of oatmeal to your boiler. Add water and bring to a boil stirring constantly. You can make your oatmeal as thick or thin as you choose by adding more oatmeal or water while cooking. Stir in some sugar while hot. Lacking milk or cream on treks I like to make my oatmeal a little on the soupy side.

8. Parched Corn

To make Parched Corn you will need corn which has been dried on the cob. Dry corn was produced by opening the husks (but not removing them) and hanging the corn in the rafters of the cabin to dry.

Prior to leaving for a trek remove some dry corn from the cobs and place in bowl. There are two methods of making parched corn. The first method is to place no more then a hand full at a time into a hot dry skillet. Stir constantly until the corn pops and becomes a light brown in color. Remove from the pan, separate from any burnt kernels and lightly salt. The trick here is to parch the corn and not let it burn.

The second method is to fry some bacon and while the bacon is frying add a hand full of dry corn stirring constantly as it browns and pops in the bacon grease.

Place the parched corn in a bag for travel. Parched Corn can be used as a trail snack or as a quick meal along with some Jerk. It can be ground to a powder, mixed with water to form a paste and eaten as is until camp is made. The ground parched corn can be used like cornmeal though it has a much smoother consistency

NOTE: If the Parched Corn is to be ground the dry parch method works best. One of the best types of corn to use for this is called Hickory King. This is an Heirloom corn that has been around for over two centuries and it produces large flat white kernels.


In addition to adding game to your diet in season the woodsman is always on the lookout for edible plants. One of my favorites is wild onions. When I find them I pick enough for more then one meal. Carried in a cloth sack they will keep for awhile and even dried they are usable.

There are other items which can be found or carried on your treks. Dried fruit is always a welcome treat as is fresh berries found in the late summer. Berries can be added to most anything you prepare.

Keep in mind that the foods you carry should be those that our forefathers had at hand and that whatever you take will add weight to your Haversack or Knapsack and must be carried on your person unless you are making a canoe or horseback trek. Select your supplies carefully and take only what you will need and be creative with what you have.