Packing and Portaging

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Author of “The Lure of the Labrador Wild,” “The Long Labrador Trail,” “Saddle and Camp in the Rockies,” “Across the Mexican Sierras,” etc.



Copyright, 1912, by

All rights reserved


I.Packing and the Outfit9
II.The Canoe and Its Equipment12
III.Camp Equipment for the Canoe Trip15
IV.Personal Equipment23
VI.The Portage38
VII.Travel with Saddle and Pack Animals51
VIII.Saddle and Pack Equipment56
IX.Personal Outfit for the Saddle64
X.Adjusting the Pack71
XI.Some Practical Hitches77
XII.Traveling Without a Pack Horse101
XIII.Afoot in Summer106
XIV.With Snowshoes and Toboggan110
XV.With Dogs and Komatik123

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Method of Slinging Load on Aparejo58, 59
Sling for Racking on Crosstree Saddle74
Squaw or Crosstree Hitch79, 80
The Crosstree Diamond Hitch82, 83
United States Army Diamond Hitch85, 86
Lifting Hitch93, 94
Stirrup Hitch96
Saddle Hitch97

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Ordinarily the verb to pack means to stow articles snugly into receptacles, but in the parlance of the trail it often means to carry or transport the articles from place to place. The pack in the language of the trail is the load a man or horse carries.

Likewise, a portage on a canoe route is a break between navigable waters, over which canoe and outfit must be carried; or the word may be used as a verb, and one may say, “I will portage the canoe,” meaning “I will carry the canoe.” In the course of the following pages these terms will doubtless all be used in their various significations.

Save for the few who are able to employ a retinue of professional guides and packers to attend to the details of transportation, the one chief problem that confronts the wilderness traveler is that of how to reduce the weight of his outfit to the minimum with the least possible sacrifice of comfort. It is only the veriest tenderfoot that deliberately endures hardships or discomforts where hardships and discomforts are unnecessary. Experienced wilderness travelers always make themselves as comfortable as conditions will permit, and there is no reason why one who hits the trail for sport, recreation or health should do otherwise.

In a description, then, of the methods of packing and transporting outfits the tenderfoot and even the man whose feet are becoming calloused may welcome some hints as to the selection of compact, light, but, at the same time, efficient outfits. These hints on outfitting, therefore, I shall give, leaving out of consideration the details of camp making, camp cookery and those phases of woodcraft that have no direct bearing upon the prime question of packing and transportation on the trail.

Let us classify the various methods of wilderness travel under the following heads: 1. By Canoe; 2. With Saddle and Pack Animals; 3. Afoot in Summer; 4. On Snowshoes; 5. With Dogs and Sledge. Taking these in order, and giving our attention first to canoe travel, it will be found convenient further to subdivide this branch of the subject and discuss in order: (a) The Canoe and its Equipment; (b) Camp Equipment for a Canoe Trip; (c) Personal Equipment; (d) Food; (e) The Portage.



A sixteen-foot canoe with a width of at least 33 inches and a depth of at least 12 inches will accommodate two men, an adequate camping outfit and a full ten weeks’ provisions very nicely, and at the same time not lie too deep in the water. A fifteen-foot canoe, unless it has a beam of at least 35 inches and a depth of 12 inches or more, is unsuitable. Three men with their outfit and provisions will require an eighteen-foot canoe with a width of 35 inches or more and a depth of no less than 13 inches, or a seventeen-foot canoe with a width of 37 inches and 13 inches deep. The latter size is lighter by from ten to fifteen pounds than the former, while the displacement is about equal.

The best all-around canoe for cruising and hard usage is the canvas-covered cedar canoe. Both ribs and planking should be of cedar, and only full length planks should enter into the construction. Where short planking is used the canoe will sooner or later become hogged—that is, the ends will sag downward from the middle.

In Canada the “Peterborough” canoe is more largely used than the canvas-covered. These are to be had in both basswood and cedar. Cedar is brittle, while basswood is tough, but the latter absorbs water more readily than the former and in time will become more or less waterlogged.

Cruising canoes should be supplied with a middle thwart for convenient portaging. Any canoe larger than sixteen feet should have three thwarts. To lighten weight on the portage, and provide more room for storing outfit, it is advisable to remove the cane seats with which canvas canoes are usually provided. This can be readily done by unscrewing the nuts beneath the gunwale which hold the seats in position.

Good strong paddles—sufficiently strong to withstand the heavy strain to which cruising paddles are put—should be selected. On the portage they must bear the full weight of the canoe; they will frequently be utilized in poling up stream against stiff currents; and in running rapids they will be subjected to rough usage. On extended cruises it is advisable to carry one spare paddle to take the place of one that may be rendered useless.

Experienced canoemen pole up minor rapids. Poles for this purpose can usually be cut at the point where they are needed, but pole “shoes”—that is, spikes fitted with ferrules—to fit on the ends of poles are a necessary adjunct to the outfit where poling is to be done. Without shoes to hold the pole firmly on the bottom of the stream the pole may slip and pitch the canoeman overboard. The ferrules should be punctured with at least two nail holes, by which they may be secured to the poles, and a few nails should be carried for this purpose.

A hundred feet or so of half-inch rope should also be provided, to be used as a tracking line and the various other uses for which rope may be required.

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