have received many requests over the last
dozen years about amounts of food needed for a
weekend, week or longer period of time spent
when out and about. In an effort to try and
help the new person or the seasoned adventurer
I'll share this information shown below.
seems if one just adjusts some of the items,
it will fit in most camp site very nicely. A
good example of a "camp mess"
or "camp kitchen" (cooking
items needed in a period camp) are those used
by our own father of this country, George
Washington's Military Equipment"
below is information on this military "mess
kit" or "camp mess"
once owned and used by General George
Washington, a set-up like this was not
uncommon to European Officers, but unusual to
the American Forces. A small 44 page booklet
titled "General Washington's Military
Equipment" [Mount Vernon, 1963], p.
20 says: "His [GW's] military equipage
grew gradually as the war dragged on. In April
1776. Benjamin Harbeson of Philadelphia
provided a "mess kit" consisting of
the following: 1 Nest of Camp Kettles 3 large
Tin Canisters 1 doz. Oval tin dishes 9 Tin
plates He [GW] added more plates and canisters
the following month". Perhaps part of
this order is in the chest of camp utensils
preserved at the Smithsonian Institute.
KIT : Chest of wood - covered with
leather, lined with green wool. Interior
divided into fourteen compartments and
containing a tray with nine compartments.
with the following:
tin pots with detachable wooden handles,
forks with black handles,
gridiron with collapsible legs,
glass bottles with cork stoppers,
glass bottles for pepper and salt with
of the Smithsonian Institute. "The
National Museum of American History, A
Smithsonian Museum" on page 104,
there is a photograph of a field mess chest
attributed to George Washington, possibly the
same kitchen mess referred to. It contains tin
plates, platters, utensils, and a tankard.
is a similar "mess kit" at
the Valley Forge Historical Society at the
National Park in Pennsylvania, planned to be
on display in early 2000. Had seen this
"kitchen mess" thirty years ago at
this location. The "mess kit" in
question is tin of a high quality that has
turned dark with age, not pewtered [tin-lead
alloy] as has been suggested. The gentleman
from the society said he had trouble finding
the mess kit as it is not on display at this
time (he hoped to make a new setting with it
to be included as early in 2000).
is the trouble these days with the cost of
floor space, many items of interest are packed
away (if not sold to private collections).
a "camp mess" I carried a
small tin lined brass kettle, carrying this
one for the last 12-15 years on horseback,
canoe/bateau, or trekking. Had Peter Gobel of
GBW make a tin lid which works better than the
boilers I have tried, easier to clean because
of depth, plus your can pack your edibles in
it. I boil my tea water, cook my meal and then
end up washing in it. Have washed my socks and
scarfs as well as myself, a one pot camp. It's
3-1/2" high, 6-1'4 wide @top, 5-1/4"
wide @bottom, has a 1/4" rolled edge with
a hand forged iron bail. About the only thing
that is safe to use with pure brass or copper
is drinking water and would really question
this anymore. I have seen many top quality
copper canteens and at least one big samovar
looking water can and none were tinned.
However, anything acidic (including coffee)
will react with untinned copper/brass with
adverse health effects. I make do with coffee,
steel-cut oats, dried beans, blue parched
corn, pinole or blue corn meal, wild rice,
cone or Havana Brown sugar, salt, baking soda,
pepper corn, dried fruit, smoked meat,
sometimes maple sugar and not much else. Herb
tea can cure what ails you; peppermint, red
clover and rose hips is excellent and
nutritious. If you live on the trail (unless
you're a rich Lord or Duke from Europe and can
forward supplies) you must be able to resupply
staples as you travel around your area.
YOUR COOKING ITEMS: Do you have enough room to
pack your edibles in your pots, that was one
requirement I wanted when looking at the
different sizes available from the number of
sources. This small pot will hold enough
edibles, tea or coffee bean for a week camp
for two, tie the lid on to keep from loosing
contents and keep critters out. This one that
I have now is starting to get some good miles
on it from a number of trips testing equipage.
This is something everyone should consider
doing; test your equipment - how many
different uses can each items be used for.
Example : a long handle (6-7") hand
forged spoon with a hook or loop on the handle
end can be used for several camp duties, such
as lifting hot items from a cooking fire,
hangs to dry, long enough to reach the bottom
in most cooking pots, have used hook to carry
fish and other items that are slippery.
Another example : is the cooking pot, it can
have several uses like; cooking your meal,
boiling your water, washing you and your camp
items, washing your clothing, a fire bucket
and a water container. Always select an item
that can be used for several uses, less to
care for or carry; our forefathers (most
common folks that is) did not have the
resources to own all the neat types of
equipage we see available today, if it was
even available. With research we find some
items advertised today that are modern items
or ideas that have been reproduced to look old
and sold as correct, when they where not even
invented yet for the advertised time period.
Look at the Rev War books available that show
actual equipment from the period, lots of good
information, many of these items we see today,
only made of modern materials like stainless
steel or plastic. How early in the "North
American" trade has the brass kettle been
traded to the natives or was otherwise
are many account or records of brass kettles
used in the American and Canadian fur trade,
from the late 1600's to late 1800's.
few examples are: Plymouth Plantation (supply
list date May 1679, Rivers Trade, p.181)
Cox (Columbia River, p. 75) says the Pacific
Fur Company was trading brass kettles in 1812.
Copper fragments found at archeological digs
of pre 1821 Canadian fur posts are often
tinned, not always but a good percentage, same
for digs at several Forts in the United
States. Copper and brass "preserving
pans" used for making jams and jellies
were not tinned because the sugar mixture in
the pans got hot enough to melt the tin.
great book on fake Canadian antiques : "Can
fake" by Royal Ontario Museum curator
emeritus Donald Webster (ISBN 0-7710-8905-8).
To anyone interested in buying antiques
although the examples are Canadian, the
principles of fakery discussed apply to
antiques everywhere, and fakery is widespread.
I had heard about this book on the e-mail
hist_list and picked one up, interesting.
got several pots that where from the 1850 to
1870 period when the government put the
Indians on the reservations, two are not
tinned and one is, same with a couple of pans
made of brass - tinned and not tinned. Asked
Charles Hanson about this and from what he
found, it depended on the government contract,
supplier, pricing and quality as to how heavy
a material the items were made from. Tin was
cheaper than brass or copper, so he felt that
it was possible a tinned brass or copper pot
(lighter gauge brass or copper material) could
bring as much $$$$ as a same weight item that
wasn't tinned. Thus the tinned pot, or pan
item was cheaper and would show more profit
for the trader, health issues weren't a
problem in those days. It's only been since
W.W. II that we have been really worried about
what we use to drink from, eat on or cook in,
look at the amount of pewter our grand folks
used for those special events.
daily rations are taken from the French and
Indian War's period records:
2 handfuls Peas or
2 handfuls Parched corn
handfuls Dried meat 3-6 pieces (venison,
fruit 1-2 handfuls (apples, peaches,
raisins, pumpkin or combination)
red potatoes 2-3 each
onions 1 each
or muscavado sugar 1-2 Tb Salt 1/2 Tb
1-2 handfuls (Alternate)
1/2 - 1 full cake or tea 1-2 Tb.
daily rations from the Fur Trade period are much
meal (per person) mixed with Havana sugar (2
cupped hand fulls),
flour (2 cupped hand fulls),
rice (cupped hand full),
pearled (cupped hand full),
peas (cupped hand full),
[dried apples or peaches] (2 cupped hand
meat strips broken into 3" pieces (2
cupped hand fulls),
corn w/ local nuts (3 cupped hand fulls),
(same measurement per person, lasts for 3-4
days - cupped hand full) a little on the
weak side last day or two.
has worked for a 5 day outing, moving around
camp, scouting, etc. but only lasts about 3 hard
days of paddling (hard work will use up your
supplies very fast).
start with the measurement for: a "cupped
hand full" = ( 1) measuring cup.
doesn't sound like much, I agree, but remember
most dried edibles do swell when water is added.
Rice, barley and peas will double in size or
mount prepared. Most of us (not all) can go with
less food from a few days to several weeks
without any problem - doctors will tell you that
the amount we eat regularly is a mind-set in
most cases, we can do with less and would
probably do better weight and health wise.
try to eat two small regular meals daily,
gathering or foraging for edibles in our short
trips around camp when scouting game or looking
at the area. When you get in a mind-set of
watching for edibles as you make your scouts,
it's surprising what you find, even if not
hunting for squirrel, rabbits or flying foul.
Wild edibles are everywhere it's just the
problem of figuring out what your looking at.
Working around water is always a good place for
small plants that are edible, as well as the
little crayfish, fish and small animals getting
a drink. I think you are getting the idea or
already do this in your normal outing
have a good friend that I wrote an article about
a few years ago in the T&LR journal Dr.
Jerry LaVelle, he's an expert at foraged edibles
in the Rockies, takes a small frying pan,
buffalo grease, period fishing kit and he's off
for the weekend. His wife gets a little rattled
about his limited resources, but he uses what is
available at hand, cat-tail flour for bread
(bannock), has different plant leaves for a
salad and so on, she's good for about two
weekends like this a year. But it can be done,
so she goes to prove that she's a tough as he is
wish I had the mind-set, the ability or guts to
believe enough in myself to do this as much as
meal: corn meal w/ Havana Brown sugar,
(Havana Brown is an old sugar [less costly than
white sugar in the colonial days] have switched
to blue corn - better taste) 1/2 cup per person
with water, a few small pieces of fruit and
small amount of tea (save the tea leaves), corn
flour, use a 1/2 cup per person of flour to make
"bannock" bread (will produce a loaf
per say the size of a regular hot dog).
Surprisingly this will satisfy you, no matter
what your brain says.
snack: some parched corn, a little fruit
and whatever you may find in your travels.
meal: with a little testing you will be
able to judge the amount of rice or barley
needed to make a small portion, and not waste
anything. We have used mixed small amount of
wild rice, barley pearled, split peas and a
little jerky (changing the meal of one or two
items) to make a stew, make with a little more
water than what your wife would use - fills you
up with the broth. Use your used tea leaves for
a mild tea flavor.
any left overs and try and eat late in the
evening (going to bed on a full belly). Don't
forget what you have foraged during the day that
can be prepared to supplement your evening or
morning meal. Our biggest problem seems to be
mind-set that we are going to starve, hell
you'll die from lack of water long before you'll
old friend (in his mid 70s') had a heart attack,
had been very active all his farming life, he
refused any medical care when he found it was
possible he would not walk again, his doctor
respected his wishes and had him taken home. I
would visit him in the evenings, he refused food
and liquids and it took him 14 days to die. The
lack of liquid is what shut him down, he only
lost a few pounds in that period.
the chance of you doing great harm on a weekend
or a week from the lack of food is really not a
major problem according to most doctors, unless
you have medical problems, special medication,
etc. that may require you to use with food. But
do make sure you keep liquids in your system,
plus a good drink of water is somewhat filling
by itself. This all sounds great, right.
it's easier to write or tell it - than when
packing for that adventure, you'll find yourself
cheating and adding this and that - just in
case. You'll stop and think and remember that
first hunting trip (a day long) and all the
extra stuff you took that Dad told you wasn't
needed, well just in case. The big thing is do
some testing the night the wife had to work
late, make up a meal, simple - small in amount,
bottom line is testing. With your experience
you'll have NO problem, it's just that mind-set
that we all fight with. I'm always packing and
unpacking different amounts, if you take just so
much - small amount of food, and leave out
"the just in case" factor, then
your options are get along with what you got and
GOOD REMEDY: In one of the back issues
of T&LR a fellow got sick from his copper
pot. He remembered from his military training,
took a bone and burned it in the fire and
charred deeply, then ground it fine, added water
and drank it. In a few hours he felt ok.
Charcoal sure does work. I have been there and
made myself the medicine from burnt wood. I made
a thick past and ate it like pudding. Then drank
just enough water to wash it down. In a few
hours I felt OK.
our ability to cultivate, forage, or supply
ourselves in the New World and the chance for a
free life style, still some would turn their
backs on opportunity and accept the English
Rule, their taxes, etc. But several of our
statesmen saw this as an act of treason and
thought such acts where unthinkable, see Samuel
Adams remarks below.
good old common sense and a little knowledge
will take you a long ways".