9.5 / May 2014

Things a Man Should Carry

(Adapted from Camping and Woodcraft, 1917 edition, by Horace Kephart)


Get a small tin tobacco box, flat, with rounded corners, boil it in two waters, and dry thoroughly.

You want equipment that tells a story and you better grab it while you can.

Your chance always pops up unexpectedly.

You must work quickly.

There is no time to fritter away.

Remember that satisfactory equipment goes with you everywhere, and does equally well for repelling enemies and removing foreign substances from the eye.

Grandpa’s tar soap makes a good lather and towels should be old (soft) and rather small.

Equipment of this sort is the most valuable a man can carry.


A common pocketknife should be in every man’s pocket.

Will skin anything from squirrel to bear.

Has one stout blade for whittling seasoned hickory and two small blades, one ground thin for such savagery as you may have to perform (keep it clean) and the other ground blunt with a beveled edge for scaling fish.

Should be of the best steel obtainable.

Nicks and dull edges are abominations.

Use it for what it was made for and whet it a little every day.

But beware of combination knives; they may be passable corkscrews and can openers, but not much else.


A little of this, a little of that, fitted inside a wallet.

A pair of tiny, sharp pointed scissors for trimming horns and blisters.

Pointed tweezers to use as forceps.

A needle or two, waxed linen thread on card, spare buttons, a safety pin.

Several large rubber bands. A spare shoe lace. Some strong twine. Two feet of copper snare wire. Dental floss for binding and stitching.

One-inch adhesive plaster.

A short rigged fishline, a few assorted hooks with half the barb filed off, two or three split shot (tackle invaluable if you get lost).

Pipe cleaners (if you smoke).


The glare of the sun on water, snow, or desert sand is often trying.

The best are aviator glasses, of deepest shade, which exclude the ultra-violet rays.

They are large enough to protect the eyes against wind and dust and come in handy when pursued for an hour by swarms of “red pepper” gnats bent on suicide and on blinding somebody.

A word about style. It matters.

What you feel and what you think are yours alone to know.

Your dark purpose should be masked and especially in harshest sun.

Eyes hidden from prying eyes can be your deadly weapon.


Notebooks and writing paper should be quadrille ruled, for convenience in drawing to scale.

A loose-leaf memorandum book is best: you can file your notes in a safe place every morning.

Postal cards may suffice for correspondence.

If envelopes are carried, let them be of linen, and bring a stick of sealing-wax.

Linen wears better than paper in the pocket of a native carrier.

Gummed envelopes, in a moist climate, seal themselves before you use them. Sealing-wax thwarts the inquisitive postmaster.

On the route out from camp your mail may go through many hands.

Carry stamps in books, not sheets.


Seize the ampule encased in gauze and crush the point of the glass.

Then hold the broken end down until the gauze is saturated with the iodine,
and clap to the surface of the wound.

An emergency case of this sort is the most important a man can carry for the first dressing of gunshot wounds, fractures.

(You may wish not to open it if you have merely slashed your thumb, skinned your knuckle, blistered your heel.

Yet it is these lesser injuries we are most apt to suffer and must be treated on the spot, lest grave consequences follow.)

Jerry Dennis is the author of eleven books of essays, nonfiction, and short fiction, most recently The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes. He lives near the shore of Lake Michigan and can be visited at www.jerrydennis.net.
9.5 / May 2014