Moby Reads Camping and Woodcraft

Ever wonder what Moby does while we’re out hiking or rafting? He reads. Here’s his latest book recommendation, dedicate to Mike Glane and Doug Beardsley.

Camping and Woodcraft by Horace Kephart, originally published in 1916.books

This book is 469 pages of advice on how to camp and survive comfortably in the wild, early 1900’s style. Moby’s only complaint about this book is that it’s rather sexist. Other than that, Moby gives it a 4 star rating (with 4 being the best possible on the Callister scale.)

Some of Moby’s favorite parts:


The present work is based upon my book Book of Camping and Woodcraft, which appeared in 1906. My first book was intended as a pocket manual for those who travel where there are no roads and who perforce must travel light. It had seemed to me that outfitting a party for fixed camp within reach of wagons was so simple that nobody would want advice about it. But I have learned that such matters are not so easy to the multitude as I had assumed . . . ” (Preface)


If one begins, as he should, six months in advance, to plan and prepare for his next summer or fall vacation, he can, by gradual and surreptitious hoarding, get together a commendable camping equipment, and nobody will notice the outlay. The best way is to make many of the things yourself. This gives your pastime an air of thrift, and propitiates the Lares and Penates by keeping you home o’ nights. And there is a world of solid comfort in having everything fixed just to suit you. The only way to have it so is to do the work yourself. One can wear ready-made clothing, he can exist in ready-furnished rooms, but a ready-made camping outfit is a delusion and a snare. It is sure to be loaded with gimcracks that you have no use for, and to lack something that you will be miserable without.

It is great fun, in the long winter evenings, to sort over your beloved duffel, to make and fit up the little boxes and hold-alls in which everything has its proper place, to contrive new wrinkles that nobody but yourself has the gigantic brain to conceive, to concoct mysterious dopes that fill the house with unsanctimonious smells, to fish around for materials, in odd corners where you have no business, and, generally, to set the female members of the household buzzing around in curiosity, disapproval, and sundry other states of mind.

To be sure, even though a man rigs up his own outfit, he never gets it quite to suit him. Every season sees the downfall of some cherished scheme, the failure of some fond contrivance. Every winter sees you again fussing over your kit, altering this, substituting that, and flogging your wits with the same old problem of how to save weight and bulk without sacrifice of utility. All thoroughbred campers do this as regularly as the birds come back in spring, and their kind has been doing it since the world began. It is good for us. If some misguided genius should invent a camping equipment that nobody could find fault with, half our pleasure in life would be swept away. (25-26)


Nobody but a Scotchman can live on oatmeal as his sole breadstuff; and it has taken generations of training and gallons of whisky on the side to enable him to do it. (186)


Eggs can be packed along in winter without danger of breakage by carrying them frozen. Do not try to boil a frozen egg: peel it as you would a hard-boiled one, and then fry or poach. To preserve raw eggs, rub them all over with vaseline, being careful that no particle of shell is uncoated. (189)


Even when stopping overnight, have a place for everything and let everything be in its place. Novices or shiftless folk strew things about and can’t find them when needed. That is one reason why it takes them twice as long as it should to make or break camp, and it is why they are forever losing this and that, or leaving them behind and forgetting them till they reach the next stopping place. (218)


Summer twilight brings the mosquito. In fact, when we go far north or far south, we have him with us both by day and night. Rather I should say that we have her; for the male mosquito is a gentleman, who sips daintily of nectar and minds his own business, while madame his spouse is a whining, peevish, venomous virago, that goes about seeking whose nerves she may unstring and whose blood she may devour. Strange to say, not among mosquitoes only, but among ticks, fleas, chiggers, and the whole legion of bloodthirsty, stinging flies and midges, it is only the female that attacks man and beast. Stranger still, the mosquito is not only a bloodsucker but an incorrigible wine-bibber as well–it will get helplessly fuddled on any sweet wine, such as port, or on sugared spirits, while of gin it is inordinately fond. (241)


Snow Bread.——  After a fall of light, feathery snow, superior corn bread may be made by stirring together: 1 quart corn meal, 1/2 teaspoonful soda, 1 teaspoonful salt, 1 tablespoonful lard. Then, in a cool place where the snow will nt melt, stir into above one quart light snow. Bake about forty minutes in rather hot oven. Snow, for some unknown reason, has the same effect on bread as eggs have, two tablespoonfuls of snow equaling one egg. (353-354)


“Soup,” says Nessmuk, “requires time, and a solid basis of the right material. Venison is the basis, and the best material is the bloody part of the deer, where the bullet went through. We used to throw this away; we have learned better. Cut about four pounds of the bloody meat into convenient pieces and wipe them as clean as possible with leaves or a damp cloth, but do not wash them. Put the meat into a five-quart kettle nearly filled with water, and raise to it to a lively boiling pitch.” (373)


Skilligalee.—– The best thing in a fixed camp is a stock-pot. A large covered pot or enameled pail is reserved for this and nothing else. Into it go all the clean fag-ends of game–heads, tails, wings, feet, giblets, large bones–also the left-overs of fish, flesh, and fowl, of any and all sorts of vegetables, rice, or other cereals, macaroni, stale bread, everything edible except fat. This pot is always kept hot. Its flavors are forever changing, but ever welcome. It is always ready, day or night, for the hungry varlet who missed connections or who wants a bite between meals. No cook who values his peace of mind will fail to have skilly simmering at all hours. (376-377)


Pie.—– Don’t give the thing a name until it is baked; then, if you have made the crust too thick for a pie, call it a cobbler, or a shortcake, and the boys, instead of laughing at you, will ask for more. (381)


Fire Without Matches.—– Suppose you have no matches. Well, with a shotgun the task of making fire is easy; with a modern rifle, or pistol, that uses jacketed bullets, it is not so easy, because the bullet is hard to get out of the shell–still you can manage it by cutting length-wise through the neck of the shell and prying the bullet out. Worry the bullet out of the cartridge; sprinkle most of the powder on the tinder, leaving only a few grains in the shell. Then tear a bit of dry cotton cloth (lining from your clothing, for instance) with fluffy edges, and with this loosely fill the nearly emptied cartridge. Put it in your gun, and fire straight up into the air. The cloth will drop close to you, and either will be aflame or, at least, burning so that you can blow it into a blaze. Drop this quickly on your tinder, and the trick is done. (32-33)


2 thoughts

  1. What a joy! Doesn’t it feel good to know that our recreational opinions have such a solid foundation- in our forefathers of yesteryear? Though i think i might pass on the skilligalee.

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