Mountain Man is pre 1840’s primitive camping. We participate yearly at the Alafia Rendezvous. Everyone makes their own clothes ,tools and tents. We cook over an open fire using only cast iron cookware that would have been available at the time. This is an extremely fun and educational program that is highly recommended for anyone looking for more from camping.
Troop 123 is one of only a few troops in the state of Florida that has a Mountain Man Program. Mountain man teaches you that you don’t need high tech equipment to camp and is one of the best programs run by the troop. We make a lot of the equipment ourselves like; Sheath knives w/sheaths, leather pouches, bees wax candles & necklaces.
After a lot of discussions with reenactors here is a basic primitive camping list. These are the rules and suggestions developed for our mountain man program. Some modem items will be allowed, as long as they are discreet (not noticed).
First, the rules:
1. No matches or lighters
2. No flashlights, gas lanterns, stoves
3. No coolers (subject to possible exceptions to be discussed later)
4. No modern conveniences (fishing rods & reels, aluminum pans thermos jugs (possible exception for troop use), plastic canteens, modem almost anything).
5. Foods and snacks must be of the 1820’s era. Some exceptions may be made. We will discuss this and decide.
Exceptions to Rule, but discreet:
1. Plastic sheet to go under canvas ground cloth.
2. Sleeping bag, if it is covered by wool or cotton blankets
3. Store bought clothing if it is altered to look like primitive.
(NOTE: Blue jeans were not made at that time, but for practice they will be allowed. Jeans made of black or dark brown cotton will be allowed. Shirts were always work outside the pants with a sash or belt around it to hold pouches, knife, and other supplies). The shirts were pull over with a “V” opening at the neck and squared bottom.
4. Plastic milk jugs will be allowed to bring water, if concealed.
5. Insect repellent will not only be allowed, but encouraged.
6. If you do not have a “hawk”, you may bring a hand hatchet, but keep it out of sight when not in use.
Go through old clothes. Go to Goodwill or other similar centers. Check with grandparents. Pick up old army blankets (wool), Goodwill usually has a variety of blankets and clothing. Stay with cotton, muslin, linen or wool.
To modify a modern shirt, first buy it a size big. You then cut off the modem cuff and roll & sew it. Usually the collar is removed. Cut the button hole side off and the button side off, then sew them together up to about 6″-8″ from the top. Hem the top and lace a cotton or leather cord through to draw it closed. If the bottom is not square, square and hem it.
To make a “blanket coat”, first get a cotton or wool blanket. Wrap it around and overlap by about 6″-8″ and cut square. Using the rest of the blanket, wrap around your arm from where you want a cuff to the top of the shoulder-make it a little long, as the cuff can always be trimmed– cut one for each arm (make it baggy so clothes can easily fit under it). a hood is now fashioned to be sewn to the collar. All stitching is usually done with a contrasting colored yam. Trim and fit the sleeves, then sew on the hood. Make a sash from the balance of the material, as the coat is not buttoned but tied like a robe. Then all edges are sewn with yarn, looping it along the edge in 1/4″-3/8″ spacing. Remember, Mountain Men were not great garment makers, it is expected to look a little “rough”.
Pants may be “recycled. Mountain Men did not have pockets, so sew existing pockets closed, so you will not be tempted to put your hands in the pockets. Since you wear your shirt on the outside, you can get away with belt loops, but they usually had drawstrings or suspenders. There were no zippers. Either you pulled your pants down or there was a button fly. If your shirt covers your zipper on the pants, there will be no real problem. Do not wear pants that have a crease or cuff.
Mountain men buttons were pewter or steel, occasionally tarnished brass. Often they used antler palms cut into buttons or made wood buttons. Sometimes the wrapped leather buttons. DO NOT come with plastic buttons.
Any kind of moccasin is acceptable as long as it looks proper (no rubber sole, etc.). Old time “English” or “French” boots were worn.
Felt or leather hats were always worn–rarely did you see a bare head.
Mountain Men were not known for their cleanliness, so white socks would definitely be out of place–grey, red or other colors are acceptable–make sure they look like an old time sock.
We DO expect you to wear modem underwear!
Use a cotton canvas tarp. Make sure it is waterproof. Pair up 2-4 guys per site, this way you can share. Some with the covering tarp and some with a ground cloth–those without tarps may share with those that do. Use wood or metal (old looking) stakes and natural fiber or cotton rope. Bring lots of rope!! You should not plan on having a tree where you can tie up to–bring bamboo or wood poles to set your tarps up with (Mr. Struthers said you can even bring 2×2’s stained dark and it would be acceptable). Everything you bring should be brought in burlap bags, canvas bags or wraps, baskets or old looking wood boxes. No camp chairs, buckets or tables.
Cast iron is acceptable. Mountain Men did not use much cast iron because it was too heavy to haul around, they used brass and copper pots. They used a lot of pewter for dinnerware and cups. Tin cups or enameled cups and plates are acceptable. Steel is OK, no stainless steel or aluminum. “Squirrel Cookers” and campfire spits are encouraged. Open fire cooking of meat was normal. Cooking of rice, dried beans, seeds, gruel, mush, oatmeal, etc. was the staple diet. Most Mountain men used a wooden spoon they made, however a steel spoon can be used. Forks were not used–just their hunting knife.
Sausage in a skin (good for squirrel cookers), “country meats”
Perishables like eggs, cheese, etc were used–we will discuss.
Dried lentils or rice
Fresh vegetables like corn, peas, onions, potatoes, green beans
Fresh fruit like apples, pears, grapes, or melons
Canned meat, milk, vegetables and fruit–remove wrapper & label
Dried Goods – sugar, flour, cornmeal, tea, coffee, etc.
Items like honey, syrup, etc.
If you think of something, just ask…
Bring a l- 2 quart bottle with a cork to drink out of–you might want to make a bag to put it in, so it will not break. A wine bottle, cider jug, etc. make good drink bottles. Do not bring mason jars–they were not available yet. Do not bring a jug with threads on it for a lid.
If you want to bake or make pancakes, you cannot use a mix, but you can use the normal ingredients and bring them (or mix them at home dry and pour into a stoppered jar).
Most spices we use today were available then. If you keep them out of sight, you may bring them in their modem container.
We will allow kerosene lanterns (these work well with store bought lamp oil or charcoal lighter). Candle lanterns are encouraged. Votive candles or prayer candles poured into little glass cups work great in the brass lanterns we made. You may wish to bring a lantern holder.
Mosquito nets were available back then, but they were made of cotton. Bring your mosquito net anyway, just in case…
Obviously, bring me any medication you need. We will have my First Aid Kit.
Cards were played, as was backgammon, cribbage and other older games.