Century Old Camping and Outdoor Tips from Francis H. Buzzacott*

 img271“Travel light—but right—there’s a deal of difference in these words—just as much as between roughing it and smoothing it” [Quoting from the author’s experience 40 years of experience as a trapper, hunter and guide]*

In this 103 year old book, Buzzacott begins by saying, “Don’t burden yourself with a host of the other things unless you wish for trouble taking care of them.”  He continues, “We believe in every step of progression as will be evident; want to supply you with every comfort that you may actually need, but those pneumatic beds and fixings; those telescopic kettles, cups and ‘what nots’ banish from your mind and “ye have coin to spare and the wagon to hire” Let it go to the Ration Chest, Tent Outfit, Camp Furniture, Armory or Rod for with such as these nature supplies you with other things much better and ‘twere wiser so.” [Ed. Note: Remember, the only vehicles of generally available mechanized travel at the time of this writing were the railroad and steamboat.]

Fires. Utilize only the flame at one end for boiling and stewing. The hot ashes or live coals only should be used for frying, broiling, baking, roasting, etc., mainly not just to save wood, but to lessen danger of burning, spilling, etc. This advice results in very little smoke. Amateurs cook over a big, roaring, smoky campfire, large and hot enough to roast an ox. To start, let you wood smoke and the fire burn before you commence cooking; when ready, the live coals will give you even more heat than you require for a small party. Keep wood dry by stacking; should rain fall, your wood will remain fairly dry and your camp neat, besides.

A Hot Sweat Bath. Take hot stones with a little water sprinkled on them, cover yourself (and them) with a blanket.

A Good Camp Lamp can be made with clear tallow fat (fat of animals) melted down and put in an old tin can. Improvised wicks can be made from unraveled cotton or tent canvas, put one end in can and the other end on edge of can and wire.

A Good Camp Spoon can be made from a shell and split stick. A fork can easily be whittled. A Good knife can be made from a piece of tin cut from an old can and inserted into a split stick, lashed tight with a wire. A Good dinner plate or cooking utensil can be made from a piece of green thick barky tree, using the smooth part of it for food. A Good fire shovel can be made from a piece of tin (can) and a split stick. It is also an excellent broiler.

To correctly ascertain the points of a compass, face the sun in the morning; spread out your arms straight from the body—in front of you is the east, behind you is west, to your right hand the south and north before the left hand. If the sun doesn’t shine, note the tops of pine trees, they invariably dip to the north.

If Soaking Wet with no dry clothes handy, take off wet garments and wring them out as dry as possible—put on again—you are less liable to take cold and it will be much warmer, besides.

Don’t sleep with the Moon Shining on your Face, you can get a moonstruck, and it’s almost as bad as a sunstroke.

Don’t Sit or Lay on the Bare Ground. In the military, statistics have proven the ½ of the sicknesses incident to camp and field life is due to neglect of this important caution. By all means avoid sitting or sleeping on the ground, is a golden rule in camp, even though it feels dry!

For Washing Flannels and Woolens—Don’t wring out. Hang them up dripping wet and they won’t wrinkle up or shrink.

If thirsty and Can’t Find water—Place a pebble or button in the mouth and keep it there; it will surprise you with the result, and relieves that dryness entirely—try it!

Don’t Have Loaded firearms in tent; a simple fall of rifle or gun may have serious results—make this a rule!

Distress signal is three shots fired in succession, another shot a minute or so afterwards.  Conserve ammunition.

To Make a Fire Without Matches. Take a dry handkerchief or cotton lining of your coat, scrape out a very fine lint, as few handfuls. Using the crystal of your watch, compass, spectacle, a sun glass can be made that will ignite the lint, which can be blown into a fire.

Limit of Man’s Pack.—Don’t forget 40 pounds is the limit of a man’s pack, more is making a pack mule of him.

Prevent Sickness. Keep the bowels open, head cool, feet dry and the will be little, if any, sickness in camp.

Lost from Camp. “When you find you have lost your way, don’t lose your head—keep cool; try and not let your brains get into your feet. By this we mean don’t run around and make things worse and play yourself out. First: Sit down and think; cool off, then climb a tree, or hill, and endeavor to locate some familiar object you passed, so as to retrace your steps. If it gets dark, build a rousing camp fire. Ten to one you will be missed from camp and your comrades will soon be searching for you, and your fire will be seen by them. (If you have been wise, read your Manual and see cooking, etc., without utensils, fire without matches, camp shelter, and the human compass, etc.). Give distress signals, but don’t waste all your ammunition thus. It’s ten to one that morning and a clear head, after a comfortable night (if you make it so), will reveal to you the fact that your camp is much closer to you than you imagined.”

“I have seen good men lost within a rifle shot of camp. A cool head can accomplish much—a rattled one, nothing.”

“To locate position—note the limbs and bark of trees—the north side of trees can be noted by the thickness and general roughness. Moss most generally is to be found near the roots on the north side. Note also—limbs or longer branches, which generally are to be found longer on the south side of trees, while the branches exposed to the north most generally are knotty, twisted and drooped. In the forest the tops of the pine trees dip or trend to the north; also, if you find water, follow it; it generally leads somewhere—where civilization exists. The tendency of people lost, is to travel in a circle uselessly; by all means, keep cool and deliberate, blaze your way, by leaving marks on trees to indicate direction you have taken; read up on this Manual, which should be always kept in your pocket when in camp or out; it’s made the right size to carry there. A cool head and a stout heart, and lost in camp is really a comedy—not the tragedy—some people make it. This is the time a compass is invaluable.”

*Francis H. Buzzacott. 1905. Revised edition 1913.   American and Canadian Sportman’s Encyclopedia of Valuable Instruction.  M. A. Donohoe & Co.