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The Prospector Goes Camping
By Arthur Chapman and Jack Bell

Outing, September 1917
pp 799-802

It Sounds Like a Lot, But He Uses
It All -- and for a Long Time

Few people who camp out really know their business. In fact, with most individuals, camping is not a business, but a diversion, all too lightly entered into.

The Western prospector represents a class that regards camping as part of the day's work. Most of the year the prospector's home is in the open. He may dwell in the gray desert of the Southwest, or he may live for weeks on the top of a high mountain in the Rockies. In any event, he is thrown entirely upon his own resources and his life may depend on the generalship he has shown in selecting his camp equipment.

It will not do for him to go in "too light," nor is he one to burden himself with an excess of camp equipment. He must have enough for every day's needs, also for a few luxuries, but he must not overburden his pack animals with things that do not count. He is ready at all times to fight a winning battle against hunger and cold. If he is hurt or falls sick, he has first aid remedies at hand.

Most important of all he knows what his food supply is going to hold out to a certain limit. He si going to be well shod at all times and he has ample clothing to protect him against the extremes of weather.

Suppose the amateur camper meets one of these men from the hills just before the all important purchases are made.

"You are just the man I wanted to see!" joyfully exclaims the neophyte. "There are two of us going camping. We will be away a month anyway, and there will be no chance to buy supplies where we are. Tell me just what you took on that trip when you prospected above timber line on Blanca."

The prospector takes a small diary from his vest pocket and scans two of those pages.

"Well, here she is, Ed, just as I set her down at the time of purchase. This is what I included in the outfit I bought at Monte Vista. A slab of bacon, ten pounds of sugar, three cans of tomatoes, three cans of corn, three cans of lima beans, 25 pound sack of flour, two cases of jelly, pepper, salt, five pounds of common stock candy, which I always pack, baking powder, pressed seedless raisins, maple syrup, mustard, ginger -- you see ginger is a great camp remedy for all ills of the stomach and mustard is great for hot baths when you have taken cold -- five pounds of prunes, a ten pound sack of corn meal, candles, half a dozen packages of smoking tobacco and five pounds of chewing tobacco. No man ever smokes or chews while on the trial at high altitudes or on the desert. Tobacco is for the camp.

"My camp equipment was as follows: Two large stewpans with handles, number 68 frying pan; small steel frying pan; small stew pans of two sizes made of enamel ware. Tin is too hot and aluminum is impossible in the hills on account of retaining the heat. Three knives, three forks, three teaspoons, one large spoon, two butcher knives, can-opener, baking pan - a long one for biscuit -- egg beater for mixing batter for hot cakes. This saves packing a sifter, which is big and awkward.

"Dishpan to use to do your washing in as well as washing dishes, a folding water bucket, fly killer, one large fork, one light ax, pound and a half weight, five pound ax, cross-cut saw, one 8x10 standard wall tent, twelve-ounce. Anything lighter will not stand the heavy storms above timberline. One stove, sold top, three joints of pipe with damper in the pipe. This is where many campers make a mistake. The damper regulates heat and don't waste wood. The stove is the common sheet iron type.

"In the matter of bedding I took one 14-pound California double blanket, costing one dollar a pound. One army blanket, seven pounds; two comforts, home made, extra length, never fade. Bed sheets, 8x16, of 16-ounce weight, with snaps and rings, making a sleeping bag. One good feather pillow. Always use sugar or flour sacks for slips, which you can wash every week. Three folding camp stools, one folding bed. Invariably spread paper over the canvas cot, then a layer of gunny sack. In this way the cold can't come from under -- the only objection to any cot.

"Always take assorted nails, for one doesn't know when he is going to make a permanent camp. Get a small tin can and punch the bottom full of holes and two rows about an inch from the bottom around the can. Then make a little bail of bailing wire, so the hands will not get burned. This is to be used as a soap shaker in fixing the water when it is put on the stove.

Doing the Week's Wash

"Here is the prospector's washing machine. Take the largest tomato can you can get. Perforate closely the entire bottom with small holes; perforate the entire can above with larger holes. Then insert the end of a three-foot stick in the can, put a nail in the bottom, and clinch with two nails in the side. Fill the dishpan full of water, take the soap shaker and make suds and boil your clothes. Take the heaviest flannel underwear and press with your vacuum washer and it will clean perfectly. Then rinse. Every prospector, once a week does his washing, and lets nothing interfere.

"The first thing the prospector does when he makes camp is to fix his bunk and then his stove. Then he builds a rack out of willow poles, or anything available, to hang his kitchen ware on. At the closed end of the tent he builds a clothes rack and studs with nails for wearing apparel and towels. He takes short dry sticks and cribs them for his war bag. This war bag is built like a U.S. mail sack, made of 16-ounce canvas. It is the prospector's trunk.

"Always take the best and heviest wool underwear and three pairs of heavy socks. This for for any country or climate. Take three bandanna handkerchiefs at sixty cents apiece. They are handy in storms. Have a pair of good gloves handling wire and dry pine stuff. Always have a housewife with darning cotton, two or three kinds of thread, a package of big needles, extra shirt buttons, and so on. Ordinary corduroy is best for clothes.

"The prospector's boots are generally of the 8-inch or half high type. Wear htem for a week or so and put on extra half soles and extra heavy tap on boots. Small nails are better than large nails because they never get smooth and always clutch the ground like a comb. Corbolated vaseline, a small roll of absorbent cotton and roll of two-inch and one-inch bandages and a bottle of peroxide are handy for first aid use.

The first thing after camp is made, dig a hole four feet deep for all kinds of refuse. The soldier-like life of the prospector distinguishes him as a camper. His order of the day is something as follows:

"Up before daylight. The shavings are all whittled, ready to start the fire. Put on the coffee and set on a wash basin of water to wash hands and face. While the coffee is making, something over six minutes, rustle out and take care of the pack animals. Ordinarily, breakfast is ready, put the dishpan on. By the time the camper is through eating the water is hot.

"Gets back about early dark, but doesn't build a fire. Gets up wood for next day and takes care of all the animal. Cuts down a big tree with the crosscut saw. Saws wood in lengths. All high timber is heavy and hard and a heavy ax is needed. Builds the fire, sets on the coffee pot, and, if tired, eats cold hot cakes, drinks his coffee and goes to bed.

"He seldom varies this program except when he means to be gone at night on a hike. In cooking, taking care of animals, getting wood, and strengthening camp, about three hours a day are lost from prospecting labor.

"The prospector invariably clears a feeding ground for the birds. He throws corn meal flour or breaks up cakes and feeds the little visitors. A large part of his amusement combes from watching duels between camp robbers -- a species of blue jay -- and chipmunks over cakes. The chipmunks have to be killed, and for this the prospector carries several little spring traps. It generally takes three weeks to get rid of chipmunks around a Rocky Mountain camp.

"If the prospector gets wet he never stands still long enough to take a chill. On returning to camp his first act is to get a roaring fire and get dry. He goes on the principle that if feet and wrists are kept dry he will not take cold. He takes a mustard bath while he feels a kink under his shoulderblades -- the deadly "grab" which presages pneumonia.

Sunday is always washday in camp. The entire day is spent in cooking, chopping, mending, and laundry work. I haven't included the prospector's tools, of course -- his anvil, irons, testing apparatus, transit, hammer, and so on. Buy the very best the market affords. Don't take cheap grub on the theory that one can eat anything in camp. Lastly -- a gun and a diary are both good things to keep about you.

ARTHUR CHAPMAN,   "The Prospector Goes Camping." An old contributor to OUTING. Has written several articles on the West in the Outlaw and Cattle Range Days. Is a well known writer of Western verse and Managing Editor of the Denver Times.

JACK BELL.   A newspaper man who has prospected and mined for many years and has won and lost fortunes in all sorts of mining propositions from Alaska to Mexico. When the trail opens, this veteran drops the pencil and pen for the miner's pick and prospector's hammer.

Jack Bell
Jack Bell

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