What is camping Primitive?

Well we will tell ya what it ain't. There are No coolers, No air mattress, No chairs, dutch ovens , blue graniteware, sleeping bags, coleman stoves or lanterns and all them metal cooking Irons And No driving up to the camp spot with all that stuff. All that stuff would be enough to break the back of a good pack Mule. Why we've all seen at one time or another so called Primitive camps that had enough stuff in them to sink a Keelboat !
 So, ya say what do we do to camp in style and primitive?
Its easy, actually. Less is more and more is less, honest, trust us!

Cooking for a feast.
These are enough pots to feed an army and are not needed for most primitive camps



cooking on the trail.
Here we are cooking for nine people note the number of pot.

  Cooking and food:

     Standard fare is beans and rice, rice and beans, or beany rice. They are lightweight, don't spoil, and they are found in fur trade lists as being brought to rendezvous. Beans and corn were also grown by the Missouri River tribes and traded with other tribes in the Rockies.Beans can be precooked till close to being done and then dehydrated so in camp they don't take long to cook. Cereal grains like rolled oats, cracked wheat to cook for breakfast, along with some muscarvana or brown sugar to put on it. Raisins and dried apples or other dried fruit  taste good in it, too.

     Meat we take frozen, wrapped in brown paper and keep it in blanket weight wool bags which insulate and keep it frozen a good while. Wild game meat is preferred, of course but beef is acceptable. Smoked salmon is a treat and can be bought at any grocery store. We freeze this, too. Salt cured bacon can be kept without refrigeration, and salt pork is another staple but must be frozen like the other meat. Another way of keeping meat is to put pieces of cooked meat into a tin of lard. As long as the meat pieces don't touch each other or the sides of the tin, and the meat is covered with the lard it won't spoil.     Don't forget the jerked meat and pilot bread. Parched corn makes a good snack, you can add salt or sugar and cinnamon for variety. Flour can be taken for bread on a stick or ashcakes. Just mix it with water for a stiff dough and add about 1/2 tsp. white ash from the fire for leavening, then wrap it around a stick or put a patty on the coals to cook, turning once. Pancakes of flour and water were a Sunday treat at the forts.

    All our food we carry in small cloth bags.  No plastic, remember.  If you are on the trail, eat the perishable meat the first three or four days and then go to the dried meat and bacon.  If you are in a camp, dig up a circle of sod, dig a pretty deep hole where the sod was, put your food down in the hole and replace the sod on top. That frozen food will stay so nice and cool down there! Who needs a cooler! Our food lasted a week this way. Another time, on a five day ride, we just put the meat into a snow bank every night, and this was in July! We ate fresh meat all 5 days.

    Green coffee beans are browned in a frying pan if you are lucky enough to have such a luxury item, then put in a bag and pounded with a rock till fine. cook in a pot, when its done, pour some cold water in to settle the grounds and enjoy!

     Canteens are a must these days as is a water filter. This is one place where safety rules over period correctness.  An over the shoulder bag can carry your food. Our cooking utensils are a small nesting set of pots, wooden spoons, and tin cups. Sometimes we carry bowls, usually just eat out of the pot or use the lid for a plate. If we pack a  frying pan it can also double as a plate.

Sandy cooking meat on a stick.
Diamond fly in background is tied off to a tree limb.

   Bed and shelter:

     Oilcloth makes our shelter, goes over and under our bed to hold the heat in, and is the outer wrap on our bedrolls when we pack in. We made ours out of 100% Egyptian sheeting 240 thread count , which we bought as a king size sheet at the department store. This is very lightweight which is a plus when you're packing it in on your back. Two wool blankets should do you fine for the warm weather, but in winter add a buffalo robe for sure. We like to use a little buffalo epishamore underneath the blankets even in nice weather, just for added comfort. Lay out the tarp, lay blankets on top, add any clothes you need, and roll it up , tie it, and you're ready to go.Tie your burden strap to the bedroll and head out.

    If you're on a horse, the blankets folded in fourths become your saddle blankets, the oilcloth makes a tiny roll behind your saddle, and the food carry in Indian type saddle bags. These are just a tube of buckskin with a slit cut in the middle. Food goes in both ends and any extra clothes go in where the slit is. Put it right on the seat of the saddle and the clothes make extra padding on those long rides. 

     A trick for comfort is to dig a hip hole and shoulder hole. Lay down and test the holes and make adjustments before you lay out the blankets. Tying your blankets together at the foot keeps cold drafts out.

     For shelter, we set up the oilcloth diamond fly style, which is very versatile. It can be tied to a tree limb, or a pole laid in the middle and then staked out. It can even be set up like a wedge tent.


Diamond Fly set up with two poles

Two oilcloths used to make a large Wedge tent

Chris at her Fall Beaver Camp 



  See Winter Doing's for Women for more on winter wear. An extra pair of moccasins in case you get wet is a smart thing to have, as is an extra pair of socks if you wear them. When the temperature drops at night in the mountains a wool shirt helps you keep warm at night. These two things don't take up much room in your pack.

Stop and rest often and enjoy the view. Drink plenty of water. Its very easy to get dehydrated.


packin' it in on our backs

    Pumpkin Balls:
From Buffalo Bird Woman, Hidatsa...see Upper MISSOURI RIVER GARDENING

    or a quick way if you're short on time is:
    2 pkg Jiffy corn muffin mix
    1 large can pumpkin
    1 can refried beans
    mix together, it should be like stiff cookie dough, if not, add a little cornmeal or flour. Make into balls, flatten them out a little and put in the dehydrator or dry in oven on low. These keep very well on the trail. 

2 cups water  3 tblsp. oil  2 1/2 tsp salt  1 tblsp honey  2 eggs
1 cup powdered milk  1 1/2 cup wheat flour  2 2/3 cup rye flour
3 tblsp caraway seed  add 4 to 41/2 cups flour a little at a time.  Knead  till really stiff.  Roll golf ball size pieces till thin like pie crust and cut into two inch squares.  It will rise in the middle and be golden brown and crisp.

bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes.


This is my Favorite recipe for Pemmican. 

 Most others are barely palatable.                                             

 My family receipt for pemmican comes from my Cherokee Great,Great Grandma and it does not have any extra animal fat, so it's not so much a heart danger. Everyone seems to like it and it's easy to make .I make my own jerk and dried fruit/veggies so I mix up batches for events as needed.

Pound together 1/2 pound each of the following:

jerk meat (venison or buffalo)
parched corn
dried cranberries
dried apples
dried squash
sunflower seeds

the oil in the sunflower seeds acts like suet and binds the mixture
together slightly. It's great as is by the handful, washed down with
water, but it makes a good stew base with tomatoes, onions and beans
when you have a chance to cook.



 French dumplings:
As described in Ferris' journal and perfected by Wynn Ormond
flour or flour with a little cornmeal white ash for leavening, it can be seasoned with allspice, cinnamon, sugar, salt, any or all of these.
 If we had the luxury of a little baking powder and some dry milk, how much better it would be! Sigh!
    Stir together for a stiff dough, flatten out small amounts in the palms of your hands and put a spoonful of filling on the patty then fold over and squish the edges together. a little water on the edge helps it stick together. Filling can be chunks of cooked meat or for dessert use dried apples and raisins  that have been cooked with water, sugar and cinnamon. Deep fry in that oil you carried that meat in. The tin cooking pots will hold up to being used as a deep fryer, just be very careful not to spill grease into the fire! We suggest doing this over coals  with very little flame.What a treat!



 Dried pumpkin soup:
Eschionque is a Seneca historical soup of shredded meat or fish cooked with dried squash and thickened with a meal made of parched, dried corn. W.A. Ferris, in Life in the Rocky Mountains, mentions ten free Iroquois trappers with wives and children departing from Fraeb and Jarvis to hunt the tributaries of the Bear River. No, there is no mention of this soup, but then again I find few recipes listed in the mountaineers' writings.
                                      Melinda Miller


Making oilcloth
by Allen

A few issues back in the T&LR, Jim Hannon wrote of a new fly that he'd made.
Jim used a 100% cotton King size sheet. It was made of Egyptian cotton, with a 250 thread count. Jim and I are friends and so I contacted him to see how it had worked out. Jim told me that he'd had good luck with his, so I figured I'd try it out.

I procured the sheet at our local Dillards store. It turns out that 250 threat count sheets are not all that common, and worse, not cheap. Cheap is always high on the priority list, but so is weight savings, and this was my goal here.

After getting the sheet I washed it to remove any sizing, then I proceeded to undo the factory sewn hems. This is when I learned that a King size sheet is pretty big! It took a while, but finally I got it done.
Next was to get the lindseed oil and paint thinner together. Jim recommended 2 parts linseed oil to 1 part paint thinner, so that's what I went with. I got 2 quarts of linseed oil to go with 1 quart of paint thinner. It is recommended to add a little iron oxide pigment in the mix for
color. Rick Palmer provided me with some, which was a reddish brown color. I mixed the mess together in a bucket, in went the sheet. The 3 quarts of liquid was just right for that size of sheet.
Here's a major tip.....wear LONG rubber gloves when you mix up the sheet and liquid. The mixture really sticks and the pigment is highly effective. Wear clothes that you don't mind relegating to work and not social occasions!

I hung the sheet up to dry in the barn. Using 2 lines attached to the exposed rafters I draped the sheet over the lines to dry. Another tip. If you have the room, only hang the sheet from a single line. This way the liquid will drip off more evenly than mine did. Also, plan on at least a
week of drying time in warm weather.

I took the sheet/tarp along with me on our 5 day ride in 2002. I found it to be completely waterproof. The pigment was a little more red than I'd hoped, but at night it was actually harder to see than a darker brown one that Jim used.

What would I do different? I think the major difference would be, having ripped out the factory hem, I'd sew in a hand-sewn hem. In a pretty good wind storm before a rain, the corner of my sheet/tarp tore. We'd set it as a wedge tent and one staked down corner ripped a little. We worked around it, but I think that having a hem would have prevented the problem.

Overall, I'm really happy with this project. It's considerably lighter and much more waterproof than my canvas fly. These were the goals I was hoping for in the new sheet/tarp, and these goals were accomplished. I'll probably have it with me when we're out camping, so if you're interested, come take a look.

We hope these recipes and ideas were of some help.
Remember when it comes to camping Primitive.
Less is more and more is less and that is what we call doing it in Style!
                      See ya in camp
                          Jill and Sandy
with a little of the Crazy touch.

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