Housekeeping in the Summer Camp
From Sunset Magazine, May 1902
“Camping in California today is as primitive or asluxurious, as carefree or as arduous, as nomadic or as stationaryas one chooses to make it. One family, I know, has all the comfortsof an opulent home transferred to a forest plot they own, andthere, for two months in summer, they rest in what they are pleasedto style their camp. With the same trained service and the samechoice menu that they enjoy during the ten months of city life,they only pretensions they can make to the title are the canvastents that are substituted for permanent walls and the absence ofelaborate dress.
“Another family goes to the ocean beach and rents a tentfurnished for housekeeping. With as good a market as at home, thecamping consists of the crowded quarters and the freedom from theregular housework that a comfortable home entails. …
“It is with none of these that this article proposes to deal,but with the most primitive campers, or we might even call themtrampers. They have some things in common with those whoperegrinate in wagons, as, for instance, food supplies and wearingapparel; and they lack some of the conveniences theses may carry;but they have a freedom of range that compensates for any loss ofcomforts a vehicle may convey.
“Seeking to explore a region not yet under the dominion of man,the most independent way is afoot with pack horses, or betterstill, with burros. The latter do not require food carried for themand keep up their strength on any kind of pasturage, perverselypreferring thistles to timothy. The fewer the animals, the less thecare, so it is essential to study ahead the details and have aslittle baggage as possible. …
“From several summers’ experience, we have learned to manage thehousekeeping department of the camp with as little labor and asmuch comfort as possible. Even after we have made writtenarrangements with some stock owner for pack animals at our railroadterminus, one of our party goes on a day ahead to make sure thateverything is ready. Then, when the rest of the company arrives, hehas the animals ready for the start. If a long railroad journey hasbeen taken and there is a decent inn at the station, it is wise torest a night before commencing the tramp. It is wiser still toleave here a respectable suit of clothes in which to return tocivilization, when the outing is over.
[ The camp “costume” | top ]
“For the trip one wants to be as unhampered by clothes aspossible. Men always seem to know what to wear; or at least, theynever confess that they are uncomfortable; but all women have notlearned the lesson yet.
“An active woman can get along well for a month’s tramp with twoshort skirts and one jacket of some stout material, as corduroy ordenim; bloomers and leggins of the same goods, or at least the samecolor; strong shoes, not too heavy, but with a thick solecontaining Hungarian nails, for tramping, and a lighter pair torest one’s feet in camp; a sunbonnet and a soft canvas hat; a fewdarkish shirt waists of cotton crepe which will wash easily and notneed ironing; some stout gloves; two changes of underwear; oneflannelette nightgown, and a golf cape, or a heavy shawl. She willneed hairpins galore to keep tidy and all the necessities of aworkbag. Her costume will look charming at the start; but on thereturn, it takes all the courage of her new-gained health to facethe little railroad town before she can reach the hotel, with itsbath and her garb of civilization. …
“Canvas bags are best for carrying things. They can be easilybalanced on the pack animal and keep the dust out. Packing thehorse in an art in itself, to get the sides evenly balanced and theload so firmly secured that it will not drag behind his tail as heascends, no slip over his ears as he climbs down the mountain.
[ Setting up | top]
“The permanent camp must be located near both wood and water,and that, in the mountains, usually means beside a stream that hasa beautiful environment.
“The culinary department is first arranged. The stove is soonput up, just two pieces of iron long enough to support between themseveral iron kettles. At the ends, each has jointed on a shorterpiece of iron, which terminates in a sharp point. When in use, thepoints are driven into the ground and the irons stand steady. Whentraveling, the joints are folded back and the pair of irons fitsinto a small bag.
“For cooking, one needs at least three iron pots, two fryingpans, a strong coffee pot and a good-sized tin dishpan. Other pansadd to the comfort, but they can be dispensed with. For dishes, thewhite enamel ware are the best. A place, cup and saucer for eachperson is sufficient, as in camping the primitive style of servingfrom the cooking vessels is preserved. … For table napkins, wehemmed some old cotton curtains and find them easily washed andquite tidy looking without ironing. Our dish towels, we considersuperior to the ordinary articles which lose their whitenesswithout regular laundrying. Ours are made of an ecru flannelette,the easiest thing in the world to wash in the stream, and neveroffending with a sense of lost cleanliness. Two of these we used inlieu of a tablecloth.
“The table depends upon the environment. Boulders do very well,but with the ax and some nails the men can manufacture one out ofthe virgin forest, and the ensuing comfort repays the labor.Stools, for meal time, can be fashioned out of old logs or ofrocks; when merely resting, one reclines on the bosom of MotherEarth who strengthens us today as did Antaes of old.
“A cool corner is chosen as a cupboard and the provisions arearranged for convenience and for security against our littlebrothers of the woods. On these provisions the success of the tripdepends, for no one can be benefited by an outing withoutsustaining food. At the same time, one relishes food day after daythat he could not digest in a sedentary city life. A hearty meal ismade of two or three dishes, and one wonders at the waste of timeover an ordinary civilized course dinner.
1902 grocery list: hard tack, chocolate, macaroni andmore>
[ Peace descends | top ]
“After the food, the sleeping arrangements need most attentionto secure a successful trip. Some prefer sleeping-bags; others,plain blankets and comforters which they can spread out to catchthe sun’s rays. The bags are made of either blankets or comfortersfolded in two and sewed together all around but on part of oneside, which is tied together with tapes. They are covered withrubber, oilcloth, canvas or denim. If the latter is used, an extrasquare of tarpaulin should be taken for protection in rain. A pieceof canvas for a dressing-room for the women adds a great deal ofcomfort with comparatively little extra weight to the baggage.
“At the permanent camp, if pine or fir trees are handy, a mostdelightful bed can be made of their soft aromatic boughs. If not,the earth is a warm support and not hard when one gets used to it.The bed must be laid on a level spot, for one experience on asloping ground with its concomitant nightmare of dizzy precipices,is sufficient lesson.
“When retiring time comes, those with sleeping-bags simply creepinto the center of their two, three or four folds of blankets, asthe case may be, and settle down for the night, with perhaps a capeor a shawl as a pillow. The sun worshippers spread out theircomforters and them draw their blankets over them, always convincethat they must be the most comfortable. All face the mysteriousstars, and a peace descends on the camp and permeates to the heartof each watcher. Every pulsation brings calm; and if such a thingas nerves ever existed, they are softly lulled into quiescence.
“With long tramps by day to inspiring outlooks, with nutritiousfood in sufficient quantity, with soft mountain water for themorning sponge, with warm bedding for the cool of night, and withever the protecting stars to induce recuperative slumber, it islittle wonder that a month’s trip, or even a fortnight’s outing,will reawaken in one the old enthusiasm for the beauty of life.
Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever; Do noble things, not dream them, all day long; And so make life, death, and that vast forever One grand sweet song.
― Charles Kingsley