Late last year I began researching and buying new/better gear and techiques for light/ultralight camping and suddenly last night I had a thought.. cowboys.. haha


every western to date shows cowboys riding off with their gear loaded on the back of a horse.. but what gear did they pack? im sure a lot of the items would be found on any modern backpackers checklist but Im just interested to see what they would have considered back then. 

Then of course my mind goes to the Aboriginal people, what items do they have to survive? they are the true ultralight civilazation they would know better than most right?


Just my random thought of the day, could make a neat piece for AoM.

Tags: camping, packing, ultralight

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Bed roll, blanket, tarp, fire starting equipment (flint and steel), water, food of some sort, poncho/slicker, hatchet, knife, utinsels (spoon most likely), ammo, cast iron frying pan.

I think you need to hit the history books or at the very least do some YouTubeing . I have no knowledge of what cowboys carried other than using movies as a reference , but what I have gleaned over the years is that they did it rough and mostly under prepared . Aboriginals were the ultimate recyclers , they were not materialistic like we are and put no value on objects . Food and shelter were there only concerns and they had them down pat , from using spears , knowing what berries to eat and the ones that will poison fish in a brook just enough to stun them for capture , and then there's the food that would make you gag at the thought of eating .

Don't forget cowboys who knew they were off for a specific amount of time often had a separate wagon for food and supplies (and stove/tents) and burden animals for long treks. 

Check out the George W. Sears writings under the name "Nessmuk" for some turn of the century woodcraft and camping gear advice, including aboriginal advice. Also Horace Kephart's books on Camping. 

I hope you like pinole. 

Cowboys were the original minimalists.  Check out horse packing forums and sites and you'll get lots of ideas of what the original cowboy used do lug.  If it didn't fit in his bedroll, it didn't come along.

Here's a nice little article I enjoyed reading.

Cowboys and many other traveling pioneers had the great luxury of a chuck wagon to carry their food and shelter. 

Cowboy clothes were designed to be changed seasonally.  A good bed roll and heavy coat or rain slicker depending on season.  Jerky, hard tack, and probably salt and coffee.  A good cowboy hat can make sun, rain, snow, and cold a lot more bearable.  Canteen.  Guns, ammo, and a knife. 

You can find some very traditional and functional camping cookware at:  or

Hard tack recipe:

Apparently there are a lot of ho

Some Aboriginal groups in Australia had only 5 artifacts in their culture. A mobile hunter gatherer culture pushes people to have few possessions. 

Sometimes the questions is what you can do without, that's how people lived for a huge part of human history.

   Anyone going any distance was likely to have along, in addition to the items already mentioned, arbuckle coffee and a bottle of "tarantula juice". The latter was ostensibly for the disinfection of wounds as well as recreational consumption.  Depending on what era you're speaking of, there might be more or less kit required to take proper care of a firearm in the field. Your cap and ball weapons being a bit more finicky when filthy than later cartridge models.  Cowboys also often carried a sort of tar smear with them on the range, to cover wounds on cattle or horses and help fend off blowflies.

    As far as minimalist goes, you'd be hard pressed to top the Apache. When on spiritual or manhood tests, a young man would set off afoot, with only a knife and a breechclout.  That's traveling light!

the meat would probably have been dried and prepared a bit like the south african biltong - which would help preserve it. Though I doubt the horse sweat helped. :)

Every western to date either shows guys who are "riding the grub line" or on a cattle drive, where someone else is carting virtually all the food and virtually all their gear.  Going any distance without a chuckwagon, you packed the chuck box and "threw the diamond hitch" to lash your stuff to the pack animal(s).  Saw an article several decades back that showed how the US Army cavalry packed a trooper's mount for three days (excluding weapons). 

Most of the real old timers used pack animals to carry the vast majority of their food and equpment.  My grandfather and great uncle were doing this for their annual deer hunting trip up to the the early 1930s.

   Don't forget the extra salt, in case we have to eat horse flesh!

There is a great group called the Coalition of Historic Trekkers, and their membership does for fun what you want to do. Lots of gear lists, suppliers, etc. If you are not into carrying reenactor gear, you can easily borrow their tips and ideas to supplant modern stuff with.



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