“Always there has been an adventure just around the corner--and the world is still full of corners.” Roy Chapman Andrews
As long as Ive been able to read I've been inspired by adventure writing. As a young-un I was transported by Mark Twain's tales of Tom and Huck. I keep returning to the writings of adventurers like Nessmuck and Newby. I don't know what you think about during your commuter daydreams, but me I'm a jolly-swagman just-a waltzin' matilda.
Adventure Relaxing in the footsteps of Huck and Jim. Sitting by a small fire, eating slightly carbonised comfort foods, listening to the sound of the wind in the trees. The cares of the world lulled by watching the surface of the water, and then, under a starry sky, sleeping the sleep of the self-righteous. Awaking with the dawn, unencumbered and free. Just your bag, billy & blade. A vagabond, a swagman, a gentleman of the road. Then my train gets to the station after the one I wanted and I have to go back one.
A whole 'bushcraft' movement has grown up around this daydream, so I know Im not the only one. Today we have less free time than ever, and often we're distracted by representations of what we'd like to do, rather than actually doing it.
"I'm a cube drone, and suburban dad. But really I'm a trout bum, its just that I never get to go fishing, did you see this reel I bout for when I fish XYZ river someday? Its going to be great!"
"There's a seeker born every minute, two to teach him, and one to sell him must-have accessories on the internet"
Once upon a time, what seems like a very long time ago, 'Bushcraft' was about going to the woods with a Blanket, a Billy, and a Blade. No need to buy any special kit, you could find all the gear in any suburban household. The sport was in making everything else you needed from the materials mother nature had left scattered around the campsite. The very antithesis of Glamping.
Looking online 'Bushcrafting' has become the hobby of making and collecting, vintage style gear. Many bushcrafters want to be weekend 'mountain men' all oiled leather, waxed canvas and aged brass, which is why they never seem to go far from the car, and who can blame them - that stuff is heavy.
Fun to make, nice to have and to hold. But heavy.
In contrast Ultralight Hikers have some very cool innovations, but the packs are [so far] horrible to carry over any distance, and can be a bit flimsy. Unless of course you make a pilgrimage to meet the fabled 'Yoda of packs' but that's another story for another day.
As the 20th century got under way climbers started to use new materials to build lighter kit to go further. Some of them started to leave the ropes and pitons behind and [wisely in my opinion] walk around the mountains. Adventure racing was born.
It's the 'racing' bit that concerns me, I'm with Roy Chapman-Andrews
'Camp early and start late on general principle.'
While all this was happening war changed too, modern armies became more reliant on technology and new stronger materials were early-adopted by people spending the taxpayer's money. Tactical gear [for 'low-drag-operator's' no less] is often super strong, but designed to be carried by nineteen year olds eating 2,500 calories a day, or at least collected by desk-jockeys eating 5,500 calories a day. Easier on you back, but with all its MOLLE webbing it's almost as heavy as the bushcrafters retro-tech.
In amongst this bewildering array of choices the Modern Vagabond has the option of a lot more comfort, while still carrying less weight, and volume than the vagabonds of days gone by. By the time you're properly outfitted you'll also have a lot less money than the vagabonds of days gone by. But we'll come to that later. Here's my Modern Vagabond Rig for 'wild camping' as Adventure Relaxing used to be called and, at a pinch, it'd do for overnight fishing too. I've been to fishing camps that were better catered than some people's homes, and had a better wine list than some restaurants. But this time the kit is minimum bid.
Bed, Billy and Blade.
Bedroll or Swag AKA ' yer matilda'
In Jack London books people had sturdy wooden blankets, but for the Modern Vagabond this has moved on. The US military have been issuing 'poncho winners' for years now. A poncho dinner is basically a quilted blanket with a zip around the edges so you can also use it as a sleeping bag. I like the whole 'blanket with zips / poncho liner' thing, lots of times sleeping bags aren't great to sleep under when its too warm to sleep in them and a sturdy blanket often comes in handy for things like carrying bulky but light stuff, piles of brush-wood for instance.
Kifaru the semi-custom rucksack makers from Colorado made first the Woobie then the Doobie (double insulation) poncho liners. A vast improvement on the US Army issued version.
Hill People Gear are an even smaller company who have brought some clever innovations to the campfire. They've taken a step further in modernising the poncho liner with their Mountain Serape version, with a hood.
Jerven take a different approach to the quilted poncho liners, using minimal insulation bonded to aluminium backed cloth.
Jerven call this a Fjellduken [field blanket] which doubles as a kind of portable stalking/fishing shelter. It comes with a pair of sleves and a survival flag, in a bag so waterproof you can use it as a bucket. It's gotta be the most warmth you can carry, with the company claiming at 30c difference between interior and exterior temperatures 100% water and wind proof with the reflective properties of the aluminium making up for the lack of lofty bulk. While i was researching this post I saw one on sale for less new than I paid secondhand. Get one.
As a kid I used to have old government issue 'mess tins' made of aluminium and cheaper than chips. These days the ultralight crowd have brought titanium to the campfire. So while you can get a perfectly useable pan for a couple of bucks from the supermarket or something lighter from a camping store, for true Modern Vagabond-ness this 0.5mm Titanium canteen set from Heavy Cover has to be the daddy. The bottle can do double duty as a kettle, the cup is also a mini billy with a lid to keep your brews and stews ember-free.
Not too strenuous this Adventure Relaxing lark, so leave the Rambo knife at home. A 3 inch blade should fit the bill: once you've made a few feather sticks, sliced your chorizo, and opened a packet of cookies you're about done. A Spyderco UKPK perhaps? They did an edition with a Titanium handle. Hmmmm.
So there you have it, the BB&B of the Modern Vagabond, but.....
Having saved all that weight and pack space we could squeeze in a few bits and batts, you know, things that might come in handy. You know, make the adventure more, er, relaxing.
Vargo folding Grill. Not the super efficiency of a rocket stove or a fan powered stove, but they're not much fun to sit around or make toast over. Of course 'sitting around' it an essential part of both beach fishing and the Modern Vagabond lifestyle so it should be added to the list.
This laguiole certainly puts the 'gentleman' back in gentleman-of-the-road, and its corkscrew the 'jolly' in jolly-swagman. Better for the longitudinal spreading of soft cheeses on baguettes too.
Folding saw: Small fires need small fuel. A folding saw is often more practical than an axe. For sheer lazer-like cutting Silky are the best so far, but the cheap and cheerful Laplander is more durable and about a third of the price. Less potential for drama than an axe too. Better slip one in the pack.
Kelly Kettle: There was a kickstarter for a titanium one, but poverty got the better of me. Mine is by Storm Kettle. Irish seaweed gatherers from the early 1800's used these as 'beach boilers' the little ones are not too bulky, can be carried full of water, use the kind of stick size that's synonymous with driftwood or forest litter. Giving a touch of old's-cool vagbond-ness to any beach casting session. Might as well.
Travel Towel: Douglas Adams has already explained this far far more succinctly than I can. Think of it as a pillowcase and therefore part of the swag, not really an extra item at all. Might as well.
Solar Powered Battery Pack: Developed by a blogger called Ryo, this Bootstrap Solar cell and battery pack really does the trick - just because the modern vagabond wants to get away from it all, doesn't mean you'll never want to telephonically pacify those you escaped from / left at home, post smug updates to co-workers, or inform the emergency services of the plume of flame issuing from the car park overlooking your fishing mark. Just in case.
Let's not turn this into Glamping. You don't need a lot of gear. There is no need to take a kitchen sink there's bound to be one you can forage.
Have fun out there, if you leave nothing but footprints, and take a few pieces of other peoples trash away with you, the good feeling lasts longer.
thanks for reading