Horace Kephart was born in Pennsylvania in 1862 and found his way to Hazel Creek in western North Carolina (later to become part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Kephart campaigned for and is considered one of the fathers of the national park. He helped plot the route of the Appalachian Trail through the Smokies. Mount Kephart was named in his honor two months before his death in an auto accident in 1931.
A series of articles he wrote for Field and Stream magazine on outdoor living were collected into Camping and Woodcraft first published in 1906. Camp Cookery followed in 1910.
Kephart’s works, written with a healthy dose of good humor, have remained in print for more than a century. Although much of the specific advice is somewhat outdated Kephart’s books are a great read and there’s plenty of practical information that still rings true.
There are a number of options for getting a copy of Camping and Woodcraft – or Camp Cookery
From The Book of Camping and Woodcraft
On Camping Gear:
The art of going ” light but right ” is hard to learn. I never knew a camper who did not burden himself, at first, with a lot of kickshaws that he did not need in the woods; nor one who, if he learned anything, did not soon begin to weed them out; nor even a veteran who ever quite attained his own ideal of lightness and serviceability.
It is not to be supposed that experienced travelers will agree with me all around in matters of equipment. Every old camper has his own notions about such things, and all of us are apt to be a bit dogmatic.
As Richard Harding Davis says, ” The same article that one declares is the most essential to his comfort, health, and happiness is the very first thing that another will throw into the trail. A man’s outfit is a matter which seems to touch his private honor. I have heard veterans sitting around a camp-fire proclaim the superiority of their kits with a jealousy, loyalty, and enthusiasm they would not exhibit for the flesh of their flesh and the bone of their bone. On a campaign you may attack a man’s courage, the flag he serves, the newspaper for which he works, his intelligence, or his camp manners, and he will Ignore you ; but If you criticize his patent water-bottle he will fall upon you with both fists.”
To be sure, even though a man rigs up his own outfit, he never gets it quite to suit him. Every season sees the downfall of some cherished scheme, the failure of some fond contrivance. Every winter sees you again fussing over your kit, altering this, substituting that, and flogging your wits with the same old problem of how to save weight and bulk without sacrifice of utility.
All thoroughbred campers do this as regularly as the birds come back in spring, and their kind has been doing it since the world began. It is good for us. If some misguided genius should invent a camping equipment that nobody could find fault with, half our pleasure in life would be swept away.
The charm of nomadic life Is Its freedom from care, its unrestrained liberty of action, and the proud self-reliance of one who is absolutely his own master, free to follow his bent in his own way, and who cheerfully, in turn, suffers the penalties that nature visits upon him for every slip of mind or bungling of his hand. Carrying with him, as he does, in a few small bundles, all that he needs to provide food and shelter In any land, habited or uninhabited, the camper Is lord of himself and of his surroundings.
Yet there are other qualities in a good camp-mate that are rarer than fortitude and endurance. Chief of these is a love of Nature for her own sake — not the “put on” kind that expresses itself in gushy sentimentalism, but that pure, intense, though ordinarily mute affection which finds pleasure in her companionship and needs none other. As Olive Shreiner says: ” It is not he who praises Nature, but he who lies continually on her breast and is satisfied, who is actually united to her.”
The way to learn chopping is to go slow, give all your attention to making every blow tell just where it is needed, and don’t strike too hard.
As a rule, good camp sites are not found along the beaten road. … it is best to avoid such a place: for one thing, you don’t want to be bothered with interlopers, and for another, the previous occupants will have stripped the neighborhood of good kindling and down wood, and may have left a legacy of rubbish and fleas.
From Camp Cookery
There is an old school of campers who affect to scorn such things. “We take nothing with us,” they say, “but pork, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and coffee — our guns and rods furnish us variety.” This sounds sturdy, but there is a deal of humbug in it… Food that palls is bad food — worse in camp than anywhere else, for you can’t escape to a restaurant.
On the Cook Kit
Men who must travel with very light equipment should cut out all but the absolutely essential utensils, and have them strong enough for hard service. Ideal outfitting is to have what we want, when we want it, and never to be bothered with anything else.
The success of outdoor cookery depends largely upon how the fire is built and how it is managed. A camper is known by his fire. It is quite impossible to prepare a good meal over a higgledy-piggledy heap of smoking chunks, a fierce blaze, or a great bed of coals that will warp iron and melt everything else.
A man acting without system or forethought, in even so simple a matter as this, can waste an hour in pottering over smoky mulch, or blister ing himself before a bonfire, and it will be an ill mess of half-burned stuff that he serves in the end.
To light a match in the wind, face the wind. Cup your hands, with their backs toward the wind, and hold the match with its head pointing to ward the rear of the cup — i. e., toward the wind. Remove the right hand just long enough to strike the match on something very close by; then in stantly resume the former position. The flame will run up the match stick, instead of being blown away from it, and so will have something to fee
Walter Underwood says
September 8, 2012 was the 150th anniversary of Horace Kephart’s birth.
Walter Underwood says
The edition from Tennessee University Press is very good, I’ve read most of the way through that.
He has a lot in common with today’s lightweight campers. He lists the weights of things and talks about the skills needed to use them. I’m impressed by some of the lightweight tents available in his day.
He is also tremendously quotable. My favorite:
“This is the hardest problem in outfitting. To equip a pedestrian with shelter, bedding, utensils, food, and other necessities, in a pack so light and small that he can carry it without overstrain, is a fine art.”
And if you want to know how to set up a wall tent for heavy weather, Kephart is your man.
I don’t know if it still exists, but there was a named Boy Scout troop (no number), the Horace Kephart Troop. They erected a marker at his last campsite.