How to Set Up a Primitive Camp

This was first published on Red Alerts in September of 2010.

I am a big fan of historical trekker and living history enthusiast “Le Loup” who runs the excellent re-enactment blog A Woodsrunner’s Dairy. “Primitive” survival skills are something people should try to develop if they truly believe (as I do) that a collapse will mean an eventual return to a 19th century quality of life. Many people who plan on “bugging out” should also look into the skills taught by historical trekkers who are used to traveling light and without modern conveniences, and people bugging in may find themselves on the Long Hunt in the search for food where these skills will be useful.

Le Loup made this video of him setting up a woodsrunning camp using tools that our colonial ancestors would have been familiar with. He also has photos of the finished camp posted. A camp set up like this makes a fine spring/summer and maybe fall camp depending on where you live and requires very little material carried on your person.

Le Loup is using oil cloth for the shelter, which is not the same oil cloth you find on Amazon but the more authentic cotton duck coated with Linseed oil. I found good instructions for making oil cloth here if you’re so inclined. Since you’re not going for authenticity but survival you should use what you can find that’s affordable, durable and easy to pack.

While a flint and steel set up is nice, I recommend you carry several modern ignition sources with you, including plain old Bic lighters and wooden matches. A tinder box is an excellent idea that we can take from the past, though we would use different tinder than the woodsrunners of yore. You can buy modern tinder but frankly dryer lint makes nice tinder and you should be cleaning out your trap anyway. It burns fast so many people recommend combining it with other tinder, like a Vaseline soaked cotton ball which should be carried separately, of course. If you have a first aid kit (and you should) put a little Vaseline in it and you can eliminate the cotton balls by applying it to the lint giving it a much longer burn time.

I highly recommend the books Wildwood Wisdom and Nessmuk’s Woodcraft and Camping for people looking for references on traditional, low tech wilderness skills.

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