Victorian Camping Gear : A By No Means Exhaustive List

This week Frank’s cupboard contains some essential equipment for the Victorian camping enthusiast…

For convenience the following list is inserted here. It is condensed from a number of notes made for trips of all sorts, except boating and horseback-riding. It is by no means exhaustive… Be careful not to be led astray by it into overloading yourself, or filling your camp with useless luggage. Be sure to remember this.

Axe (in cover). Axle-grease. Bacon. Barometer (pocket). Bean-pot. Beans (in bag). Beef (dried). Beeswax. Bible. Blacking and brush. Blankets. Boxes. Bread for lunch. Brogans (oiled). Broom. Butter-dish and cover. Canned goods. Chalk. Cheese. Clothes-brush. Cod-line. Coffee and pot. Comb. Compass. Condensed milk. Cups. Currycomb. Dates. Dippers. Dishes. Dish-towels. Drawers. Dried fruits. Dutch oven. Envelopes. Figs. Firkin. Fishing-tackle. Flour (prepared). Frying-pan. Guide-book. Half-barrel. Halter. Hammer. Hard-bread. Harness (examine!). Hatchet. Haversack. Ink (portable bottle). Knives (sheath, table, pocket and butcher). Lemons. Liniment. Lunch for day or two. Maps. Matches and safe. Marline. Meal (in bag). Meal-bag. Medicines. Milk-can. Molasses. Money (“change”). Monkey-wrench. Mosquito-bar. Mustard and pot. Nails. Neat’s-foot oil. Night-shirt. Oatmeal. Oil-can. Opera-glass. Overcoat. Padlock and key. Pails. Paper. Paper collars. Pens. Pepper. Pickles. Pins. Portfolio. Postage stamps. Postal cards. Rope. Rubber blanket. Rubber coat. Rubber boots. Sail-needle. Salt. Salt fish. Salt pork. Salve. Saw. Shingles (for plates). Shirts. Shoes and strings. Slippers. Soap. Song-book. Spade. Spoons. Stove (utensils in bags). Sugar. Tea. Tents. Tent poles. Tent pins. Tooth-brush. Towels. Twine. Vinegar. Watch and key.

John M Gould, How To Camp Out (1877)

Gould has winnowed out some of the items deemed essential earlier in the century. As Anne Fadiman records in Ex Libris : Confessions Of A Common Reader (1998):

Who but an Englishman, the legendary Sir John Franklin, could have managed to die of starvation and scurvy along with all 129 of his men in a region of the Canadian Arctic whose game had supported an Eskimo colony for centuries? When the corpses of some of Franklin’s officers and crew were later discovered, miles from their ships, the men were found to have left behind their guns but to have lugged such essentials as monogrammed silver cutlery, a backgammon board, a cigar case, a clothes brush, a tin of button polish, and a copy of The Vicar Of Wakefield. These men may have been incompetent bunglers, but, by God, they were gentlemen.


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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

8 thoughts on “Victorian Camping Gear : A By No Means Exhaustive List

  1. Worm
    October 14, 2011 at 08:45

    also to add to the list: large extending mahogany dining table and a range of diseases deadly to the indigenous folk

    October 14, 2011 at 10:10

    I was ever of the opinion that, in all things tented, the most essential aid to comfort was the company of a good woman. Unfortunately in those austere post war days not many of the little darlings were interested in spending the night in a reeking ex army bell tent with bugs in their hair and the scent of cow dung in the air.

    October 14, 2011 at 10:13

    Did I really just say ‘little darlings’, my god, forgive me Germaine, I know not what I say.

      John Halliwell
      October 14, 2011 at 10:37

      Malty, I felt you’d stabbed yourself with a tent peg when you referred to a ‘good woman’.

        James Hamilton
        October 14, 2011 at 12:08


          October 14, 2011 at 12:52

          Plus one, might as well, the Dabblers insist.

    October 14, 2011 at 13:19

    “A tin of button polish”? Even Lakeland would baulk at so superfluous a product these days.

    And I note that Gould recommends both chalk and cheese, which sounds like a punchline but I can’t quite work it up into a gag… perhaps someone else can.

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