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Online Exhibit: Outdoor Life: Camping

Camping collage showing the folding landern and its placement in a camp photograph.

In Camping and Woodcraft, Horace Kephart offers suggestions for surviving in the woods with little more than a hatchet, knife, gun, and waterproof matches. However this information is primarily included for readers who become lost. Kephart himself spent a lifetime seeking new ways to make life outdoors more comfortable through improved equipment, provisions, and techniques. As his career in outdoor writing progressed, Kephart was frequently asked to test and review equipment. Ultimately, Kephart helped design some equipment, including the sheath knife that bears his name.

Folding lantern.View rotating image of folding lantern

Canteen and mess kit.View rotating image of canteen and mess kit

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Bed roll and air mattress.From Camping and Woodcraft, vol. 1, pages 25-26:

It is great fun, in the long winter evenings, to sort over your beloved duffel, to make and fit up the little boxes and hold-alls, in which everything has its proper place, to contrive new wrinkles that nobody but yourself has the gigantic brain to conceive, to concoct mysterious dopes that fill you house with unsanctimonious smells, to fish around for materials, in odd corners where you have no business, and, generally, to set the female members of the household buzzing around in curiosity, disapproval, and sundry other states of mind.

To be sure, even through 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 problems of how to save weight and bulk without sacrifice of utility. All thoroughbred campers do this as regularly as the birds come back in the 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.

Letter from Kpehart to "Berge" on February 27, 1923.

Feb. 27, 1923.

My dear Berge:-

I have been bedeviled nearly to death by overwork and loss of sleep. First, I had a job of writing that I had agreed to finish for the publisher by March 1st, though it should have taken a month longer. That meant full speed, high pressure, overtime and neglect of everything else. Then old lady Cooper, at the hotel, got very sick; there was no trained nurse; they depended on me; and I was called at all hours of the day and night. She is still living, but probably will soon pass away.
So this is why I have been behindhand with your list.

I inclose herewith a partial list, and return yours. The list I have made includes only the camping equipment; but I believe it to be quite worth while.

The problem has been a new one. It is one thing to suggest an outfit for a particular region, season and purpose; but something else to design a universal kit, standardized, for any and all countries and conditions. I believe this comes as near it as you will get.

The tent is a kind that is easiest and quickest of all to set up. One man can do it alone in five minutes, anywhere, in the woods or on the desert, day or night. It uses only one pole, a jointed one of short sections. It is large enough to provide roomy quarters for two men in which they can spend a rainy day in comfort, or will sleep a party of four. There is enough headroom to stand up and dress in. It will shed any rain and will not blow down in any wind. When camp is made where poles are procurable, it can be set up on a tripod outside, using the rope, and there will be no center pole in the way at all. Or, if there happens to be a tree limb handy overhead, just throw the rope over the limb and hoist up taut, after pegging down the tent bottom, and make the rope fast. A 7x7x7 ft. tent of same design would have left very little headroom, would only sleep two, and would have been only 3½ lbs. Lighter, including poles and all. The material of this tent is excellent and will last for years. It is proof against mildew as well as rain.

I have specified bedding for only one man. The other fellow is supposed to supply his own. The air mattress is a luxury that will sure pay its freight. It simplifies bed making and absolutely ensures a soft, perfectly dry bed for your weary bones, no matter where you camp-- on bare earth, sand, rocks, wet ground, anywhere-- without skirmishing around in the wet or dark for grass or boughs to make a bed with. Its weight may seem to much for a canoeing trip; but half of that weight would otherwise have been taken by a ground cloth or other waterproof, and the other 5 lbs. I would rather subtract from customary superfluities than from every night's rest.

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