Posts Tagged ‘Camp Craft’

Newly published Warren H. Miller Biography!

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

David Wescott just published a biography of Warren Hastings Miller here, which is certainly the best to date (I’m actually not aware of a more complete biography of Miller).  Wescott obtained much of the information, and at least one never before published photo of the man, from Warren Miller, Jr! That’s right – his youngest son! The new biography gives us a much more complete picture of Miller’s life and experiences. It also straightened out some common and long-held misconceptions that I (and others) have had about him. I have always assumed that one particular person shown in several photographs in Camp Craft was Miller when in fact; it was actually famed outfitter David T. Abercrombie. Wescott’s new biography has several photographs of Miller. Some are familiar images from the books and some I’ve never seen. But now we know what he looked like (I have edited my recent post on Miller’s books, Camp Craft and Camping Out, accordingly).  Thanks go to David Wescott for highlighting the life of a very important figure in Woodcraft literature.

A Review of Two Books by Warren H. “cap” Miller ~ Camp Craft and Camping out

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

Warren “Cap” Miller’s Camping Out and Camp Craft are some of the best “how-to” books on Camping.

Camp Craft: Modern Practice and Equipment (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915) and Camping Out(Geo. H. Doran Company, NY, 1917-1918) are two of my favorite “how-to” camping books, written by Warren Hastings “Cap” Miller (1876-1960).  Miller is best known today for being the founding editor of Field and Stream magazine during the early years of the 20th Century.   Though neither Camp Craft or Camping Out are still in print, they can be found on eBay.  Note however, that prices for good copies have risen dramatically over the past couple of years.  (Here’s a heads-up for David Wescott and Steve Watts – please include some of Miller’s photos and illustrations in at least one of the seven volumes of your upcoming Wescott and Watts Classic Camping Field Guides book series.)  If you can’t find one or both of the books, they are also available in pdf format here:

Camp Craft: http://www.archive.org/details/campcraftmodernp00millrich

Camping Out: http://www.archive.org/details/campingout00mill

It is an interesting fact that the outdoor writers of the woodcraft period were a small, close knit bunch and these two books illustrate that. The introduction to Camp Craftwas written by Ernest Thompson Seton.  The book also prominently featured a photograph of Dan Beard awarding a first prize to the Miller designed Forester tent, a very popular lightweight two-person shelter of the day.  Outfitter David T. Abercrombie, of Abercrombie & Fitch fame, was a regular camping companion of Millers.  At the time, Abercrombie was the largest distributor and manufacturer of the finest camping equipment available, beginning in 1892 until his death in 1931.  Because of their association, many photos in Camp Craft feature Abercrombie (he is in the photo with Dan Beard, on the far right).  Camping Out casually describes an outing made with Edward “Eddie” Breck, an enthusiastic camper who authored his own woodcraft book (The Way of the Woods, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, The Knickerbocker Press, NY and London, 1908).

In Camp Craft, Miller stated that he’d camped on average, four times a year for the previous 27 years. However, Miller’s trips were often much longer than campers of today, averaging six weeks!.  Miller had a degree in mechanical engineering and was an inveterate tinkerer who was generally dissatisfied with much of the camping equipment of his day.  Being in the field in all seasons, temperatures and conditions, Miller had ample opportunity to design and test equipment of his own design.  With his background in engineering, Miller had the know-how to turn his progressive ideas of camping equipment into reality.  Though he was limited to the technology of the day, Miller did not adopt the gear he used simply out of tradition.  He designed, crafted, sewed, and experimented with tents, packs, sleeping bags and other gear that were quite advanced compared to what was then available.  One of his tent designs, inspired by an Inuit shelter he’d seen (his “Esquimaux” tent), was a winter tent created from joining a small “A” tent to one side of a 6’x6’ ft. square tepee.  It would sleep five adults and could be outfitted with a 2 1/4 lb., 28 gauge steel stove for cold weather use.  The Esquimaux tent weighed just six pounds!  In the summer, the small “A” tent could be detached and used separately.  Such a tent would be considered a remarkable shelter today.  Another example, while  most woodcraft writers of the day mentioned only Hudson Bay  point blankets as camp bedding, Miler included an entire chapter to “Eliminating the Blanket” in Camp Craft.  He hated the bulk of blankets and favored a sleeping bag/pack contraption he designed in order to dramatically reduce bulk.  Miller is a product of his time and of course his books reflect that (though his belief that women could and should go camping was more progressive than some), yet, his focus on improvising, creating or otherwise improving equipment makes both books seem more modern than many of those written by his peers.

Both books are written in a very personal style as if Cap was having a conversation with you at dinner or around the campfire.  He tells you stories of past trips with fast friends, of canoeing and camping in places you’d like to go, and all the while providing great detail about every item of equipment or technique he thinks important.   His books were also lavishly illustrated with many photographs and illustrations.  All in all, I think Cap Miller’s books are among the best ever written on woodcraft and traditional camping.  Do yourself a favor and read Camp Craft and Camping Out.

The Improved Nomad Woodstove

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

A couple of years ago I read Paul Van Horn’s online article on his Nomad stove.  I like Paul Van Horn.  I first discovered his writing while developing a school curriculum that focused on human reliance on natural resources for grad school.  The project led to my current interest (obsession??) in traditional woodcraft skills.

Paul’s stove is a high performance version of the old “hobo” or tin-can stoves, popular with woodcrafters a half-century ago.  Both Ellsworth Jaeger and Bernard S. Mason described tin-can stoves in their books “Wildwood Wisdom” and “Woodcraft“, respectively –

 

Tin Can Kitchens from Wildwood Wisdom by Ellsworth Jaeger (1945)

 

Tin-Can Stoves and Bakers from Woodcraft by Bernard S. Mason (1939)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improved Nomad Stove. Note side opening for loading firewood, fresh air vents at the bottom of the can, cooking grate from removable brass rod and lower set of holes to adjust the grate for windy conditions.

Looking into the mouth of the Improved Nomad Stove. The ventilated raised floor can be seen underneath the pot supports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Paul Van Horn, “the pot must be of a size that allows it to sit down inside the stove with a minimum of ¾” clearance between the sides and the wall of the stove on all sides.  A pot that is too large will result in a smoky, sooty burn.”  I just could not find the right pot.  Van Horn used a tin can but reading Camp Craft by Warren H. Miller (1918), one of my very favorite authors, proved that very well made aluminum camp cookware was available around the turn of the century.  Desiring a light aluminum cook pot of the right size, I searched for over a year until I found this 5-cup Bush Pot at Ben’s Backwoods.  It is a smaller version of the Mors Kochanski Bush Pot.  The new pot fit perfectly!  Made from dark anodized aluminum, it’s fitted with a very snug lid with a lift handle and like the Kochanski pot features a pour spout and folding handles.  The pot comes with a bail kit that the owner may attach if they so desire  Sadly, the pot will not fit into the paint can with the bail attached.

To ready the stove for use, I ignited a fire in it to burn the paint off the inside of the can and underside of the lid.  WOW! Does this stove burn hot!  One thing I quickly learned was to have a large pile of twigs handy because the stove will consume them rapidly.

 

Burning the paint out of the Improved Nomad Woodstove

 

After removing the paint, I rubbed the interior and exterior of the can with vegetable oil and heated it over a very low flame on on my range, “seasoning” it as you would a dutch oven to produce a protective rustproof coating.   Then I sewed up a storage sack from pre-shrunk cotton muslin that I coated with Filson Oil Finish Wax.

 

 

I pack the stove away by sliding the brass rods into spaces between the inside of the can and the interior floor.  Then, in goes the bush pot, wrapped in a flour-sack dish towel. with a pair of deerskin gloves packed inside.  The pot lifter fits down between pot and stove can and the lid is pressed on.  Finally, the stove is placed into the stuff sack and is ready for the trail!

 

Packed for the Trail

 

I like this stove alot.  It was easy to make, performs very well and is a versatile cooker – producing boiling water to pancakes and fried eggs.  I’ve been very pleased with how it turned out and now share it with the fraternity of outers that enjoy spending time under the stars.