Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why carry so much?

In the RevWar, we call it "Williamsburg on Wheels." In the F&I it's "Quebec en derouine". ("en deroine" is a French term for a travelling trader, hence carrying a lot of goods.)

They are they people that take so much gear to an event that it takes up their entire vehicle (sometimes a trailer, too) and require a small army to set up camp. Granted, I don't like to be uncomfortable, but it does get downright silly. Dining flys, chairs, tables, stoves, 40lbs of iron fireplace tools, huge tents, trunks...

The worst part? Noone we portray carried all this crap. Not even the officers. I love walking up to a re-enactor as he is speaking about his persona of a simple farmer while standing in front of $4,000 worth of camp gear. This is one of the reasons that people new to the hobby think it's so damned expensive (it isn't exactly cheap, but it's not that bad.)

A good rule of thumb is, "If the soldier/militiaman couldn't carry it on his back, you don't need it."

For most of us portraying militia/irregulars during the AWI, the following is a good start:

Hat: $25 blank, finish to suit yourself.
Trousers: $90. Linen or tow cloth.
Linen shirt: $35
Workmen's jacket/Sleeved weskit: $140-175. Linen, fustian or wool.
Mocassins: $40 worth of deer/moose hide will get you enough to make 3-4 pairs.

Firelock: $600-? Depends on what you get. An India-made Brown Bess is at the low end of the price spectrum and will work well as a starter gun. Custom fowlers (which are generally more appropriate) run in excess of $1000, although you can find a used piece once in a while.

Cartridge box: $50-100

Blanket: $40 for a simple white, surplus British army blanket.

Knapsack or snapsack: $45-100. Just to carry stuff in.

Tumpline: An inexpensive tumpline/blanket sling can be made from $20 worth of hemp webbing.

Wood bowl, folding knife and horn spoon: Around $40 total.

Canteen: Various options, $35-75.

With these basics, you can sleep, eat and fight. Everything after that is just gravy. Most units have loaner tents/shelters, some even have loaner guns and clothing.


  1. Agreed. Many people complain about the cost of this hobby, and it always bugs me. Sure, it's not cheap, but really...if you're doing it right, it's actually cheaper than doing it wrong. My WWII Soviet unit has a policy of "if you can't carry it, you can't have it" and I think that's a policy that should exist at 18th century events as well, because really...you wouldn't have had it! Because of our policy, said Soviet unit has a "startup cost" of about $400 for a field-ready impression. You could add about $150 of stuff to that if you wanted, but really, it's unnecessary miscellany that someone else in the unit probably already has that you can borrow (and borrowing stuff is authentic! who'da thunk?). So, by restricting our members to only bringing what they can carry, they end up buying less gear, and the hobby ends up being cheaper.

    That was a really long explanation, but the short answer is: I agree.

  2. Oh,I agree wholeheartedly! As you guys have said,if you can't carry it,you can't take it.
    But,tell my wife that!

    I love the idea of a simple bedroll.Not even a Tumpline,just wear it over your shoulder.
    I've seen many a gorgeous camp,some that should be in "Better Encampments and Gardens" and I applaud there caring about a good show.
    But Egads! How many wagons and horse did that take to haul!?

  3. Nice to hear someone else say this besides myself!

    I carry my bedroll and a few small things in it, cup, trencher etc, a few small bags of trail food that roll up in the pack... and then as a doctor, I carry my tools. They all fit in a small blue box that I can carry.

    I don't own a tent or fly or tables or chairs... I sleep on the ground or in cabins and demonstrate where ever is handy.