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Ch. 7: Grub

In no department of outdoor life does the mistaken notion of "roughing it" work more harm. I have never been able to determine why a man should be content with soggy, heavy, coarse and indigestible food when, with the same amount of trouble, the same utensils, and the same materials he can enjoy variety and palatability. To eat a well-cooked dinner it is not necessary to carry an elaborate commissary. In a later chapter I shall try to show you how to combine the simple and limited ingredients at your command into the greatest number of dishes. At present we will concern ourselves strictly with the kind and quantity of food you will wish to carry with you.

Necessarily bulk and weight are such important considerations that they will at once cut out much you would enjoy. Also condensed and desiccated foods are, in a few cases, toothsome enough to earn inclusion—and many are not. Perishability bars certain other sorts. But when all is said and done there remains an adequate list from which to choose.

However closely you confine yourself to the bare necessities, be sure to include one luxury. This is not so much to eat as for the purpose of moral support. I remember one trip in the Black Hills on which our commissary consisted quite simply of oatmeal, tea, salt, and sugar, and a single can of peaches. Of course there was game. Now if we had found ourselves confined to meat, mush, oatmeal pones, and tea, we should, after a little, have felt ourselves reduced to dull monotony, and after a little more we should have begun to long mightily for the fleshpots of Deadwood. But that can of peaches lurked in the back of our minds. By its presence we were not reduced to meat, mush, oatmeal pones, and tea. Occasionally we would discuss gravely the advisability of opening it, but I do not believe any one of us down deep in his heart meant it in sober earnest. What was the mere tickling of the palate compared with the destruction of a symbol.

Somewhat similarly I was once on a trip with an Englishman who, when we outfitted, insisted on marmalade. In vain we pointed out the fact that glass always broke. Finally we compromised on one jar, which we wrapped in the dish towel and packed in the coffee pot. For five weeks that unopened jar of marmalade traveled with us, and the Englishman was content. Then it got broken—as they always do. From that time on our friend uttered his daily growl or lament over the lack of marmalade. And, mind you, he had already gone five weeks without tasting a spoonful!

So include in the list your pet luxury. Tell yourself that you will eat it just at the psychological moment. It is a great comfort. But to our list:

Bacon is the stand-by. Get the very best you can buy, and the leanest. In a walking trip cut off the rind in order to reduce the weight.

Ham is a pleasant variety if you have room for it.

Flour.—Personally I like the whole wheat best. It bakes easier than the white, has more taste, and mixes with other things quite as well. It comes in 10-pound sacks, which makes it handy to carry.

Pancake Flour, either buckwheat or not, makes flapjacks, of course, but also bakes into excellent loaves, and is a fine base for camp cake.

Boston Brown Bread Flour is self-rising, on the principle of the flapjack flour. It makes genuine brown bread, toothsome quick biscuits with shortening, and a glorious boiled or steamed pudding. If your outfitter does not know of it, tell him it is made at San José, California.

Cornmeal.—Get the yellow. It makes good Johnny cake, puddings, fried mush, and unleavened corn pone, all of which are palatable, nourishing, and easy to make. If you have a dog with you, it is the easiest ration for between-meat seasons. A quarter cup swells up into an abundant meal for the average-sized canine.

Hominy.—The coarse sort makes a good variety.

Tapioca.—Utterly unsatisfactory over an open fire. Don't take it.

Rice.—I think rice is about the best stand-by of all. In the first place, ten pounds of rice will go farther than ten pounds of any other food; a half cup, which weighs small for its bulk, boils up into a half kettleful, a quantity ample for four people. In the second place, it contains a great percentage of nutriment, and is good stuff to travel on. In the third place, it is of that sort of palatability of which one does not tire. In the fourth place it can be served in a variety of ways: boiled plain; boiled with raisins; boiled with rolled oats; boiled, then fried; made into baked puddings; baked in gems or loaves; mixed with flapjacks. Never omit it from your list.

When you quit the trail for a day's rest.

Baking Powder.—Do not buy an unknown brand at a country store; you will find it bad for your insides after a very short use. Royal and Price's are both good.

Tea and Coffee.—Even confirmed coffee drinkers drop away from their allegiance after being out a short time. Tea seems to wear better in the woods. Personally, I never take coffee at all, unless for the benefit of some other member of the party.

Potatoes are generally out of the question, although you can often stick a small sack in your kyacks. They are very grateful when you can carry them. A desiccated article is on the market. Soaked up it takes on somewhat the consistency of rather watery mashed potatoes. It is not bad.

Onions are a luxury; but, like the potatoes, can sometimes be taken, and add largely to flavor.

Sugar.—My experience is, that one eats a great deal more sweets out of doors than at home. I suppose one uses up more fuel. In any case I have many a time run out of sugar, and only rarely brought any home Saxin, crystallose and saccharine are all excellent to relieve the weight in this respect. They come as tablets, each a little larger than the head of a pin. A tablet represents the sweetening power of a lump of sugar. Dropped in the tea, two of them will sweeten quite as well as two heaping spoonfuls and you could never tell the difference. A man could carry in his waistcoat pocket vials containing the equivalent of twenty-five pounds of sugar. Their advantage in lightening a back load is obvious.

Fats.—Lard is the poorest and least wholesome. Cottolene is better. Olive oil is best. The latter can be carried in a screw-top tin. Less of it need be used than of the others. It gives a delicious flavor to anything fried in it.

Mush.—Rolled oats are good, but do not agree with some people. Cream of Wheat and Germea are more digestible. Personally I prefer to take my cereal in the form of biscuits. It "sticks to the ribs" better. Three-quarters of a cup of cereal will make a full supply of mush for three people, leaving room for mighty little else. On the other hand, a full cup of the same cereal will make six biscuits—two apiece for our three people. In other words, the biscuits allow one to eat a third more cereal in half the bulk.

Dried Fruit.—This is another class of food almost to be classed as condensed. It is easily carried, is light, and when cooked swells considerably. Raisins lead the list, as they cook in well with any of the flour stuffs and rice, and are excellent to eat raw as a lunch. Dried figs come next. I do not mean the layer figs, but those dried round like prunes. They can be stewed, eaten raw, or cooked in puddings. Dried apples are good stewed, or soaked and fried in a little sugar. Prunes are available, raw or cooked. Peaches and apricots I do not care for, but they complete the list.

Salt and Pepper.—A little cayenne in hot water is better than whiskey for a chill.

Cinnamon.—Excellent to sprinkle on apples, rice, and puddings. A flavoring to camp cake. One small box will last a season.

Milk.—Some people like the sticky sweetened Borden milk. I think it very sickish and should much prefer to go without. The different brands of evaporated creams are palatable, but too bulky and heavy for ordinary methods of transportation. A can or so may sometimes be included, however. Abercrombie & Fitch offer a milk powder. They claim that a spoonful in water "produces a sweet wholesome milk." It may be wholesome; it certainly is sweet—but as for being milk! I should like to see the cow that would acknowledge it.

Syrup.—Mighty good on flapjacks and bread, and sometimes to be carried when animals are many. The easiest to get that tastes like anything is the "Log Cabin" maple syrup. It comes in a can of a handy shape.

Beans.—Another rich stand-by; rich in sustenance, light in weight, and compressed in bulk. Useless to carry in the mountains, where, as a friend expressed it, "all does not boil that bubbles." Unless you have all day and unlimited firewood they will not cook in a high altitude. Lima beans are easier cooked. A few chilis are nice to add to the pot by way of variety.

Pilot Bread or Hardtack.—If you use it at all—which of course must be in small quantities for emergencies—be sure to get the coarsest. It comes in several grades, and the finer crumble. The coarse, however, breaks no finer than the size of a dollar, and so is edible no matter how badly smashed. With raisins it makes a good lunch.

Butter, like milk, is a luxury I do without on a long trip. The lack is never felt after a day or two. I believe you can get it in air-tight cans.

Macaroni is bulky, but a single package goes a long way, and is both palatable and nutritious. Break it into pieces an inch or so long and stow it in a grub bag.

That finishes the list of the bulk groceries. Canned goods, in general, are better left at home. You are carrying the weight not only of the vegetable, but also of the juice and the tin. One can of tomatoes merely helps out on one meal, and occupies enough space to accommodate eight meals of rice; or enough weight to balance two dozen meals of the same vegetable. Both the space of the kyacks and the carrying power of your horse are better utilized in other directions. I assume you never will be fool enough to weight your own back with such things.

So much for common sense and theory. As a matter of practice, and if you have enough animals to avoid overloading, you will generally tuck in a can here and there. These are to be used only on great occasions, but grace mightily holidays and very tired times.

Now some canned goods make you feel you are really getting something worth while; and others do not.

Corn is probably the most satisfactory of all. It is good warmed up, made into fritters, baked into a pudding, or mixed with lima beans as succotash.

Peas on the other hand are no good. Too much water, and too little pea is the main trouble, which combines discouragingly with the fact that a mouthful of peas is not nearly as hearty or satisfying as a mouthful of corn.

Tomatoes are carried extensively, but are very bulky and heavy for what you get out of them.

Canned Fruit is sheer mad luxury. A handful of the dried article would equal a half dozen cans.

Salmon.—A pleasant and compact variation on ordinary fare. It can be eaten cold, as it comes from the can; or can be fried or baked.

Picnic Stuff, such as potted chicken, devilled ham and the rest of it are abominations.

Corned Beef is fair.

To sum up, I think that if I were to go in for canned goods, I should concentrate on corn and salmon, with one or two corned beef on the side.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter modern desiccation of foods has helped the wilderness traveler to some extent. I think I have tried about everything in this line. In the following list I shall mention those I think good, and also those particularly bad. Any not mentioned it may be implied that I do not care for myself, but am willing to admit that you may.

Canned Eggs.—The very best thing of this kind is made by the National Bakers' Egg Co., of Sioux City. It is a coarse yellow granulation and comes in one-pound screw-top tin cans. Each can contains the equivalent of five dozen eggs, and costs, I think, only $1.25. A tablespoon of the powder and two of water equals an egg. With that egg you can make omelets and scrambled eggs, which you could not possibly tell from the new-laid. Two cans, weighing two pounds, will last you all summer; and think of the delight of an occasional egg for breakfast! The German canned eggs—Hoffmeir's is sold in this country—are rather evil tasting, do not beat up light, and generally decline sullenly to cook.

Soups.—Some of the compressed soups are excellent. The main difficulty is that they are put up in flimsy paper packages, difficult to carry without breaking. Also I have found that when you take but two kettles, you are generally hungry enough to begrudge one of them to anything as thin as even the best soup. However, occasionally a hot cupful is a good thing; and I should always include a few packages. The most filling and nourishing is the German army ration called Erbswurst. It comes in a sausage-shaped package, which is an exception to the rule in that it is strongly constructed. You cut off an inch and boil it. The taste is like that of a thick bean soup. It is said to contain all the elements of nutrition.

Knorr's packages make good soup when you get hold of the right sort. We have tried them all, and have decided that they can be divided into two classes—those that taste like soup, and the dishwater brand. The former comprise pea, bean, lentil, rice, and onion; the latter, all others.

Maggi's tablets are smaller than Knorr's and rather better packed. The green pea and lentil make really delicious soup.

Bouillon capsules of all sorts I have no use for. They serve to flavor hot water, and that is about all.

Desiccated Vegetables come in tablets about four inches square and a quarter of an inch thick. A quarter of one of these tablets makes a dish for two people. You soak it several hours, then boil it. In general the results are all alike, and equally tasteless and loathsome. The most notable exception is the string beans. They come out quite like the original vegetable, both in appearance and taste. I always take some along. Enough for twenty meals could be carried in the inside pocket of your waistcoat.

Julienne, made by Prevet. A French mixture of carrots and other vegetables cut into strips and dried. When soaked and boiled it swells to its original size. A half cupful makes a meal for two. It ranks with the string beans in being thoroughly palatable. These two preparations are better than canned goods, and are much more easily carried.

Potatoes, saxin, saccharine, and crystallose I have already mentioned.

That completes the most elaborate grub list I should care to recommend. As to a quantitative list, that is a matter of considerably more elasticity. I have kept track of the exact quantity of food consumed on a great many trips, and have come to the conclusion that anything but the most tentative statements must spring from lack of experience. A man paddling a canoe, or carrying a pack all day, will eat a great deal more than would the same man sitting a horse. A trip in the clear, bracing air of the mountains arouses keener appetites than a desert journey near the borders of Mexico, and a list of supplies ample for the one would be woefully insufficient for the other. The variation is really astonishing.

Therefore the following figures must be experimented with rather cautiously. They represent an average of many of my own trips.


15 lbs. flour (includes flour, pancake flour, cornmeal in proportion to suit)
15 lbs. meat (bacon or boned ham)
8 lbs. rice
˝ lb. baking powder
1 lb. tea
2 lbs. sugar
150 saccharine tablets
8 lbs. cereal
1 lb. raisins
Salt and pepper
5 lbs. beans
3 lbs. or ˝ doz. Erbswurst
2 lbs. or ˝ doz. dried vegetables
2 lbs. dried potatoes
1 can Bakers' eggs.


15 lbs. flour supplies (flour, flapjack flour, cornmeal)
15 lbs. ham and bacon
2 lbs. hominy
4 lbs. rice
˝ lb. baking powder
1 lb. coffee
˝ lb. tea
20 lbs. potatoes
A few onions
2 lbs. sugar
150 saccharine tablets
3 lb. pail cottolene, or can olive oil
3 lbs. cream of wheat
5 lbs. mixed dried fruit
Salt, pepper, cinnamon
3 cans evaporated cream
˝ gal. syrup or honey
5 lbs. beans
Pilot bread (in flour sack)
6 cans corn
6 cans salmon
2 cans corned beef
1 can Bakers' eggs
˝ doz. Maggi's soups
˝ doz. dried vegetables—beans and Julienne.

These lists are not supposed to be "eaten down to the bone." A man cannot figure that closely. If you buy just what is included in them you will be well fed, but will probably have a little left at the end of the month. If you did not, you would probably begin to worry about the twenty-fifth day. And this does not pay. Of course if you get game and fish, you can stay out over the month.

Stewart Edward White

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