Thursday, July 20, 2017

"to tie or strap up our packs..."

"Sappers String - what we used to have to tie or strap up our packs with, blankets, or budgets, or anything of that kind.  String about three fingers wide and then tapering off to go behind.  Made of nettles I suppose, stuff like hemp, platted, wide to go across their shoulders and then a string from there out. . . . . . . . . . Had gotten the string I think from the Indians."  William Clinkenbeard interview in the Shane portion of the Draper manuscripts.

Bedrolls!  It's one of those extremely critical items of gear for going out and doing much of anything.  Mine consists of two handwoven blankets, usually two pairs of spare moccs rolled inside, and a hemp tumpline.  While my intention of this write up is more to show the "how" of how i go about tying up the tumpline to the blankets, I feel some explanation and myth dispelling is in order too.  

The blankets -  I use two center seam blankets most of the time, both white in color, one thick but not too big with blue stripes on the ends, the other thin but larger with red stripes on the end.  If the weather is going to get below 15 to 20 degrees at night I usually add another blanket to this.  Think what you want but I'm no one blanket man.  I like to sleep at night.  When I started this game, I was scared to use white blankets.  I'd heard all sorts of horror stories of the bugs eating me alive with white.  I've found this to not be true.  The skeeters (at least around here) will find you and eat you alive at night no matter what color the blanket.  And white, for me at least, is the best choice because of the historical record.  White blankets predominate every thing I've ever seen.  
The choice of two blankets is as follows.  In warmer weather in this part of the country, bad weather can pop up at a moments notice.  The smaller blanket easily serves as a ghetto rigged lean to cover to keep hail and rain off.  The thinner blanket keeps the skeeters at bay and doesn't smother me too bad with heat.  Cooler weather means not as bad of storms, but I really enjoy having an extra thicker layer between me and and cold ground at night.  
The moccasins - A minimum of two pairs of moccs are at all times inside my bedroll.  I'd prefer about 5 extra pairs at all times, but don't always have that luxury due to lack of extra pairs laying around.  Real brain tan moccs soak up water like a sponge, and wear out about as fast chainsaw chains on rocks.  Wet worn out moccasins are not fun.  
The tumpline - My tumpline is one I twined and wove out of hemp.  It's about 21 feet long total.  The center section is equal to my three middle fingers in width and about 20" long.  That part is twined, tapers down to a diagonal finger woven portion, then braided at the tail splits.  Since I've made this tumpline I've learned a few things about proper construction, and have plans to make a newer better one very soon.  Evolving, progressing!  (it's my hope if nothing else is conveyed in these blog posts, that the take away is always trying to improve and do better)

The how -

Step 1.  I start by folding my blankets long ways (hot dog bun style!) and then cross ways (hamburger bun style!).  I lay one on top of the other, with the moccs piled up near one end, and lay the tails of my tumpline across this end with a big loop extending towards me where the burden portion is.  

Step 2.  I make one fold over the tumpline tails, with the moccasins right in front.

Step 3.  I roll the blankets up all the way to the end keeping it as compressed and tight as possible, and knock off leaves and random debris from the ground as I go.

Step 4.  I pull the tails of the tumpline, cinching it down, leaving the burden portion that goes across my chest the length of I can fit my elbow against the bedroll and my palm hits the center burden part.

Step 5.  I bring the tails back into the bedroll and go around it once, bringing them back under the initial wrap.

Step 6.  I start really cinching it down tight, and bring the tails of the tumpline into the center and cross them.

Step 7.  I come around the center portion of my bedroll with the tails, flip it over, and cross them again.

Step 8.  I come back around to my starting side of the tumpline tying by coming across the bedroll horizontally, across the ends.  

Step 9.  I do several wraps around and around the existing tumpline tie on the horizontal plane, rather than tying any knots.  I've found hemp swells with moisture and a bedroll with knots can be hard to untie after a rain storm. 


  1. Thanks for sharing brother.

  2. Great tutorial! Makes me want to rethink the way I do it.

  3. Duane SchrecengostJuly 21, 2017 at 3:11 PM

    Well put. I've been weaving tumplines and rolling bedrolls just like that since sometime in the early 90s, works well.

  4. Found this just when I needed it! Thank you.

  5. Just added this method to the three other methods I have used in the past? Will see how it holds up this weekend?