If there was a “standard” League of Bushmen shelter out there, this would be the closest thing to it. Made from 100% cotton japara, it is a larger-than-hootchie-sized tarp which can be pitched in any number of configurations. Lighter than canvas, and with no nylon it’s the perfect old-style bushman’s shelter. Makes a great swag cover, hammock tarp or hootchie. This is the only japara tarp available today.
Made from 100% japara cotton like the TRG japara tarp, this is an old-fashioned tent with some modern features such as zip-up doors and insect screened vents. Floorless, this tent is meant to be used with a separate groundsheet. This tent can be pitched on uneven or rocky ground without damaging a sewn-in groundsheet. It can be pitched with a pole, a piece of deadfall stick broken to length or you can even pitch it from an overhanging branch or from a bent-over sapling. This is the only new-built japara tent available today.
A classic 2-man pup tent type, this is a tente d’abri design, with two sides that button together to form a tent. Each half may be used separately as a gear tarp or groundsheet as well. This is the US WWI pattern with one open end and one closed in end. Made from khaki cotton cloth, both halves together are “just” light enough to throw in a rucksack with your other camping gear. Lighten the load by using deadfall sticks instead of poles and by carving your own pegs at the campsite. Australian Light Horse used a similar system in the First World War.
Commonly associated with “glamping” and music festivals, the bell tent has a hardcore pedigree. Adopted during the Crimean War and used in Australian military service right up to WWII, the bell tent is a proven and reliable shelter system. I extensively tested one of these tents straight out of the box from Breathe Bell Tents over a period of six months. Rain, gale-force wind, hail… nothing fazed it. 4WD trips, car camps with a little hatchback, I even took it on a couple of multi-day canoe trips. It’s very quick and easy to pitch for one person – peg out the groundsheet, put up the pole, peg out the guylines and you’re done. I can do it in about 7-10 minutes. A tough, cosy, traditional styled cotton canvas tent which should last you for decades.
The TRG swag is one of the best traditional types out there. No bug netting, hooped poles or velcro here. It’s a traditional envelope design. It has a built-in sleeve which can accept a camping mat or you can rock it old school by using the sleeve as a palliasse cover and filling it with dry grass, leaf litter, pine needles, etc. to make a very comfy and insulative base. The TRG swag was one of the first swags I used during my initial swagwalking experiments a few years back. The leather straps are perfect and are way strong enough to hang a shoulder strap and a nosebag off. In fact, the TRG swag is lighter weight than any of the other swags I have carried. Great design and materials, bombproof construction.
The WPG Officer’s Bedroll is what you’d expect a traditional, old-timey swag to look like. The design dates from the late 19th Century and is a combination bedding roll, sleeping bag and kit bag. It’s khaki canvas with leather trim and the straps need to be seen to be believed. Just like the originals, they are overkilled. I have used this bedroll on bushwalking trips and it works just as advertised. My current bushwalking swag is a 1941-vintage Australian-made version of this pattern.
When using a floorless tent or tarp shelter even in fine weather a groundsheet is a must to keep moisture and condensation off your bedding. These military-style rubberised groundsheets are perfect to lay under your swag or sleeping mat. They can also be tied around your swag as a waterproof cover or used as a gear tarp to keep the rain off.
Shelter Accessories –
These are proper, old-timey wooden tent pegs as used with shelter halves and vintage tents. Personally I tend to carve my own tent pegs from deadfall timber found on site, but if you need ready-made timber tent pegs then these are a good choice.
Shelter halves, particularly the modern army surplus ones you see available occasionally, don’t usually come with poles, let alone with pegs or ropes. This kit includes one pole, five pegs and a guy rope. Two sets are necessary for one complete shelter half pup tent.
Folding poles mean you don’t lose parts. These are proper timber poles with brass fittings. The pole sections are jointed. To use, you simply unhinge each section and slide down the brass ferrule to lock it into position. These are designed for use with a US shelter half, but can be used with a japara tarp without modification, making them a good choice for use with a japara tarp in treeless areas.
Modern US shelter halves can sometimes be found as army surplus, but usually without poles, pegs or ropes. This guy rope is the exact length needed to fit any US shelter half pup tent.
Rain Gear –
The more pieces of multi-purpose equipment you use, the less you have to carry in your swag. This is a WWI-designed combination rain cape and groundsheet. Used as a groundsheet it is big enough to lay under your swag or sleeping mat and the triangular section of the cape can be used to keep your rucksack, hat and bush belt out of the dirt. As a raincoat they work well. It’s not quite as effective as a poncho type raincoat, but I have used one covering a slung swag and nosebag while bushwalking in the rain and have found the coverage to be sufficient.
A proper mackintosh rain coat. These are of rubberised canvas construction and are perfect for those who don’t like to use a combination groundsheet/rain cape, a poncho or an oilskin. Heavy duty and keeps the rain off marvelously.
A repro of the WWII-era rubberised poncho used by US and Australian forces in the jungles of the Pacific during WWII. Useful as a shelter sheet, groundsheet or gear cover, these ponchos didn’t have a hood. Instead they came with a drawstring turtleneck opening. The wearer relies upon headwear to keep the rain from running down the back of the neck and under the poncho. Any wide brimmed felt hat will do the job.
This is a stockman’s style long oilskin coat. Considering that oilskin coats are usually just cotton calico treated with wax and linseed oil with some iron oxide thrown in as a dye, don’t get burned and spend too much. Driz-a-bones are great, but you’re paying for the name brand, not the materials or technology. This coat is well under $200 which for a full-length oilskin stockman’s coat is a bargain any way you look at it.
Sleeping Bags –
The South Korean army knows how to equip its people for the cold. They took the American M1949 mountain sleeping bag and improved it with a lighterweight japara-like cotton shell. With a feather and down filling, this mummy pattern sleeping bag is great for the cold weather and perfect for use with a swag. The only problem is that this batch is a small size. I’m 178cm tall and JUST fit it. Anyone taller would have problems.
WPG US Model 1885 Wool Bedding Blanket
This blanket from WPG is all wool construction and despite being touted as a US Army blanket from the 1880s, it’s actually VERY close to a proper Aussie WWI/WWII era wool service blanket, some designs of which were grey wool with blue stripes at the end. These are reduced price at time of writing.