Making your tucker on the wallaby is an exercise in minimalist food preparation and cooking. Sure, you can take modern pre-prepared or freeze dried foods with you instead of the stuff the old-timers carried, but between you and me… that’s cheating. Taking a gas cooker or even an alcohol stove is cheating too. If the bushfire fire danger allows it, you use an open fire for your cooking. If it doesn’t then stay home or “cheat” and use a Jetboil and freeze dried slop-in-a-bag.
This post is about the bedding used when swaggin’ it. You’ll notice there are no self-inflating mattresses or camp cots used. Spending a few nights out bush without them is no great hardship, and they are easy to improvise. We’ll start from the ground up when describing the sleeping gear.
With all of these new-fangled modern canvas swags you see with their hooped poles and pegged-down corners, you could be forgiven for thinking that the swag was always meant as the sole source of shelter for the swaggie or the stockman. Nothing could be further from the truth. A canvas bedroll or swag cover was only ever used for bedding. If wet weather was expected the swagman built or used a shelter, whether it be a hastily thrown-together grass or bark gunyah, a lean-to of leafy branches set against a fallen log, an actual tent, or just a humble shelter sheet or tarp. Laying out in the rain under a canvas swag is folly. It’d get soaked and would weigh a ton when you have to carry it the next day.
Welcome to the first in a 10 part series on the “how-to” of bushwalking in the old style with a swag and nosebag.
Each of the ten parts of this series of posts will cover a separate aspect of the gear and how to use it, but keep in mind that there were literally dozens or even hundreds of different configurations. In this series you’ll see the gear I tend to use most often while swaggin’ it. For an exhaustive look at this stuff and the rationale behind it, you’ll need to wait for my soon-to-be-released book On the Wallaby Track: A Swagman’s Handbook . This series of posts is designed to give you nuts and bolts info purely to get people started and out there on the track swaggin’ it in the old style.
Packs and Carry has a broad definition. In this case it refers to:
- The swag straps and shoulder strap used to carry the wrapped bundle which is the swag roll
- The nosebag
- Tucker bags
- Ditty bags
- Any belt kit
- Any haversack
The most important parts of the swag are the straps and the nosebag. Everything else is secondary, even the swag roll itself isn’t as important as the straps used to secure it.
Knowing a bit about the man, this little artefact is quite poignant. It’s the little dip pen used by Australian writer and poet Henry Lawson during his time living in Leeton NSW in 1916 and 1917.
Despite all the acclaim, Lawson never forgot his roots. He was a bush bard and even when he was mixing it up with the gentry and wearing a topcoat and hat, his spirit was still in his old moleskins and a Crimean shirt. He never forgot the hardships of the 1890 – 1893 Depression.
This is a dead-easy project. Dads or mums, build one of these with your son or daughter. Scout or Guide leaders, use it as a project for camping weekends or slow weeknight meetings. Guys and gals, put one together for those rustic bushwalking or hiking trips and amaze your mates.
It’s a candle holder in a tin designed so that when it’s all packed up it’s pocket-sized and easy to carry around with you for use when you’re swaggin’ it next to a creek or river, or eating a feed of damper and bushman’s stew on a camp table. It’s not windproof or waterproof, nor is it meant to be. It’s just a way to hold a candle and to reflect a bit of light. Same sort of concept as a traditional slush lamp, but without the bad smell. For high performance in bad conditions, use a proper glass or mica-windowed candle lantern like a Stonebridge or a Swiss Army/Excelsior Lux type. Keep the candle away from wind, water and of course, from flammable materials and vegetation while lit.
As with much of the old-timey gear which actually gets taken out bush, this map case is an item of army surplus.
It was manufactured in Australia in 1945 and was officially designated the “Map Case, Special, No. 1”, but to all and sundry was known as a jungle map case.
Strive Food in Tassie are a relative newcomer to the ration pack market, and unlike the others in this series of posts, the Strive Food 24 Hour Ration Packs are about as far away from a military style pack as you can get. The bulk of the meals and some of the snacks are also dehydrated traditionally rather than being freeze dried. The pack consists of:
The Australian equivalent of the UKs Mk9 Emergency Flying Ration of the same era, the Australian Emergency Flying Ration was issued to aircrews and was designed to fit in a special pouch on the US SRU-21/P aircrew survival vest which was heavily used by RAAF and Australian army aircrew such as forward observation pilots.
These are sold as army style ration packs and indeed they are. Most of the components are identical to those found in the NZ Defence Force ORPs (24 hour Operational Ration Packs), but the Hungerbuster packs only contain about 2/3rd the amount of tucker as the Kiwi rat packs. Compare them to Aussie CR1M rations and you’ll also find a lot of the exact same items as well. Australia and NZ have an agreement where a mix of Aussie and NZ food goes into each country’s ration packs.