I recently read an old journal article from 1924 which piqued my curiosity. It was a trip report of a group of naturalists who penetrated deep into the wilds of Tasmania for two weeks, carrying everything they needed for that two weeks – no resupply. Their camping gear list is a separate post in itself, but what interested me was the food they carried. There were no freeze dried meals or MRE entrees or single-serving noodle packs or cliff bars available to recreational walkers in the 1920s. It was mainly whole foods in as lightweight a format as they could manage. The food list below is a list of food carried by each individual for that 14 days. Check it out –
- 2 x 2lb tin loaves – 1.8kg
- 4 x lbs self-raising flour – 1.8kg
- 4 x tins bully beef / camp pie / etc. – 48oz total – 1.4kg
- 4 x lbs ship’s biscuits – 1.8kg
- 2 x lbs sugar – 900g
- 0.5 x lb salt – 225g
- 3 x lbs dried fruit – 1.4kg
- 2 x lbs creamoata – 900g
- 1.5x lbs bacon – 680g
- 2 x tins unsweetened condensed milk – 24oz total – 680g
- 1.5 x lbs cheese – 680g
- 2 x large cakes chocolate – 0.5lb each – 1lb total – 455g
- 2 x lbs dripping – 900g
- 1 x lb split peas – 455g
- 1 x bottle bovril – 0.5lb – 0.255g
- 0.5x lb tea – 0.255g
Total food weight – 29lb – 13.15kg – 2.07lb or 0.939kg per day
To give a modern comparison, lightweight hikers/bushwalkers on a multi-day trip will generally aim at around 1kg (2.2lb) of food carried per day. This means that the old timers’ food weights were actually comparable to modern standards, but this is unlikely to include the weights of the tin cans, glass and calico packaging. Still… not bad.
1. Tin Loaf –
This was a loaf of sandwich bread, very similar in style and substance to a modern bagged loaf of bread, but it was unsliced of course and was only about 3/4 the length of a modern loaf. It was so-named because of the tin used to bake it. Back in 1924 most bread was baked French style – without being constrained in a bread pan. In this instance these would have been wrapped in newspaper and carried in a calico bag.
2. Camp Pie –
Still available in Tasmanian supermarkets today, camp pie was a pork and beef-based luncheon meat in a round or rectangular tin depending on the brand. Similar to Spam. Bully beef of course is corned beef in a trapezoidal tin.
3. Ship’s biscuits –
Circular hard tack. These would have been carried packed into a tea tin or in a calico bag
4. Creamoata –
Appears to be some form of pre-mixed porridge (oats with milk powder and brown sugar) which was popular in Australia and New Zealand from the 1910s to the 1940s. Most likely carried in a calico bag
5. Bacon –
They are talking about thick slabs of bacon – American style. I’ve had bacon rashers last 4 days in hot weather on a recent hiking trip, so if packed correctly the slab stuff should last even longer. These would have been wrapped in several layers of butchers or news paper
6. Cheese –
Hard cheese wrapped in cloth and stored near the middle of the backpack keeps well.
7. Cakes of Chocolate –
Back in the day bars of chocolate were also known as cakes of chocolate. Probably carried wrapped in cellophane in case they melted.
8. Dripping –
It’s a British Commonwealth thing. Similar to lard, dripping is cooked animal fat drained from a pan then filtered (or not) and kept for later as a cooking oil. Old timers love it on bread. In this case this stuff would have been carried in an old glass Vegemite or Marmite jar
9. Bovril –
A meat extract paste which was used to flavour stews, make “beef tea” (a thin beef soup) or spread onto bread in the same way as we use Vegemite today. It came in a screw-top glass jar (maybe it still does) and it had a shelf life of around 12 months in the pantry, making it useful as a condiment and ration supplement for long walks.
The whole food packs weighed around 29lb which is close enough to 13.155555555555kg.