What Should I Pack?

compiled by Stephenie Flora
copyright 2007



The packing of provisions for the long journey on the trail brought many comments and suggestions from those who made the journey and wrote back instructions to those coming in later years.  They almost always suggested that, above all else, a good supply of bacon and flour was mandatory.  The emigrant was instructed to pack enough to last each person at least three to four months (depending on the travel guide).

In his travel guide, The Prairie Traveler, Capt. Randolph B. Marcy suggested the following rations for a trip overland to CA:

Bacon, packed in strong sacks of 100 pounds each, or, for hot climates pack in boxes and surround by bran to prevent fat from melting away (25# per person)

Flour, packed in double canvas sacks well sewed, a 100 pounds in each sack (150# per person)

Butter may be preserved by boiling it thoroughly and skimming off the scum as it rises to the top until it is quite clear like oil. It is then placed in tin canisters and soldered closed.

Sugar may be secured in India-rubber or gutta-percha sacks, to prevent it from getting wet. (25# per person)

Coffee (15# per person)

Dried fruit and vegetables

Citric acid to add to water water when vegetables run out helps prevents scurvy

Salt and Pepper

Yeast for making bread

A cow brought along for milk and for meat in an emergency



Cotton and linen fabrics do not protect the direct rays of the midday sun, nor against rains or sudden changes of temperature. Therefore, clothing made of wool for the plains is highly recommended.  Capt. John B. Marcy in his guidebook, The Prairie Traveler, states:

 "The coat should be short and stout, the shirt of red or blue flannel, such as can be found in almost any shop on the frontier; this, in warm weather, answers for an outside garment.  The pants should be of thick and soft woolen material, and it is well to have them re-enforced on the inside, where they come in contact with the saddle, with soft buckskin, which makes them more durable and comfortable."

"Woolen socks and stout boots, coming up well at the knees, and made large, so as to admit the pants, will be found the best for horsemen, and they guard against rattlesnake bites.  In traveling through deep snow during very cold weather in winter, moccasins are preferable to boots or shoes, as being more pliable, and allowing a freer circulation of the blood."

"In the summer season shoes are much better for footmen than boots, as they are lighter, and do not cramp the ankles; the soles should be broad, so as to allow a square, firm tread, without distorting or pinching the feet."

"The following list of articles is deemed a sufficient outfit for one man upon a three months' expedition, viz:
2 blue or red flannel overshirts, open in front, with buttons
2 woolen undershirts
2 pairs thick cotton drawers
4 pairs woolen socks
2 pairs cotton socks
4 colored silk handerchiefs
2 pairs stout shoes, for footmen
1 pair boots, for horsemen
1 pair shoes, for horsemen
3 towels
1 gutta percha poncho
1 broad-brimmed hat of soft felt
1 comb and brush
2 tooth-brushes
1 pound Castile soap
3 pounds bar soap for washing clothes
1 belt-knife and small whetstone
Stout linen thread, large needles, a bit of beeswas, a few buttons, paper of pins, and a thimble,
   all contained in a small buckskin or stout cloth bag
Coat and overcoat

Camp Equipment

Bedding should include two blankets, a comforter, a pillow and a gutta percha or painted canvas cloth to spread beneath the bed upon the ground, and to store the bedding in during transportation.  Every group of six or eight persons will require a wrought-iron camp kettle large enough for boiling meat and making soup; a coffee-pot and cups of heavy tin, with the handles riveted on; tin plates, frying and baking pans of wrought iron, a large pan of heavy tin or wrought iron for mixing bread; knives, forks and spoons; an extra camp kettle, tin or gutta percha bucket for water--wood, being liable to shrink and fall to pieces, is not suitable; an axe, hatchet, and spade will be needed, with a mallet for driving picket-pins.  Matches should be carried in bottles and corked tight to keep out the moisture.


A little blue mass, quinine, opium and some cathartic medicine, put up in doses for adults will suffice for the medicine cabinet.


"Every man who goes into the Indian country should be armed with a rifle and revolver and he should always keep them close.  When not on the march, they should be placed in such a position that they can be seized at a moment's notice.  When moving outside the camp the revolver should be worn in the belt.  A large majority of men preferred the breech-loading rifle, but some still stood by the old-fashioned muzzle-loading rifle." [Prairie Traveler by Randolph B. Marcy].  While the army had access to revolvers it was brought to my attention by Richard Skyba that the predominant weapons were less expensive muzzleloading percussion single shot pistols like the Aston 1842 and muzzleloading rifles .  It wasn't until after the Civil War that use of revolvers by the general public became more prevelant.

My name is Stephenie Flora. Thanks for stopping by
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