View Full Version : Winter Expedition Gear, 1900

Taylor Harbin
01-20-2014, 09:13 PM
Playing off of my last thread about shipping in 1900...

My story involves a party of seven going off to find the source of strange and calamitous happenings that have befallen their town.

The story takes place in the American northeast in the final weeks of winter. The expedition begins in town, ventures through the forests, but ends up scaling part of a mountain.

My question is: what sort of equipment was available in 1900 for such a task? They will need clothing to keep warm, dry, and tools to scale the cliffs, and they're other supplies (food, water, weapons, personal effects, etc). How would they have packed these?

I envision the expedition using horses or mules until the mountain forces them to leave the mounts behind, intending to return after a short stint on the cliff (which then leads to a plot twist).

01-20-2014, 09:45 PM


01-20-2014, 11:21 PM
American Northeast? Where were they going? Northern Maine?

01-20-2014, 11:34 PM
There's an excellent series (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/shackleton/) currently airing on PBS in which modern people are emulating the Shackleton expedition (you'll remember their ship, trapped in Antarctic ice, broke up, so they sailed in a lifeboat, then walked across rugged terrain for help). They're wearing, carrying, and eating exactly what the original expedition did, even though the food is making some of them sick.

You can pick up the series at any point without having seen previous episodes. (I did.) While it's based on 1915, it should come pretty close to what you need, and give you a genuine feel for the rigors.

Maryn, who didn't set out to watch it but got hooked

01-20-2014, 11:41 PM
Here's a story (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5076634.stm) about a modern mountain climber recreating an Everest expedition from the 1920s. He showed that the natural fibers used back then would have been more than enough reach the summit, and had several advantages over modern, synthetic fibers. Very cool, IMO.

Taylor Harbin
01-21-2014, 01:22 AM
American Northeast? Where were they going? Northern Maine?

Yes, somewhere around New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine. Haven't decided the exact location yet. They will be traveling north in the direction of Canada (but they won't go there).

Maryn and Kuwisdelu, thanks for the tips.

01-21-2014, 01:32 AM
Final weeks of winter in New England and they won't be on horses. They'd be using snowshoes. Unless it was an unusual winter. Horses are hard to use in trackless New England wilderness.

Very few mountains in the northeast need special equipment, except on certain slopes. Cathedral Ledge and White Horse Ledge, both cliffs about 700 feet in climb, can easily be climbed from many other directions.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

01-21-2014, 03:25 AM
If there's snow, they won't carry water. They'll melt the snow. That involves carrying fuel but they'll need fuel to cook with anyway. Water is just weight.

Personal effects would be kept to the minimum--I think Scott allowed his people either one personal item or one book, I forget which exactly. Weight is always going to be the problem.

Could they use sled dogs?

01-21-2014, 03:33 AM
In the Northeast, you don't need to carry water or fuel. Plenty of streams and wood. Sled dogs have a problem unless there are packed trails. Usually dogs will go through the snow and have a lot of work to travel. Further, a dog sled with half a dozen dogs isn't going to be able to weave between trees very well.

If you don't know the trails in the Northeast, and are traveling cross-country, it's a rugged terrain with very little in the way of open spaces. In winter I'd use lakes and swamps a lot, but in the woods, you're going to have sudden steep slopes and have to either change direction or go up or down them. Trees can become very close together.

On the other hand, 1900 was the ending of the farm era in the northeast, and there was a lot more cleared land then today. Of course, this means a lot more road travel.

If you want the wilderness experience, you are going to be away from areas that were farmed. But you need to understand, I can travel a straight route to the center of the next town, which involves virtually no roads. Or I can travel ten miles by road. Even walking, guess which is faster and easier?

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

01-21-2014, 04:07 AM
You'll find oodles of material, including pictures, by googling Klondike gold rush and Chilkoot Pass. The Discovery Channel just started a show about it, I think. The main rush was from 1897 until 1899.

01-21-2014, 07:34 AM
(I'm watching that show now, but it doesn't have the feel for the time and place the PBS series does. The hero, for instance, never wears a hat no matter what the weather is doing. Right.)