Things All Scouts Should Know: 16 Camping and Life Hacks from 1911

What is the difference between an aluminum cooking pot and a titanium one? How do you measure your water capacity in miles of tap water, but still get to use the same system for measuring things at home? Learn 16 surprising facts about camping from 1911.

The “camping hacks and tricks” is a book that was published in 1911. It contains 16 camping and life hacks from the time period.

Boy's life magazine cover boys camping campfire.

Note from the editor: The first issue of Boys’ Life magazine was published in 1911. In the first few issues, there was a short-lived section called “Things All Scouts Should Know,” which offered concise, practical advice for boys at home and on the trail. Below is a list of some of my favorites; some are truly useful and practical, while others are just entertaining and intriguing, and all are delightful to read.



Boy scouts vintage illustration rope seat.

If you ever find yourself in the unpleasant situation of the Irishman who was “hanging between nothing and space” with just a rope to cling on to, if you grip the rope as portrayed in this image, you should be able to make quite a cozy little seat.

All you have to do is use your left hand to hold on for a few seconds, then use your right hand to grasp the end of the rope and pull it up under you in the shape of a loop. Then grab both the rope’s end and the loop itself, and you’ll be seated in the loop, easily able to support your own weight.


Boy scouts vintage illustration tweezers splinter.

Tweezers are seldom seen, and they are never there when they are needed, such as when a splinter lands in one’s hand.

When scouting, you’re certain to have thorns and splinters in your skin, and if you have a pen-nib on you, it’ll be located faster than the greatest tweezers. A hand with a splinter has been depicted in the figure, and this is the way by which it is evacuated.

When it opens, press the nib firmly at B, right in front of the splinter. Make sure the splinter is in the middle of the two divisions, then push the nib along each side of the splinter to close it up. The splinter will easily dislodge itself.


Boy scouts vintage illustration knot around hook.

You may need to lift a large object from one location to another at some point in your life.

If you’re doing it with a hook, you’ll need to know how to properly rope the thing onto the hook.

A “Blackwell Hitch” should be used, which can be constructed easily and fast by looping the rope over the hook, since it is less prone to slide.


Boy scouts vintage illustration cleaning plate.

Greasy plates are difficult to clean without hot water, and boiling water is not always available while scouting or in camp. A tuft of grass adhered to moist ground is a decent replacement. The oil will be removed quickly if you rub the earth thoroughly over the plate. After that, rinse the plate with cold water until it is completely clean.

If sand isn’t available, earth may be used to remove grease or oil from bottles.


Boy scouts vintage illustration candle flame in bottle.

An exposed signal light atop a hill is, of course, in prime position to be blown out by the wind.


A glass-protected lantern, on the other hand, is not always available when you need such illumination.

However, a candle (or a piece of one) and an empty bottle are usually available, and if you know how to use them, you can get by brilliantly even on the windiest of nights.

Break the bottom of the glass bottle, which should not have a cork, off. Plant the candle in the ground, light it, and rapidly cover it with the bottle, pushing it firmly into the ground.

There you have it: a joyful little beacon that will glow brightly and not blow away no matter how strong the wind blows.


Boy scouts vintage illustration open a book.

Many individuals ruin the binding of new books by opening them carelessly. When opening a new book, set it on the table with its back to the reader, then carefully lower both board covers while holding the pages in one hand. Then, starting at the front, open a few leaves, then a few at the rear, until you reach the middle.

If you open the book carefully the first two or three times, it will survive considerably longer than if you open it quickly.


Candle boy scouts vintage illustration homemade candle night light.

The camp night-light is a simple contraption that comes in helpful while camping. It’s made out of a little tin with no cover and fine dirt half-filled within.

Any odd ends of candle are melted on top of this until a good layer of tallow has formed. A thin, dry stick is pushed down through the tallow and dirt, all the way to the bottom of the tin, neatly wrapped in a piece of, say, calico. The camp night-light casts a small but helpful illumination all around when this wick is lit.

And, of course, there’s no oil to be unhappy about or spill about, ruining everything.


Boy scouts vintage illustration water in glass.

If no safeguards are taken while pouring hot water into a glass, the latter is highly prone to fracture. Place a spoon in the glass and pour the hot liquid down the metal, as indicated in the figure, to keep it from shattering.

This will remove the heat from the glass, allowing you to retain your glass supply intact.


Boy scouts vintage illustration egg boiler.

Every Scout has a high level of familiarity with the egg. Without it, camp wouldn’t seem like camp, since doesn’t the egg play one of the most significant roles on the menu? It may be boiled in a few minutes and used as the foundation for a variety of excellent dishes. It’s no surprise that it’s the camp’s autocrat.


Boiling it in a billy-can, on the other hand, may give the boiler something to ponder about. It’s simple to put an egg into a billy-can full of water, but it’s not so simple to pull the egg out. Manipulation of the egg necessitates the use of a large spoon.

After encountering the aforementioned obstacles, a Scout created the egg-holder illustrated in the diagram to save time and difficulty while cooking an egg. It’s composed of wire, spiral-shaped on one end to hold the egg and a hook on the other to attach to the can’s edge. The egg is maintained in place while boiling in this manner, allowing it to be readily withdrawn from the billy when done by lifting the hook.


Boy scouts vintage illustration hidden soap safe.

When it comes to concealing anything, some individuals go to tremendous lengths. Because the chimney has become too widely known for total security, digging in the ground in the coal basement or some other location is used.

There’s no point to create such a fuss, since the greatest location to conceal something is in an item that doesn’t seem to have any potential as a hiding spot.

Soldiers seem to have recognized this, and it is stated that when “Tommy Atkins” got his money, he used to cut a hole in a bar of soap, insert the coins in the centre, then close the end by slamming the bar against something hard. Who would think to seek for anything in a location like this?

Tobacco has been smuggled into the United States in imported broom handles, and women smugglers have crossed the Atlantic with newborns who have never cried. When it was determined that the infants were fashioned of lace and other illegal items, the cause became clear.

So, if you need to conceal anything, use a basic hiding location.


Boy scouts vintage illustration tent pegs.

A picket, or pointed stake, resembling a huge tent-peg, is usually used to secure a rope on which tension is to be applied. However, if the strain is high, or if the only pickets you have are little, you may need to create a holdfast for the purpose.

This is made up of three pickets, one exactly behind the other, driven into the ground at a slope, and the tops of each one lashed to the lower half of the picket behind it, as illustrated.

Such a holdfast should be well-assembled, and it should be able to sustain a significant amount of rope tension.


Boy scouts vintage illustration fresh eggs.

Here’s something more about the egg that’s much more essential than the subject of whether or not it should be boiled. It’s to determine whether or not it’s worth boiling. Only a person without a sense of smell may mistake a terrible egg when it is opened, and the person who has opened it and possibly brought the first spoonful in the direction of the nose is the most unhappy.


The difference between a fresh and a stale egg may be seen when they are placed in boiling water; however, the fresh egg falls to the bottom and lies flat on its side, but the stale egg will rise on end. It may just be a little stale if it rises somewhat, but its staleness can be determined by the angle at which it inclines with the saucepan’s bottom. If it reaches the top, as indicated in the figure, toss it in the trash, but take care not to break it. One downside of our above-mentioned camp boiling receptacle is that it prevents the egg from being tested in its boiling water; in this case, it is best to test the egg in a shallow vessel beforehand, or with cold water in the billy-can.


Boy scouts vintage illustration flatten nail heads.

Everything has a correct and wrong method of doing it, including flattening a protruding nail.

The typical manner is depicted in Fig. 1, and although it might be flattened down a bit more than in the example, the method is incorrect, and the point will always catch in everything it comes into touch with.

When hammering down a nail, the right technique to flatten it is to lay a thin round item, such as a piece of wire (A), beneath the protrusion (Fig. 2). This turns the point around, so that when it’s ultimately hammered flush with the board (Fig. 3), the tip will be driven in rather than dangerously turned out.


Boy scouts vintage illustration dining eating in camp trench.

A very nice mess table for usage in camp may be created as follows, provided the dirt is dry and neither loose or uneven:

Dig a two-foot-deep oval trench in the middle, leaving an oblong area in the center for the table, and then sit round on the ground with your legs in the trench and your food plates in front of you, as indicated in the figure.


Boy scouts vintage illustration folding sweater.

Many Scouts, for doubt, struggle to maintain a jersey or sweater wrapped neatly and securely. Here’s a solution for getting around this problem and making it simple to secure the jersey to the belt.

Lay it out flat, as shown in Fig. 1, and fold the collar B over the neck. Then, as demonstrated by the dotted lines, fold the body over three times.

After that, the jersey should look like Fig. 2.

Turn the sleeve, C, over the body, A, as shown in Fig. 3, and then draw the arm, D, over the body and other sleeve, turning it inside out for that reason, as you would a pair of socks.


As seen in Fig. 4, the end product is a nice oval roll that can be simply and securely tied to your belt.


Boy scouts vintage illustration cure a side stitch.

When you’re jogging, one of the most bothersome things that might happen is that nagging discomfort in your side known as a stitch. The following graphic depicts a simple and fast solution to this problem.

Bend down in the way shown, put your hands on your hips, thumbs to the back, and begin walking in this undignified stance.

When you have walked a few yards, stand up and you will see that the discomfort has gone away.

Make sure to listen to our podcast on camping’s history:




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