ONE look at the packs and pouches from The Hidden Woodsmen and you’ll probably find something familiar, possibly seen in movies, re-enactment events, diagrams in old books, or even museums, but with a modern take.
HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND
The Hidden Woodsmen is a small gear shop based out of Massachusetts and run by Malcolm Coderre, whose goal is to outfit the modern adventurer with 18th and 19th century “old world” gear handcrafted with modern materials. Malcolm’s products are all designed and handmade in the United States. For extreme durability and long life out in the field, the Hidden Woodsmen uses military-grade fabrics and webbing. Each piece of gear is made individually and built to last.
Malcolm said, “I started this gear line not only to make durable handmade camping and hiking gear, but also to build relationships and provide great customer service.”
I’d been hearing about Malcolm’s gear for a while. After we met at a large cutlery convention in Atlanta, he agreed to outfit me with some of his more popular gear for woods travel: a belt pouch, signaling panel, and haversack.
Popular with hikers and soldiers of yesteryear, haversacks were in use during the American Civil War. In addition to the supplies transported by boat, the men carried 40 rounds of ammunition in cartridge boxes and four days’ rations in haversacks. The pack is essentially a sheet of rugged canvas that folds around its contents (bedroll, clothing, daily rations, and assorted personal items) and is held together by flaps and adjustable buckle-straps. About 150 years later, not much has changed as far as haversacks go. Malcolm has done an amazing remake of the time-tested haversack design.
The dimensions of the Hidden Woodsmen Haversack are 12x11x4 inches in a color Malcolm calls Earth Brown. Rather than the canvas material once used, Malcolm uses 1000 Denier (1000D) Cordura for the main construction and 500D and 420D liners on the inside.
The Haversack is double walled, with a front zipper pocket, two heavy-duty buckles, Velcro front panel, MOLLE webbing on either side of the bag, and a wide adjustable shoulder strap.
The MOLLE webbing loops are compatible with most modern tactical and military gear. The webbing can also be used to attach a button compass, carabiners, small lights, whistles, or sunglasses. Another outstanding feature of the Haversack is the inside colored pockets, which can help the user stay organized. The back of the Haversack has a heavy-duty loop meant for a hatchet or tomahawk to be stored while out and about.
If the Haversack is slung over the shoulder and kept to the left, it’s easy to adjust the shoulder strap while walking. But when the position is switched, it has to be taken off to make the adjustment. I walked about six miles the first trip with it and the Haversack seemed comfortable until I filled the two-liter water bladder I kept inside the Haversack. I could feel the extra four pounds of water resting on one shoulder. With a lighter weight load in general and shorter distances, the bag is fine.
It was comfortable on shorter jaunts with less weight due to the wide nylon strap, which is very robust. The inside consists of a main pocket covered with flaps that also attach via Velcro strips, a smaller mid pocket, and a front zippered pocket. I stashed a small Boy Scout mess tin with lid and Signal Panel inside the mid pocket, but it would also be perfect for a map or GPS.
The zippered pocket is good for stashing important items like money, identification and keys. The Haversack is a good compromise between utility and mid-weight carry at about one pound empty. I am looking forward to more trips with the Hidden Woodsmen Haversack!
Although Malcolm has an item called a Possibles Pouch, the Belt Pouch
he offers is more of a Possibles Pouch, according to many published photos and early diagrams. However, these things are usually up for interpretation and the intended use of the individual. An early Possibles Pouch was a small bag made of animal skin and either slung over the shoulder or attached to a belt and kept easily accessible. Inside one would find tobacco and pipe, tin cup, flint and steel, tinder, tools for one’s muzzleloader, matches, compass, and maybe some jerky or other edibles.
The Hidden Woodsmen Belt Pouch is 8x5x6 inches, made of double-walled 1000D, and has a large plastic buckle on the front. It’s simple and durable, perfect for hip carry on a belt. I like that it’s free of zippers
and extra pockets. Everything is in plain view and little searching is necessary.
The loops on the Belt Pouch are spaced apart just enough to fit a tomahawk in between them when attached to a belt, but this may impede opening the pouch depending on the tomahawk’s head size. I used this on my belt while hiking in the Northeast wilderness and found it on the large size for what I was carrying,
but it only weighs about three ounces empty. I like the idea of having some extra room inside, so it’s easy to find what I want.
The alternative is stuffing it, but then you risk losing something while sifting through the pouch, which often happens when any bag is full to capacity. The tough, abrasion-resistant material means it can hold items that may tear up frail materials on other pouches. In my possibles pouch I keep a small stick of fatwood and a triangular ceramic that over time can wear a hole in fabrics. With the 1000D materials of the Hidden Woodsmen Belt Pouch, this won’t ever be a problem.
The Signal Panel is bright orange and measures 22 inches square. It’s made from 420D Cordura with four nylon webbing tie outs. This is perfect for the color, contrast, and movement criteria of signaling. It can easily be lashed to a long stick and waved up high over brush, or stuck in the ground to get attention. It also makes a good sitting mat or firewood carrier in camp.
I can see it being used as a sling for one’s arm or even a kitchen mitt for moving hot containers on the fire. I used it as a collection cloth for a carving project. I gathered excess wood shavings along with small sticks for use as kindling. I never worried about it tearing or getting worn out.
Gear from the Hidden Woodsmen project quality and a sense of security. Whatever you are carrying and wherever you may find yourself, the last thing you want to worry about is your gear.