Roycraft pack

The pack in action

It was my great pleasure to be introduced to the Roycraft pack by Jon McArthur and Kelly Harlton from Karamat Outdoors at this year’s Global Bushcraft symposium in Wales. Jon & Kelly are Canadian outdoors men whose lives have been massively shaped by the late Mors Kochanski.

In terms of outdoor living skills and survival Mors is one of our communities’ tribal elders and has had a huge influence. In the late 1960’s Mors was teaching outdoor education programs and was firmly committed to his life’s work of promoting wilderness living skills and the lifestyles of native people.

In the early 1970’s Mors met Tom Roycraft who was the senior survival instructor at the Department of National Defence near Hinton, Alberta. Mors had been keen to develop his survival skills and had wanted to learn from Tom for some time as the story goes. Tom had been in the Royal Canadian Airforce and moved from military service to the civilian role of senior survival instructor. The two struct up a lifelong friendship and Tom became Mors mentor. Tom is a little less known than Mors, in many ways, outside of Canada but he has most certainly left his mark on the outdoor and survival world with the pack frame that bears his name.

The simple pack frame is said to have been inspired by the Korean locals that Tom observed moving their goods to market. It originally had longer legs so that the carrier could rest along the way by leaning back on the legs as they made contact with the floor. Tom modified it to be an emergency pack frame for use in the boreal forest.

It is constructed using the humble triangle, one of the strongest shapes that can be used to bear weight. I have harvested hazel, Corylus avellana, sustainably from our Oxfordshire woodland. Every construction will be a little different as you need to measure the length of pieces using biometrics. The cross member needs to be fingertip to elbow and the two uprights fingertip to armpit.

The component parts.
The basic structure
The basic structure.

I beveled the ends of the work pieces and carved a flat where the timbers came in contact with each other. I have selected wood that is around 35 – 45 mm thick and will bind them together using the Canadian Jam knot. Set out the work to form the triangle with the flat pieces resting on each other with approximately 3 fingers width of space from the contact point to the end.

Tidying up ends
Tidying up ends.
Creating the contact points
Creating the contact points.
The bindings
The bindings.

I then selected a length of paracord finger tip to solar plexus long and removed the mantle from the kern (outer from the inner fibers). You do this so the cordage binds tighter when you sinch up the knot. The fixing we want to use is a Jam knot. This knot is great as it allows you to pull it really tight and as the name suggests hold the work piece firm. There are different ways of tying this knot but here I have tied an over hand knot as a stopper on the end of my cordage, fed this through the crossing point of the wood from right to left. The stopper passes under the running end of the cordage and is laid on top running parallel to the running line with a small loop. The stopper is then passed under where the cordage is making contact with the wood and back out through the small loop. This can then be gently pulled shut as the stopper knot slides tight. I then loosen the whole thing by pulling on the end of the stopper knot to take any elasticity out of the knot. I then pull the tail end to tighten the knot, Invert the stopper knot, pull through a locking loop and crank it tight. To seal the knot, I then pull the locking loop down, pass the tail through, pull tight and cut the excess off. This is then copied on the other side.

Once secure bend the top in to form the top of the A frame.

This is secured with a constrictor knot using intact paracord. Lay an arm’s length piece straight, cross your hands and pick up the cordage to make an s shape, then rotate the s shape to make the infinity symbol, pick up from the middle and allow the two loops to meet each other, drop over the top of the A frame and pull tight. It can be helpful to make a loop on each end of the cordage to put a toggle through to sinch the constrictor tight by clamping one toggle on the floor under your boot and pulling up on the other. Once tight cut off the excess and seal the ends with a lighter.

You then have the A frame shape. For added strength I would add a second jam knot in the same way as before on both the bottom fixings making a x shape on the timbers.

Tied together
Tied together.

The frame is then ready to load up with kit. Make sure the bottom cross section faces upward as you pack into the frame so when you turn it over to put on your back the timber is not on your back. I like to use three prusik loops and a length of finger tip to solar plexus paracord and toggles to fasten a poncho loaded with kit. This way the kit can be easily unpacked and repacked.

Loading up
Loading up.
Ready for the journey ahead
Ready for the journey ahead.
The pack in action
The pack in action.
The straps
The straps.

Straps can be made from webbing or rope. Extra comfort can be achieved by making shoulder pads with socks or slips of wood to stop the straps cutting in. You could easily fit a large box or drum to the frame too for moving gear to a fixed camp as required.

Attaching a load
Attaching a load.
Loading options
Ready for the off.

Kelly talked of moving a deer kill by skinning the animal and laying the meat inside the hide and securing in exactly the same way as the poncho.

In a first aid scenario you could evacuate a casualty on an extended leg frame as discussed at the beginning of this blog.

Need a lift?
Need a lift?

I hope you will agree with me that this is a very simple yet versatile way of moving kit in the outdoors. The sheer simplicity of it is what makes it such genius. It is little wonder that it has been adopted as the symbol of the Global bushcraft symposium.

Carrying the weight of global knowledge
Carrying the weight of global knowledge.

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