How to Pack Your Pockets on a Safari

Just in case you were wondering.

From The Land of the Lion, 1874

By William Stephen Rainsford

Unless you want to waste money do not buy your shooting clothes till you reach Nairobi. There you can get an admirable choice of khaki stuffs and have them very well made for about a third of what you must pay your London tailor, one fifth of what your New York man will demand. Three good suits are sufficient for a year’s work. They will not weigh three pounds a suit, and will cost about one pound each.

Study the question of pockets. Have plenty and have them large. Each little contraption that you must carry with you daily should have its own pocket. Thus you can always find it quickly and, always keeping it there, you will not leave camp without it.

Have four wide, deep pockets in your khaki hunting jacket, good flaps buttoning over them, to keep out rain.

The best place by far to carry your field glasses, is in the left breast pocket of this jacket; the narrow leather strap of the glass passed round your neck. They can then be used instantaneously, which is most important. Carried in a leather case slung round the shoulder, they are practically useless for quick work, and in stalking the case is very much in the way. The right hand lower pocket of the shooting jacket is the best place for handy cartridges. The leather holders, London gun makers insist on pressing on you and charging you very highly for, are useless things. Unless your gun boy constantly takes out the cartridges in them, the dampness of your body produces verdigris on the cases, and they stick. If the leather cover over them is not buttoned, every drop of rain falls full on the one exposed part of the cartridge, the butt, and dampness once in there, a misfire is certain. You cannot afford misfires in Africa. In thirteen months constant shooting I had just one. Then I never carry my cartridges on a leather belt, and if the rain has got into my pocket, I promptly throw away the cartridges that had been in it. I think the right pocket of the jacket, and if you want to carry two sorts of cartridges, as sometimes you will, the right trousers pocket, are the best places in which to stow them. A big cotton handkerchief can be thrust into the left breast pocket over the glasses. There will then be little chance of their becoming thoroughly wetted. Save your Zeiss glasses from wet. Once the dampness gets in they must be cleaned or they may take weeks to dry off. Always take an extra pair; you can get your money back for them.

Tobacco, pipe, matches, notebook, will fill the other two jacket pockets. Compass, measuring tape, pocket knife, and a bit of string, always useful, will fill your capacious trousers pockets. If you are obliged, as I am, to wear glasses, then have an extra big pocket made down the front of your left leg. There carry your cases, and an extra pair of spectacles. It is the safest side. Wear a strong leather belt, with a short, light, tested, hunting knife on it: wide in the blade; thin in the back.

Always carry a whistle, and teach your men to come immediately to its call…I have a whistle pocket in all my jackets, high up on the left side.

Now, one thing more. Fill your pockets over night. Always fill them, and keep them filled. You cannot rush off without your clothes, you can rush off leaving many necessary things behind you. There is nothing more annoying than to have to wait on a man in the early raw morning, while he rushes round in the murk looking for the essentials which should have been carefully stowed in his pockets the night before. It is a bad way to begin the day.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessy February 6, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Funny to see that tobacco was considered as a necessity.

E. Ryan Clark February 6, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Kind sir, I daresay that a tobacco pipe is still a necessity. I always have my cheap corncob handy when in the field (U.S. Army) and take advantage of whatever spare moment I have to enjoy a half-hour smoke.

Dan February 7, 2012 at 10:18 am

Words of wisdom can always be found in the past. My Ranger Brothers might recognize these from 1759:

1. Don’t forget nothing.
2. Have your musket clean as a whistle, hatchet scoured, sixty rounds powder and ball, and be ready to march
at a minute’s warning.
3. When you’re on the march, act the way you would if you was sneaking up on a deer. See the enemy first.
4. Tell the truth about what you see and what you do. There is an army depending on us for correct information. You can
lie all you please when you tell other folks about the Rangers, but don’t never lie to a Ranger or officer.
5. Don’t never take a chance you don’t have to.
6. When we’re on the march we march single file, far enough apart so one shot can’t go through two men.
7. If we strike swamps, or soft ground, we spread out abreast, so it’s hard to track us.
8. When we march, we keep moving till dark, so as to give the enemy the least possible chance at us.
9. When we camp, half the party stays awake while the other half sleeps.
10. If we take prisoners, we keep’ em separate till we have had time to examine them, so they can’t cook up a story
between’ em.
11. Don’t ever march home the same way. Take a different route so you won’t be ambushed.
12. No matter whether we travel in big parties or little ones, each party has to keep a scout 20 yards ahead, 20 yards on
each flank, and 20 yards in the rear so the main body can’t be surprised and wiped out.
13. Every night you’ll be told where to meet if surrounded by a superior force.
14. Don’t sit down to eat without posting sentries.
15. Don’t sleep beyond dawn. Dawn’s when the French and Indians attack.
16. Don’t cross a river by a regular ford.
17. If somebody’s trailing you, make a circle, come back onto your own tracks, and ambush the folks that aim to
ambush you.
18. Don’t stand up when the enemy’s coming against you. Kneel down, lie down, hide behind a tree.
19. Let the enemy come till he’s almost close enough to touch, then let him have it and jump out and finish him up with
your hatchet.

Steve February 7, 2012 at 11:56 am

The last tip reminds me of what Lazarus Long said (through Robert Heinlein): “Keep your weapons and your clothes where you can find them in the dark.”

Brian Rainwater May 20, 2015 at 10:40 pm

Reminds me of AMCs “Turn: Washington’s Spies”

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