Some thoghts about old days Finnish woodsmen gear.

Great article by Some thoghts about old days Finnish woodsmen gear.: Once again i rant about gear. SORRY .

i found a few older pics, dating from early fifties to late seventies, with relatives and unknown friends of theirs, hunting and hiking, working in the woods and fishing by the lakes and such, al sorts of free time outdoors stuff. And i got to think of my grandfaters, both of them. They are like heroes and idols to me in many ways but as outdoorsmen the most.

To make my thought more clear, i gathered some gear from my closet, that is similar, as close as i could get, to the items i see in the pics. And gear that i remember as worn and used by my grandfathers and their village & summer cottage friends while outdooring.

Heres the pick i took, showing the stuff i see the most in the old family albums and what i remember from the time i was a kid. So this isnt about heroic adventurers from early 1900s, no no, its from later days, not so long ago you see. But i realise hard that during the time, the gear freakism and tech has gone a huge step forward. Or backwards , depending on what you prefer.

Heres a list with some tale.

1. Knife. They all have knives, basic puukko knives and few have leukus on their belts and hanging from trouser and jacket buttons as not everyone used a belt it seems. But as it is clear to me, it sure was clear to them that man carries atleast a knife at countryside and woods, if nothing else. It was a true EDC back then. There wasnt much of special knives, nor multitools, tactical BS. There was folding knives yes, but they were more for kids and for city carry. I think that back then men would have looked you bit weird if you carried only a tiny folder in the bush.

2. An axe. Dont go excited now but the axe was seen as ultimate tool in the woods especially at wintertime, and paired up with a knife, a true woodsmen made almost houses. But whats the most coolest thing is that they werent so picky and posh about axes, as they were tools, and there wasnt much to choose from in Finland back then. Ive seen old axes in my grandpa s shed, fixed with steeliwire,tape, glue, epoxy, with shafts made in hurry, without any danish oils and super detailed finishing. there wasnt no time to play, especially if you were making your everyday bread by felling and chopping wood. Sure, i dont agree that nicely done handfoged axe is a beauty and valuable, but sometimes i wonder, how the men who worked with and axe around the year, settled for less, that we who use an axe now and then for occasional hiking and woodworking.

3. Coffee pot. I remember old chaps taking a coffee pot with em anywhere. They took it for fishing, so they could make coffee at some island, as well as they took it when they went to fell familys trees, and i my first sips of coffee i had on one of there trips,as a tiny guy, sitting in a small lean to, at some later winter day. And in every frigging pic, i see, and on every damn memory i have, theres a pot of coffee by the fire. Nowadays i see rarely coffee pans in that old school style. Sure its a big, but you can still fill it up with other edibles,matches etc. Aluminium pan wont ever last so long, as stainless steel ones do. The plastic handles that those tend to have, melt too. To me, its part of the outdoors experiment, to take the time, to build a small fire and have a cup of hot brew, it beats ANY frigging thermos bottle drink 6-0 any day.

4. Kuksa. Actually, i remember seeing just about any kind of mugs and cups too, as back in the day, kuksas were mostly used, as an everyday gear, in lapland, and sold to tourists, but these were also used by some outdoorsmen. But there sure aint any reality based reasons to reject other mugs i think. As long as you can drink from it, it was ok. Kuksa is good though as it keeps the drink warm well, it doesnt burn your lips nor do you get your lips frozen against kuksa easily,as it might go with some steel cup. Kuksa has this nice, but mostly clichee kind of feel to it, thats a fact, and i do like em myself too. But, it is still kind of an eye candy and you can do easily without one as well.

5. Method of fire making. Back then, it was all about matches here. Sealed in zip lock bags, or bicycles old rubber tube with glued ends to have that last chance fire always. There wasnt magnesium blocks with firesteels and flintstrikers were abandoned mostly when matches were introduced. Sure, lighters were used too, but liquid fuel lighters were kind of rarity and unreliable due to that gasifying of fuel, leaving you with no light, just a spark. Throw away lighters were there too but atleast i havent seen those used almost at all.

6. Cooking vessel. After war, Finland had loads of military mess tins that we call "Pakki", carried to home with returning warriors and they were adopted widely to outdoors use,as those are long lasting, simple and offer a variety of ways to cook with those. I have seen many cast iron skillets and small aluminium pots, just the same as those used in home kitchen. You can make easily a hazel grouse soup in one, or fry egg in the pan of mess tin and such,as well as an everyday oatmeal. Coffee can be made in it, and all. very very good piece of kit, even without that trendy swedish alcohol burner version that swedes used, and are adopted by bushcraft community widely. I dont like those personally at all but hey, different strokes for different people. Fishers and hunters, if anyone, have carried pakki a lot, as it was very light compared to separate skillets and pots. During wartime, some sort of alchohol brew was also made secretly on them, in thousands of bunkers :)

7. Compass. Just a simple one, and knowledge of how to use it even without a map, to get your ass to home. Mostly used at long distance hikes and overnight hunting trips as guys used to know their surrounding woods pretty well so they could navigate from landmark to another etc.

8. Coffee. Naturally. Often carried in leather pouches in the older days, then more in zip lock pouches and in the bags the coffee was sold. Just make sure there was plenty of it. I dont recall any men drinking it with milk, and i sure havent seen,in pics or in my mind, men drinking tea, it was rare even among ladies.

9. Sharpening stone. One sided or more expensive, back then, a two sided. I always wondered as a kid, and even now, that with a single stone grandpa made his puukko and scythe super sharp. Meaning it opened a fish without ripping, made nice fire starting whittlings, gutted a rabbit without sawing with blade, nice toy bows, and just about anything. Back then i think the knives held their sharpness better as they werent sharpened to hairpoppers that sure wont pop a hair after a day in the bush and they didnt sharp the knife in the middle of whittling a new pot hanger etc. Hairpopping knives....waste of stone,steel and time often. Super steels were unknown thing and whats the real, field use, gain you get with some exotic steel ? I have some of those, but i think i could do fine without any as well. Those guys made it before, used knife 568 times more than i, you know, with simple carbon steel, why could i not then.

10. Bottle or canteen, or two. Other for water, other for some booze, i think :).
I think it was common back then, to have a small vessel of booze with other containing small amount of water, to get you just to the next lake or river, pond or fountain, where you could fill the vessel of choise again. Ones ive seen myself as a kid,and in albums have variety of bottles, from old plastic juice containers to old surplus canteens and even simple, glass milk bottles in woolsocks to keep it intact.

11. Saw blade. Very common among woodworkers and hikers back then. usually carried in bent, two sided belt or as rolled in some bag, in the pack.

12. Small vial, containing a needle,thread, screws and nails, some thread ,line and hooks with weights, maybe a safety pin and more matches. Nails for attaching saw blade into make shift bow saw or bucksaw,and others for general repairs and fishing.

13. Bottle of oil or small pack of hard butter. For cooking and for bread that was always carried in the pack, ithink,if nothing else to be eaten.

14. Some way to carry sugar and salt. Leather pouches, plastig pouches, later came the "stolen" salt and sugar sachels. These are what ive seen a lot used by my grandfater who obviously visited some gas stations bar too much, as i still have like a kilogram of very very old...30 year old sugar cube sachels and such :)
Pepper must have been about the only spice carrie outdoors. But hey, its my favourite too, with some chili. Pepper suits with any meat, from pigoen to bass, to potatoa soup and stolen onions from neighbours field, fried in lid of mess tin, with a small amount of that pure, good old fashion butter,add some salt and some fish with it and you have a decent tasty supper. Back then they tasted what they had i think, not this over spiced stuff, from which you cant say, what it is, is it fish or acorn,as its often today. I mean..... like cooking a grouse. Many times ive had grouse that i could not separate from taste of good cow,as it was spiced and mixed, processed way way too much. To my taste nerves, game needs to have its own foresty taste, not some thai spice mumbojumbo taste.

Well, thats about what i gathered from my childhood memories, old pics and also from old hunting magazines and old hiking story book pictures.

If you pack this stuff, it fits easily into very small daypack, if youre heading out there for a day or even over the night. Light, durable and everything a man needs. Just add a thick piece of smoked bacon, fill the water bottle with water, the possible flask with some strong clear vodka or Koskenkorva,and youre good to go and experience it in an older finnish style, the bushcraft style that we Finns have had.

If you take a surplus swede steel frame pack, or similar in about 45 to 60 liter volume, add some potatoes and onions, strap an blanket an some tarp like suoer simple shelter without any front wall, door or floors, youre ok to have like 2-3 night in the bush. Stuff in a simple fishing reel and rod with just 2-3 brass lures, or a shotgun with few shots, and youre very close to the gone days.

Clothe yourself with anything that aint pricey or hightech, nor gore-tex. Old striped sport trousers or thick cotton pants, cotton underwear and sturdy jacket without any liners or just a thin polyester lining, rubber or leather boots with no lacing, or military boots, with woolsocks and regular cotton socks. Leave all that stuff from dedicated hiking gear away while dressing up for the trip. I ve seen a lod of men hiking for 2 weeks, in lapland, in old worn jeans and sports jacket from seventies, cheap running shoes costing 3 euros in fleamarkets. They did survive without commercial hiking and outdoor wear ,you know. Can you feel the danger, the excitement and temptation already ?

This might also be a game for all you bushcraft guys who are into trapper re-enactment :), just another cosplay, but hey, we are nordic breed and therefore something that you have to try out.

Throw away the firesteel, dump the swedish trangia burner, leave the bushlore rotting home, and forget about the bannock for this time :).


  1. Hi, thanks for re-posting my blog stuff, cool to see that people find it interesting.

    All the best,


  2. I am the one that have to thank you, for the great quality of the articles that you publish. I just serve as a way of sharing and passing the word.

    Best regards


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