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That is one trouble with the pack basket, a wicker affair covered with canvas which is a favorite in some sections of the Northeast: it doesn't stow well in a canoe, being rigid, nor does its size diminish as you eat your way to the bottom of it. But it is a fine pack for bottles and sharp-edged cans since they cannot dig into your back as they sometimes do through a packsack. For the bush, however, it's too bulky and stiff and takes up too much room.
Another rigid device is the pack frame, popular in the Northwest. A canvas-covered wooden frame with thongs for tying on a load of any size or shape, it's a good rig for portaging heavy stuff. Like the pack basket, it is not pliable and a bit elaborate for a confirmed sack man, as I am.
The old north woods axiom "Go light, but right" still holds and the best way to follow that advice is to spurn the fancier rigs and make use of the old stand-bys—the canvas duffel bag, the smaller sacks for perishables, and the Duluth for the base pack, the foundation of the load. The perfect trip is one in which not an extra ounce is carried and ends in sight of civilization with the larder absolutely empty.
It takes close figuring to strike the balance between overloading and underdoing it. This became an annual game with a friend of mine to see how close we could come to the line on a 10-day canoe trip.
We used to figure on 30% of our provisions coming off the land—grouse and ducks in the fall and all the fish you could eat. At last, after getting closer each year, we finally came out just right. On the banks of the Coulonge River in Quebec on the edge of the first town we'd seen in several days, we finished the last scrap of food.
"Some day," my friend said, "they'll invent sacks of edible material and we can munch them the last couple of days and come back with nothing at all."
"Even edible tumplines?" I asked.
"No, not tumplines," he said, thinking of what they'd done to him on the portages. "If they could be eaten, I'd devour 'em the first day out."