One of the devices Torquemada missed when he was in a torturing mood was the tumpline, the leather headband developed by the American Indian for toting everything movable from papoose boards to canoes. A northern Indian will not move without his tump. I once saw a band of Algonquins board a train in northern Quebec and every man hauled his luggage by tump, even those who had suitcases with good handles.
Agonizing though the tump is at times, it still remains the common denominator of bush travel.
For heavy packing the most usual method is the plain tump secured to a duffel bag forming the base of the load at the small of the back, with as many more sacks piled on top as you can stand. No shoulder straps. The whole load pulls back on the head and neck, making it impossible to turn your noggin even if Dagmar were taking a sun bath alongside the trail.
The one good thing about it is that you can shed the load in a flash by slipping the headstrap when stumbling over rough ground. Incidentally, when the load falls away, you feel like an ascending balloon.
Next up the notch is the pack harness, a skeleton arrangement of shoulder straps with tump added. It's a good rig for carrying two duffel bags strapped together, or for making up your own bundle encased in a pack cloth. It takes some doing, however, and considerable time to shape the bundle properly and if it doesn't "ride" right there's nothing worse.
In making up the bundle you first lay a pack cloth on the ground (six by seven feet is a good size), then place on it all the stuff you're going to carry and fold it so that it wraps into a snug, tight bundle. After the harness is fastened around it and tightened you take the whole thing aboard. The advantage of this kind of pack is its flexibility. It can be made into any size or shape and is shrinkable as you eat into your provisions. Against it is the time required to make it up, the danger of the weight being off center unless it's wrapped just so.
I am strong for the combination of shoulder straps and tump for bush travel and have little use for the various all-shoulder-strap affairs such as the knapsack and rucksack. These small packs are fine for short excursions, for the hiker who sleeps in at night and can replenish his provisions along the way. But they are not for the camper who must lug everything from start to finish.
When the going is hard he can slip out of the shoulder straps and use the tump. When the going is easy he can get relief by discarding the tump and using his straps.
The pack harness, although it has the combined arrangement, is not the answer mainly because of the headache involved in making it up. The Duluth type of packsack is the solution in my opinion, the nearest thing to perfection yet devised for bush packing. A big, tough sack with straight (as opposed to cross) shoulder straps and tump, it has a flap which comes halfway down the back, on which are three long adjustable straps so that the sack can be fitted for large or small loads. The shoulder straps are reinforced with riveted leather patches so firmly fastened that the sack could probably take a load of pig iron without ripping.
The big size will hold all the duffel and grub needed by one man for a week's sleeping-out cruise. It is low riding and surprisingly comfortable. Turned inside out and stuffed with leaves, it makes a good sleeping pillow. It stows well in a canoe.