The Weekend Woodsman’s shoulder bag

Last time, I covered my belt pouch, which contains a few essential and backup items. If I’m planning on doing more than just a 1- or 2-hour hike in a familiar area, say a half-day or day hike, I’ll also bring along my small shoulder bag, a military surplus Finnish army gas mask bag (5 Euros/7.50 Dollars). I like this bag because it’s rugged, has a decent number of snapping pockets inside and has secure shoulder and waist straps. The contents of my shoulder bag, along with my cutting tools (which will be covered later), could easily help me to survive an unplanned overnight stay if need be. Modifications include waterproofing and the addition of strap padding.

The shoulder bag contents (listed from top-left to bottom-right):

Poncho: 9 Euros (13 Dollars)
– (Shoulder bag)
Canteen: 4 Euros (5.50 Dollars)
Spoon: 2 Euros (3 Dollars), stolen from the kitchen
Small pot: 4 Euros (5.50 Dollars)
Kuksa: 4 Euros (5.50 Dollars), bought used from consignment shop (boiled many times…)
Birch bark, tinder lichen and fatwood: from mother nature
First-aid kit: 5 Euros (7.50 Dollars), put together from items at home
Bandana: 2 Euros (3 Dollars)
Toilet paper: 0.50 Euro (0.75 Dollars), stolen from the bathroom
Soap: 1 Euro (1.50 Dollars)
Bug spray: 3 Euros (4 Dollars)
Lip balm: 2 Euros (3 Dollars)
Headlamp: 5 Euros (7.50 Dollars)
Glow stick: 1 Euro (1.50 Dollars)
Space blanket: 2 Euros (3 Dollars)
Compass: 10 Euros (15 Dollars)
Needles, thread and buttons: 2 Euros (3 Dollars), put together from items at home
Tea, coffee and creamer: 1 Euro (1.50 Dollars), scavenged from the kitchen
Sharpening stone: 5 Euros (7.50 Dollars)
Pen: 0.50 Euros (0.75 Dollars)
Twine and paracord: a few cents

Total cost: about 70 Euros (just shy of 100 Dollars)

This cost is very much an estimate, as I simply do not remember how much each of the individual items cost when purchased. If anything, I rounded up, so these items were at most this much, and likely cheaper. If you followed the comments on the belt pouch post, you’ll have read that I’ve been carrying my firesteel in my shoulder bag, however I had forgotten that I recently attached it to my knife, so I will cover it when I cover my cutting tools.

As you can see, this kit gives me a lot more capabilities than my belt pouch. I can navigate and orient with a map much better, fix boo-boos, shelter under a space blanket and poncho if need be, make sewing repairs, sharpen my blades, take care of hygiene needs, strain/boil/carry water, cook some small meals, keep the bugs away, take care of binding tasks and lots more. I have done overnight trips with just this shoulder bag, my belt pouch and a sleeping bag, and felt like I had more than enough equipment.

For the more extensive cooking, hygiene and shelter items desired for longer trips, I move up to the next level, which is my backpack. So if you don’t see some items above which you think should belong there, you’ll most likely come across them in my backpack gear list. Stay tuned…

By the way, I welcome any comments and suggestions. πŸ˜‰

EDIT: About half the time, I will take this shoulder bag, my belt pouch and my cutting tools for a half-day or day trip. If, however, I also want to bring along books, extra clothing, etc. that won’t fit in the shoulder bag, I will put this shoulder bag in my backpack and take it like that instead.

31 comments on “The Weekend Woodsman’s shoulder bag

  1. SKW says:

    Hey Matt, how are you my friend? πŸ™‚ I found your blog few days ago and subbed. Thanks for another great post, I enjoyed it!

    All the best
    matthew (skwoodsman from bcusa)

  2. Ron says:

    Oohhh I like that bag!!
    It is similar to the one I have, a British gasmaskbag, which unfortunately, is made out of nylon…

    Does this bag leave room for food? I can;t answer that by looking at the pictures.
    Maybe slide in a lighter or some waterproofed matches. Your first aidkit looks quite minimalistic to me. I always keep at least some plasters with scissors, an emergency bandage, some latex gloves and an armsling in there. Can’t tell what’s in yours. I would also add an emergency vest, too. You know, one of those bright yellow or orange ones.
    Replace the pen with a pencil. Works everytime.

    • Thanks for the comments and suggestions, Ron.

      There is enough room for the amount of food I would eat on a shorter trip, but I can squeeze in a day’s worth of food. For longer trips, I bring my backpack, where there is plenty of room.

      Extra matches and fire-lighting equipment are part of my backpack kit. On day trips, I have one case full of matches and a firesteel. I used to have a lighter in my shoulder bag, but took it out because I didn’t use it for 3 years.

      The first-aid kit contains bandaids (plasters), sterile wipes, pain killers, antibiotic ointment, hydrocortisone, iodine wipes, small and large gauze strips (several meters), electrolyte tablets and more. I guess this stuff is hard to see in the picture. There is plenty of gauze to hold both small or larger wounds closed. The gauze can also be used as an arm sling. Small scissors are part of my backpack kit.

      An emergency vest would fit if it’s small enough. During hunting season, I wear a bright orange vest and cap in the woods.

      I don’t think I’ve ever had to use the pen, even though I have had it in my kit for a while. I’m think a pencil’s point would be quickly broken by the way I handle by bag, but it’s not a bad idea to have one. If I come across a small piece of pencil, I’ll put it together with the pen. πŸ™‚

    • Perkunas says:

      Yep, first aid kits are almost always under appreciated, which i dont understand as in the woods all alone,it pays off to have a Good kit that you have learned to use.

      • Maybe I will do a post in the future about the contents of my first-aid kit, which are nearly impossible to see in the picture above.

        • Perkunas says:

          Not a stupid idea man. I could do a similar too, as i have several FAKΒ΄s and i never go anywhere, without taking even the smallest with me.

          One friend of mine, believed that as he havent ever needed a first aid kit, excluding few needs for small plasters, he can stop carrying that “excess useless “weight & bulk,and u know what….Just 2 weeks after that, while making a 15 nights hike in Utsjoki area, he hit himself with and axe. Luckily heΒ΄s friend had fishing line,needle and bottle of wound cleaning alcohol and good size field dressing plus painkillers so they could continue the hike,and they did not have to call in the border patrols ambulance chopper. They rested for 2 nights, and then, spent the whole time there as planned,sine they could care the wound pretty well. This can happen to me,as it can to you,it isnt about whos been swinging axes more or less,or whos been carrying an puukko the most,accidents do happen to everyone and nobody can say that “well i havent planned to get injured” πŸ™‚

          • Yeah, I would not skimp on the first-aid kit. It’s one of those things that I have, but never want to use.

            Interestingly, my first-aid kit is one of the things that I have been ADDING to over time, while I’ve be removing items from the rest of my gear. I am all too aware that one slip of the axe or knife can mean trouble, so of course I have some means for taking care of wounds like that.

  3. Perkunas says:

    Hey, i am sure that IF youΒ΄d tell the readers,why theres this and that, this would make a pretty damn good post,man. I mean, tell “us” why, you have choosed this specific item. theres like 567 different bottles,why you carry this? Theres 4532 different first aid kits, why this specific ?

    My own, question, is that why you choose to carry a fixed(?) handle steel pot,and a wooden kuksa,as those do take space,and weight a bit too,in a tiny pouch, when you could use a folding “swedish” plastic “kuksa”,and some type of cup,that travels snugly with its designed bottle. There are various dfesigns used by many armies,and even your existing US army style canteen, has its own cup, that does not weight a thing,and more than that,its very compact.

    Surely, a wooden kuksa has its vintage feeling, and it doesnt burn, nor freeze your lips,but those are big buggers to stuff in small pack,and usually, all the kuksas here,traditionally and today, are carried hanging from belt just as they are,with a small carabiner etc.

    Other than that, ill have to think harder to make any poor suggestions πŸ™‚

    • Well, I think a lot of the items are pretty basic and self-explanatory. There’s not a whole lot behind each item. The water bottle/canteen? It holds water, isn’t bright orange and was cheap. πŸ˜€ That’s really about it. This isn’t to say that I just throw any items into my kit and don’t care what they are. I’m selective to a degree. I try to find a balance between functionality, ruggedness, price and appearance. Maybe I will do another post explaining my gear choices a little more.

      The pot is actually not that big at all, and the handle does not get in the way inside the bag. Although the pot and kuksa take up space, I put my tinder bag inside them (like a plastic Easter egg), so there is no lost space there. The weight isn’t noticeable at all. As for why I use the kuksa and not a folding cup (which I do have), the only reason I can give you is that I like using the kuksa (for the reasons you mentioned). I like a sturdy, stable cup that’s easy to hold on to. One reason I don’t carry the kuksa on my belt is that I try to avoid feeling like Batman, where I have 15 different things on my belt. I like to limit it to my knife, belt pouch and shoulder bag.

      Thanks for the comments and suggestions. πŸ™‚

  4. Perkunas says:

    Well, even the magical Saame people, carry a sewing kit, two knives,kuksa,an small eccessory pouch in their belt and Nobody call em clowns nor batmen πŸ™‚

    No, seriously, i understand you well. I carry wooden kuksa as well, but usually in belt, and hey, you and both know, wooden kuksa looks better in blog etc pictures than any other,laid nicely on top of pile of whittlings and with a fire on background and a huuuuuge knife πŸ™‚

    Sure, go ahead and make a topic about how you choose gear, i find it always interesting to read what people put in their scales. I myself, choose some gear also so that i usualy like the looks of it as well,but it isnt the #1 or even #2 in my books,the looks. I am partially into old ways,not so much because iΒ΄d like the actual appearance, but the old tech, old feel and such appears to me a lot,and that kind of gear usually looks old-world too.

    Its fun to see different people, telling how they choose gear indeed. I like to know, is the the pure functionality, pure looks, or pure need to have the latest,rarest or most weird stuff. Its funny that someone might order an axe that costs 150 euros,with all the shippings and taxes etc, or even more, and doenst even use it daily basis to keep his shed warm,but then the same guy, uses an old horse blanket as a lean-to and a plastic bag as a backpack, when he could simply buy all the stuff, so that its all good quality. Someone turn bushcraft more into BUMcraft and Hobocraftm, and i like it as well. The ones that get all the latest and most expensive, are usually bunch of lazy posers who dont ever post their woodlores in real action,excluding opening a plastic sausaga packing or so :),and all their gear,stays looking untouched, in various forums,year after year,still sayin that this and that is the best user he has…weird huh πŸ™‚

    Luckily you aint like that.

    • I wouldn’t say that the two knives, sewing kit, kuksa and pouch carried traditionally by Saami people is very batman-ish. As you know, I’m talking more about some of these pictures where there are like 10 pouches, canteens, knives etc. on somebody’s belt. But the thing is, I’m not trying to be critical of that. Some people have “belt systems”, because that’s the way they like to do things. If it works for them, great. I just don’t personally like lots of things clinging to my mid-section. It’s just my preference. There’s this one guy called “Perkunas” who sometimes has tons of stuff on his belt and..oh…wait a minute… πŸ˜‰

      Yes, the wooden kuksa does look better than plastic cups in my opinion. As you know, I very much enjoy the sight and texture of materials, so the kuksa is perfect for me. The plastic cup doesn’t feel or look nice to me.

  5. James says:

    When I was more into military gear I used to do a 1st, end, and 3rd line set up and you seem to being doing the same with civy gear: belt pouch, shoulder bag, backpack. My 1st is pocket carry but 2nd and 3rd are kind of my everyday pack or switched out for full hiing pack.

    No suggestions on your gear, you have it as you like it. It just inspires me to look at maybe filling my leather shoulder bag and actually using it; I made it from a pair of used $6 cowbow chaps lol.

  6. James says:

    Opps, “1st, end, and 3rd line set up” should have been: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

  7. Chris says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Ron says:

    Where can I find a bag like that cheap?
    Varusteleka has them for €9+€18 shipping….

  9. […] you may know, I use a Finnish army gas mask bag as a shoulder bag in the woods. I find it convenient to keep smaller, frequently used items there, […]

  10. Izzy. says:

    Love the blog. I’m moving towards traditional outdoorsmanship and I love how us (I count myself slightly as one. Need to work on that, though) Bushcrafters are embracing the old military surplus shoulder bags as the new haversacks/satchels of the old days. Subbed!

    • Thanks for the comments Izzy! I appreciate it!

      Glad to hear you’re getting deeper into the hobby. I think you’ll find it’s really fulfilling and that there’s always something new to be learned. Also glad you decided to sub and stick around! I’ll check out your blog right now. πŸ™‚

  11. Caleb says:

    This is not a woodsman’s satchel! A real woodsman does not carry a compass, he uses the stars for navigation. he does it carry a first aid kit, he uses the plants that God gave us to aid injuries. Nor does he carry bug spray. And he most certainly doesn’t carry a electronic headlamp for light, he uses fire! a real woodsman only needs a knife, hatchet or ax, some food(flour, sugar, salt and maybe beans), and maybe a skillet and tin cup. Every thing else you can make or get in the field. You desperately need to find your manhood burliness!

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