Pack Basket
From the archives

The Pack Basket is Viable Baggage

Nothing evokes the Adirondacks like a pack basket. They’re the original suspension pack – their rigidity makes load carrying much easier, and they keep fragile objects safe during a tough trek (bottles of wine, grocery store). I was introduced to the pack basket at the Dartmouth Organic Farm, where there’s a swale with a few dozen black ash that are reserved for local Native American basket weavers. A pack basket can be a bit unwieldy if it’s too big or poorly loaded, but when it’s done right, it’s a treat.

“The pack basket is peculiar to the Adirondacks being in evidence everywhere and for all purposes. Does the native mountaineer start for town to buy a little flour and sow belly? He takes his pack basket lovingly by the strap and saunters forth. Does the Missus want to go after berries for the summer camp table? She totes her little pack basket.” (Hunter-Trader-Trapper, Volume 42, 1921)

Japanese pack basket, from Onibaba (1964):

Modern equivalent found in China, from jimmiehomeschoolmom:

More modern pack basket use. Note beaver tail sticking out of basket. From drsethery.

Arsenal of pack baskets from Rock Scout.

Some options if you’d like to try a pack basket:

Budget option from LL Bean. Note single-head rivets, nylon webbing, and plywood base. But it’s made in Maine and only $80. Wonderful way to get a feel for the pack basket.

The expanded version: the Timber Cruiser by Frost River. A pack basket inside of a canoe pack.

A few sellers on Etsy have pack baskets available, although I’m considering a Medium Tall from The Basket Lady. Her site has excellent notes on maintenance and is one of the few that offers baskets with leather harnesses. Note quadruple riveting and Conway buckles.

But since a really top-notch pack basket can go for north of $200, why not make your own?

10 thoughts on “The Pack Basket is Viable Baggage”

  1. Made one in Scouts for a merit badge, never used it to carry gear, my Mom finally stuck a bucket inside and used it for a planter…looked pretty good

  2. I’ve taken several basket weaving classes and made a larger sized pack basket out of less expensive reed. The basket was rather time consuming to make, but turned out ok for a first try though the shape is a bit off. Shaping is definately an art. Someday I’d love a real split ash pack basket for canoe trips, but that will have to wait.

  3. Thanks for the info. Especially enjoyed the 1921 hunter-trapper comments. I never knew they actually had practical applications. I feel tempted to buy one just to try it out. Thanks again…one of the many reasons I love this blog.

  4. I bought mine from L.L. Bean around 1981 and used it for day hikes and (more importantly) grocery shopping for many, many years. It’s one of the better ways to carry canned goods because the cans don’t dig into your back.

    When I first moved to Maine in 1987, inexpensive pack baskets were still sold in LaVerdiere’s drug stores (now all Rite-Aids, I believe.)

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