How to Make a Market Wallet

Want to learn more about the American Frontier? Try making the humble market wallet.

Life on the frontier meant learning to get by with less. Building a market wallet can teach you how to do just that. Image via wikicommons:

Life on the frontier meant learning to get by with less. Building a market wallet can teach you how to do just that. Image via wikicommons:

 Backpackers have always been making choices about what to carry. How much food to take? What extra clothes do you take? How will you sleep? These are all questions backpackers need to answer. The fact is, people can only carry so much stuff on their backs, before travel becomes either too slow, or stops altogether. Today, people have the luxury of modern ultra-light gear that allows them to live in relative comfort during their time outdoors. Historically, people also carried the items they needed on their backs, they just didn’t have the nice gear we have.

 In the past, there were different options for someone wanting to carry items on their back, or on their horse. You could use a blanket pack, a haversack, or a market wallet. Each has its own place in history, and was used by different people for different reasons. One item that saw considerable use on the American frontier was the market wallet.

 A market wallet is a very simple piece of equipment to make. On the frontier they were used because they were both simple and functional. If you are reading Ride to Rendezvous, you might be wondering what a market wallet is. It is basically a small cloth, or buckskin, sack with a hole in the middle of it. When the sack it untwisted, the person can put items in it. To avoid losing those items, all you have to do is twist the sack and the hole is closed. Like many mountain men, Laramie carried one on the back of his saddle. In the story, he uses it to store the mussels they found while out riding.

 To learn how to make a market wallet, watch this brief video tutorial on the subject.

 As you can see, learning how to make a market wallet is very simple. It takes just a little fabric, some sewing, and a little time. Although, if you’d like to be truly authentic, you have to use the same materials mountain men used to make theirs. When you are just starting out, this isn’t a bad way to learn.

 Once you have your market wallet built, try taking it for a day hike. You may have to take weight into more consideration than you normally do with a modern backpack. Remember, frontiersmen didn’t always take everything they needed with them when they went to the wilderness. Rather, they learned what was a necessity to take, and what things they could use and make from nature. The more you hike and camp with the simple market wallet, the more you will come to understand the life and skills of the American frontiersman.

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