As this book is written for boys of all ages, it has been divided under two general heads, "The Tomahawk Camps" and "The Axe Camps," that is, camps which may be built with no tool but a hatchet, and camps that will need the aid of an axe.
The smallest boys can build some of the simple shelters and the older boys can build the more difficult ones. The reader may, if he likes, begin with the first of the book, build his way through it, and graduate by building the log houses; in doing this he will be closely following the history of the human race, because ever since our arboreal ancestors with prehensile toes scampered among the branches of the pre-glacial forests and built nestlike shelters in the trees, men have made themselves shacks for a temporary refuge. But as one of the members of the Camp-Fire Club of America, as one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America, and as the founder of the Boy Pioneers of America, it would not be proper for the author to admit for one moment that there can be such a thing as a camp without a camp-fire, and for that reason the tree folks and the "missing link" whose remains were found in Java, and to whom the scientists gave the awe-inspiring name of Pithecanthropus erectus, cannot be counted as campers, because they did not know how to build a camp-fire; neither can we admit the ancient maker of stone implements, called eoliths, to be one of us, because he, too, knew not the joys of a camp-fire. But there was another fellow, called the Neanderthal man, who lived in the ice age in Europe and he had to be a camp-fire man or freeze! As far as we know, he was the first man to build a camp-fire. The cold weather made him hustle, and hustling developed him. True, he did cook and eat his neighbors once in a while, and even split their bones for the marrow; but we will forget that part and just remember him as the first camper in Europe.
Recently a pygmy skeleton was discovered near Los Angeles which is claimed to be about twenty thousand years old, but we do not know whether this man knew how to build a fire or not. We do know, however, that the American camper was here on this continent when our Bible was yet an unfinished manuscript and that he was building his fires, toasting his venison, and building "sheds" when the red-headed Eric settled in Greenland, when Thorwald fought with the "Skraelings," and Biarni's dragon ship made the trip down the coast of Vineland about the dawn of the Christian era. We also know that the American camper was here when Columbus with his comical toy ships was blundering around the West Indies. We also know that the American camper watched Henry Hudson steer the Half Moon around Manhattan Island. It is this same American camper who has taught us to build many of the shacks to be found in the following pages.
The shacks, sheds, shanties, and shelters described in the following pages are, all of them, similar to those used by the people on this continent or suggested by the ones in use and are typically American; and the designs are suited to the arctics, the tropics, and temperate climes; also to the plains, the mountains, the desert, the bog, and even the water.
It seems to be natural and proper to follow the camp as it grows until it develops into a somewhat pretentious log house, but this book must not be considered as competing in any manner with professional architects. The buildings here suggested require a woodsman more than an architect; the work demands more the skill of the axeman than that of the carpenter and joiner. The log houses are supposed to be buildings which any real outdoor man should be able to erect by himself and for himself. Many of the buildings have already been built in many parts of the country by Boy Pioneers and Boy Scouts.
This book is not intended as an encyclopedia or history of primitive architecture; the bureaus at Washington, and the Museum of Natural History, are better equipped for that purpose than the author.
The boys will undoubtedly acquire a dexterity and skill in building the shacks and shanties here described, which will be of lasting benefit to them whether they acquire the skill by building camps "just for the fun of the thing" or in building them for the more practical purpose of furnishing shelter for overnight pleasure hikes, for the wilderness trail, or for permanent camps while living in the open....