Srtictly connected to the history of Canada the Wannigan it’s essentially a wooden box that serves as a camp kitchen, storing cookware, food and goods on a canoe trip.
For over 200 years, wannigans have been on canoe voyages. Their use can be tracked as far back in the hands of the hardy voyageurs of the Hudson Bay Company. Known as one of the greatest companies in the world, the HBC played an integral role in shaping the landscape of Canada and the fur trade. For them this was a functional storage device that they hoisted through hundreds of miles of mosquito-ridden boreal forest, day in and day out. Inside this mysterious box were plenty of camping treasures: pots, pans, oil lamps, games, matches and more.
The voyageurs hoisted this box on their back, with a thick leather strap known as Tumpline banded across their forehead to support the weight.
Tumplines are thick and durable bands of leather that serve as a harness for these heavy boxes. The broad band of leather is placed over the forehead and the load is rested on the upper back. It sounds like an unusual way to carry loads but it actually works to help ease weight from the shoulders.
There are those that feel that the wannigan is impractical or just downright unnecessary in the age of waterproof plastic bins. Love them or hate them, I believe that wannigans help remind us to exercise a little bit more caution on canoe trips. They remind us of the history of canoeing in Canada and serve as an important link to our past.
Today only the most traditional guides and canoe trippers won’t venture out without…
Even though today, we use waterproof barrels to store our food, I personally find the wannigan to be a very pratical piece of equipment. It allows us to safely store all our kitchen supplies, pots and pans, grill, reflector oven, mugs and so on, beside that, the box also provides a very comfotable sit when needed, while the lid can be used as cutting board or a serving tray.