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Adirondack Mushroom Hunter's Packbasket

Posts: 3694
Location: woodland, washington
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a few years ago, I went to see a waterfall near my home. despite spending a substantial portion of my life very close by, I had never been to this lovely spot before.

(location withheld to protect the innocent mushrooms thereabouts)

I have regrets about not getting there sooner, not least of all because as I hiked around the vicinity, I found a great abundance of chanterelles. that was my first exposure to wild mushrooms, and I was hooked. in the intervening years, I've done a fair amount of mushroom hunting, most frequently with a good friend of mine who is an enthusiast of all manner of wild food. we hunt mushrooms, dig clams, pry mussels, fish in lakes and rivers, forage wild plants, and stalk the neighborhoods of Portland for craft beer. to thank me for being his unofficial assistant brewer, my friend recently gave me a bit of apparatus for Saturnalia to make our foraging a bit more comfortable: an Adirondack Mushroom Hunter's Packbasket.

(that's a 22-ounce bottle for scale)

I wasn't even aware of packbaskets prior to the gift. we had always gotten along alright using cloth shopping bags or bushel baskets to haul our haul, but it turns out that a packbasket is pretty darn handy. it's also pretty good-looking. enough so that my girlfriend insists that it hang on our living room wall when I'm not using it.

it turns out that packbaskets have a pretty long history on this continent. from what I can gather (by casually browsing the internet), packbaskets were in use in North America by 900 B.C. (which is at least 2400 before it was North America), and the current design is roughly the same as that used by early French colonists. historically made of strips of willow or ash, they're also available made of reeds (like mine), and some sort of shiny plastic-ish stuff.

my basket was treated with boiled linseed oil and some sort of stain, and the chap who made it suggests treating with linseed oil annually to keep moisture from damaging the reeds. that seems easy enough. there are two pine shoes on the bottom so the basket sits upright when I set it down. the pine will also hold up to abrasion better than the reeds alone would.

inside, there are a couple more pieces of pine to strengthen the bottom. as far as I can tell, this is the main difference between Adirondack's mushrooming model and their standard basket, which has a solid piece of wood covering the whole bottom. Adirondack's website says the more open design allows spores from mushrooms to drop out, so I'll be propagating mushrooms just by walking around. I'm skeptical of that claim, but the open design will let air move through and water drain out on rainy days.

the straps are made of one-inch cotton webbing. simple and functional.

to celebrate (celebrate what? doesn't matter), we headed out to a spot my friend had scoped out earlier in the year to find some hedgehog mushrooms and winter chanterelles. toward the end of the drive out, it was clear that our intended spot was under at least a foot of snow, so we changed the plan to letting the dog run around in the snow for a while and making some snow angels before heading for the nearest brewery, which is how we tend to salvage any plans that go awry. driving into a snowbank put even that plan in jeopardy, but it did provide the first test for my new packbasket: having failed to bring a shovel, we used the basket to dig the car out of the snow. it performed wonderfully. a few branches stuffed under the tires, and we were back on the road to delicious beers. our first choice wasn't open yet, but around here, there's always another option.

since then, I've started using the basket in place of my backpack on my bicycle. it holds a lot of gear, and doesn't collapse and crush food or other fragile stuff the way my backpack would. it conforms to my back when I'm riding, but because it's woven, there's still plenty of space for air to flow around. my backpack, on the other hand, doesn't allow any ventilation and I had learned to live with a sweaty back. no more! the straps aren't padded like most backpack straps, but they weren't uncomfortable at all, even with the basket fully loaded on a 2.5 hour ride last week. I've been prevented by more responsible parties from carrying a baby human around in it, but I bet it would work pretty well for that, too.

and how does it work for mushroom hunting? I can't actually say yet. that assessment will have to wait for morel season this spring, but I'll keep this thread updated when I find out. my guess is that it will perform wonderfully.

short version:
pros: doesn't crush contents, good ventilation, comfortable
cons: dunno. funny looks? not fireproof?
Posts: 10297
Location: South Central Kansas
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Man, lovely basket!  I would love to make one.  Anyone have and design/materials info for a basket like this?

edit:  found some great videos for making this sort of packbasket!  There's like 20 videos in the playlist.  Here's the 1st one:

Posts: 3050
Location: Western Slope Colorado.
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I had a similar basket.  Very like the one with the red straps above.  I got it in eastern Maine in potato country.  There it was called a potato harvesting basket.  I would post a photo but I recently gave it to a friend.

Mine had straight sides, no tapering at the top.

If you already make baskets it should not be too much problem.  If not, trying to make one could be the teacher you need.

Good luck
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