National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier Idaho



Trail Center's Merchantile Store
The Trail Center's Merchantile Store is the place where you can select your supplies for your journey along the trail.
(click for larger view)

A pioneer’s typical outfit wasn’t terribly expensive; usually one or two small, sturdy farm wagons, six to 10 head of oxen, a milk cow or two. Plus all the necessary food, clothing and utensils needed for survival. Often heavy items such as furniture, stoves, pianos would be freighted to the West Coast by clipper ship around the Horn of South America. If such heavy things were packed in the wagons, they usually ended up left along trailside along the way.

To survive the long jouney, a family of four would need 600 lbs. of flour, 120 lbs. of biscuits, 400 lbs. of bacon, 60 lbs. of coffee, 4 lbs. of tea, 100 lbs. of sugar, and 200 lbs. of lard. These would just be the basic staples. Other food stuffs could include sacks of rice and beans, plus dried peaches and apples. Bacon was often hauled in large barrels packed in bran so the hot sun would not melt the fat. Each man took a rifle or shotgun and some added a pistol. A good hunting knife was essential. Farm implements such as a plow, shovel, scythe, rake, hoe; plus carpentry tools - saw, broad axe, mallet, plane. Seeds for corn, wheat and other crops.


A.J. McCall an early traveler on the Oregon Trail made light of how some pioneers tried to "take it all."  He wrote: "They laid in and over supply of bacon, flour and beans, and in addition thereto every conceivable jimcrack and useless article that the widest fancy could devise or human ingenuity could invent – pins and needles, brooms and brushes, ox shoes and horse shoes, lasts and leather, glass beads beads and hawks-bells, jumping jacks and jews-harps, rings and bracelets, pocket mirrors and pocket-books, calico vests and boiled shirts."

Supplies that Pioneers took with them


Usually, thick slabs of smoked bacon would keep as long as it was protected form the hot temperatures.  One way to preserve bacon was to pack it inside a barrel of bran.  Also, eggs could be protected by packing them in barrels of corn meal – as the eggs were used up, the meal was used to make bread.  Coffee was another important staple.  It was drunk by man and beast, adult and child and the best way to disguise the taste of bitter, alkali water.


In the early days of the trail when game was more abundant near the trail, pioneers could often kill buffalo and antelope.  However, a more dependable supply of fresh meat was to bring along a small herd of cattle and trail them behind the wagon.   Many also brought along a cow for milking purposes.  Milk could also be churned into butter by simply hanging it in pails beneath the bumpy wagon.  By the end of  the day fresh butter would be ready.

A covered wagon with supplies
(Click for larger version)

A wagon in process of being loaded with supplies for the trek west

on display in the interpretive area within the Trail Center.

Typical cargo crammed into a wagon included:

COOKING UTENSILS: Dutch oven, kettle, skillet, reflector oven, coffee grinder, teapot, butcher knife, ladle, tin tableware, water keg, matches.

CLOTHING: wool sack coats, rubber coats, cotton dresses, wool pantaloons, buckskin pants, duck trousers, cotton shirts, flannel shirts, cotton socks, brogans, boots, felt hat, palm-leaf sun hat, green goggles, sunbonnet.

FOOD: flour (600 lbs.), bacon ( 400 lbs.), coffee (60 lbs.), baking soda, corn meal, hardtack, dried beans, dried fruit, dried beef, molasses, vinegar, pepper, eggs, salt, sugar (100 lbs.), rice, tea (4 lbs.), lard (200 lbs.)

BEDDING & TENT SUPPLIES: blankets, ground cloths, pillows, tent, poles, stakes, ropes.

TOOLS & EQUIPMENT: set of augers, gimlet, ax, hammer, hoe, plow, shovel, spade, whetstone, oxbows, axles, kingbolts, ox shoes, spokes, wagon tongue, heavy ropes, chains.

LUXURIES: canned goods, plant cuttings, school books, musical instruments, dolls and toys, family albums, jewelry, china, silverware, fine linens, iron stoves, furniture.

WEAPONRY: rifle, pistol, knife, hatchet, gunpowder, lead, bullet mold, powder horn, bullet pouch, holster.

HANDY ARTICLES: surgical instruments, liniments, bandages, campstool, chamber pot, washbowl, lanterns, candle molds, tallow, spyglasses, scissors, needles, pins, thread.


A Pioneer Musket

Trail Basics
The Trek West
The Starting Point
The Wagon
Mules, Horses or Oxen
A Day on the Trail