A History of Packbaskets

DSC_1324The woven packbasket has existed for centuries.  Archaeologists have found evidence of Native American versions dating to 900 B.C. which were used for transport of hunting and fishing supplies and the resulting bounty.  It is generally believed that early French settlers in the New World designed the packbasket as we recognize it today.

Presently it is most often referred to as the “Adirondack” packbasket, the result of its extensive use in our area.  Trappers found it particularly useful for carrying their heavy, bulky traps, tools, axes and other equipment.  Packbaskets are light, strong and roomy.  A fully loaded basket will conform to the contour of the wearer’s back while protecting them from sharp and rough edges of the load inside.

Packbaskets have traditionally been woven of black ash or willow splints.  However, most baskets made today are woven of quality reed.  The addition of wooden feet and an inside base make for a premium basket which combines the historical traditions and utilitarian aspects so long connected with its use.  The packbasket has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the Adirondack Mountain region.

A finish mixture of boiled linseed oil and stain protects the basket and adds to its visual appeal.  It also allows the basket to remain supple and resistant to moisture.

Packbaskets are right at home in the woods or canoe as our ancestors used them and are equally appropriate and useful in our homes as magazine baskets, hampers or decorating accents.

Historically, packbaskets were often woven by individuals that needed them, not by “professional” basket makers.  As a result, packbaskets came in a variety of shapes and sizes.  This is quickly evident when one views collections of original baskets in museums and antique shops.  In keeping with this tradition, my packbaskets are not all of the same shape and size.  An effort is made to keep each basket as unique as possible.

Should you decide to purchase one of my packbasket items, be assured that it has been handcrafted using only quality materials and represents the historical product as realistically as possible.


  1. mick
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    Hi Pete,

    Thanks for the shout-out about a black ash basket. Unfortunately I do not have any hand pounded ash right now. I have some machine split white ash but have found it to be too brittle (even when treated with boiled linseed oil) for the heavy use a packbasket gets.

    I’m trying to find a good stand of black ash that would yield logs that would pound out well, but still looking.

    Sorry I can’t help you at this time.

    Your family history sounds very interesting. I have a pack that belonged to my dad and grandfather – about 100 years old. That’s what got me interested in weaving packbaskets in the first place.


  2. Peter Cimarello
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Mick
    Please keep me in mind I will check back occasionally.


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