The Australian Swag – A bit of a history lesson

If you’ve been in Australia for any length on time you would heard the word swag or a swagman.

Its a historical term because a swagman was an itinerant farm worker – these guys used to walk around to farms looking for work and swagmen were very common in the 1890’s recession in Australia although I heard a few stories about my grandfather in the depression in the 30’s riding a bike 120 km into the countryside looking for work which is kind of the same. A story that used to be conveniently peddled out to me when I didn’t have work.

Anyway a swagman would have a swag which was a bed that they would roll up on their back and they would store their belongings in the rolled up pack.

So where you most likely heard the term swagman would be in Waltzing Matilda a poem (then song) written by Banjo Paterson which was written in 1895 about a swagman that was walking through the bush and finds a sheep that he slaughters for food and ultimately is caught by the police.

The first line is “Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong” and this is where you have likely heard the term.

So the swag eventually became a staple of the camping industry in Australia because its ideal for the conditions.

A swag is lightweight (historically you’d have it on your back) and designed for warm nights but to keep water off you if it does rain. In Australia you gets all types of climate and a swag is designed fir any type of climate because you can change the type of bedding in the swag if you wish.

Swags are great if you want to camp under the stars and enjoy the outdoors while still being safe from snakes and insects.

Swags today are a little different with modern design and build quality it provides a great alternative to a tent and is particularly  good  for motorcycle riders as they could easily store the swag on the bike or if you are in a car and want to travel light.

Is it better than a tent? Difficult question I’m not sure its better or worse but is just different. But the benefit of a swag is it’s very easy and quick to setup and pack up.  There are not as many parts as well so no issues with missing tent pegs.