What Were the Main Things for Survival on the Oregon Trail?


Leaving the Midwest bound for Oregon or California was no small feat. Pioneers had to be sure they had the right equipment and supplies so they and their animals could survive the more than 2,000-mile trek.


Wagons were fashioned out of hardwood with retractable canvas covers on a hoop-shaped frame. They were usually 12 feet long and 4 feet wide and typically carried five months' worth of supplies as well as family belongings.

Horses, Mules or Oxen

Oxen were used to pull about half of the wagons that traveled the Oregon Trail. They were slower but more dependable than mules, hardier than horses and would eat courser grasses.

Typical Outfit

A pioneer family of four would need six to 10 oxen, a milk cow and one or two wagons able to carry tools, clothing and food for the journey.

Food Basics

Basic food for the trip for a family of four would be 600 lbs. of flour, 400 lbs. of bacon packed in barrels, 120 lbs. of biscuits, 100 lbs. of sugar, 200 lbs. of lard, 60 lbs. of coffee and 4 lbs. of tea.

Other Foods

Dried peaches and apples were carried, usually in barrels. Sacks of rice and beans were added to the load.


Rifles and shotguns were handy to shoot game. Some pioneers carried pistols as well. Hunting knives were a necessity. Carpentry tools, farming equipment and seeds were carried to the settler’s future homes.

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