It is one of the oldest load bearing devices known to man and was used by many cultures.  In North America it was
employed by Voyagers, Mountain Men, and Native Americans, and was considered the only feasible way to carry furs
and gear over the portage trail.  It is still used today by Sherpas hired to carry gear to the base camp of Mt. Everest.    

A tumpline consists of a headpiece 2 - 4 in. wide and 15 - 20 in. long.  Attached to this headpiece are two tails, one on
ether side, ranging from 5 ft. - 12 ft. depending on what you would be carrying.  The tails are tied to your load and the
head strap is placed on top of your head.  This puts the load directly in line with the spine.  It allows you to carry heavy
loads longer and more comfortably then with shoulder straps.  

There are two key points to keep in mind that make the tumpline work properly.

1.        Tie the tumpline so the load is high on the back.  A load that is to low will swing from side to side and interfere
with your hip movement as you walk.  The best way to eliminate any swing is to grab and hold the tumpline on ether
side of the head.
2.        Make sure that the headpiece is on top of your head and not on your forehead.  If you feel you neck muscles
straining against the weight of your load, it is to far forward.  If it feels like It is going to slip off the back of your head it
is to far back.  If you put your finger on the very top of your head, the head strap will rest just forward of this spot.  You
may need to move the head strap around until you find that sweet spot.  

The tump can be use to carry anything you take with you on a canoe trip.  Most traditional portage packs come with a
head strap already attached to the pack.  Adjust the strap to whatever feels the most comfortable to you.  I generally
adjust my load so 50% of the weight in on the strap and 50% on my shoulders.  Other uses for the tump is portaging
the canoe, packing a
wannigan, bring in a load of firewood, and you can use it as a ridge line or guy line for a tarp.

Securing a tumpline to a load is easy to do.  Lets look at a video of the most common uses on a canoe trip.  
The Tumpline
The Tumpline