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Hiking and Camping: A Few Inexpensive Items That Could Save the Day

Updated on April 25, 2016

Are You Prepared for Every Eventuality?

When it comes to camping and hiking, keeping weight down is a top priority for all but the most hardy or sadistic adventurer.

Everybody knows the essential items they need when out in the woods. Nobody wants to be carrying too much, and these items, sleeping bag, tent, food etc. generally make up the majority of your pack weight.

Most people also know the list of essential items you SHOULD carry... first aid... needle and thread... flint and steel... whistle... waterproof matches... water purification tablets... windproof lighter.... etc etc

Heard it all before, right?

In this hub, I have drawn from years of experience of hiking, exploring and living in the wilds, to put together a short list of inexpensive and mostly lightweight items that I would highly recommend to any explorer; items that have come in handy and genuinely saved the day many times. I hope they can do likewise for you

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#1 - Poncho (Military)

By poncho, I mean a military style, waterproof poncho, such as the one pictured to the right. These large ponchos can be picked up new for less than £20 and are large enough to keep you and an extremely large pack dry when on the move.

Look for a poncho that has good, strong eyelets around the edges, for attaching cord and such like. This is because the poncho has another use. This type of poncho can be used as a shelter, or basha. By attaching good cord, such as paracord (the next item), to the eyelets, you can fix the poncho in a variety of different styles (for instance, as a flat sheet, or as a ridge) and rig up a shelter from the elements in just a few minutes.

In fact, in warmer months I don't take a tent out with me as I sleep under my poncho. I recently spent some weeks in the Spring, in Switzerland and France, sleeping under mine, which easily creates a large enough shelter for two people.

#2 - Paracord

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Parachute cord, or para cord for short, is a cheap, lightweight, extremely strong, and versatile cord that is easy to get hold of, and can come in extremely handy when out and about.

As mentioned above, paracord is ideal for attaching to a poncho, to enable it to be used as a shelter.

As the name suggests, parachute cord was originally used as cord for parachuting. Made of an outer nylon sheath and multiple inner cores, paracord can be used for repairs, tying items to backpacks, and any other task requiring lightweight cordage. The ends can be melted after cutting to length to prevent fraying.

Seven cored 550 cord is the most popular and commonly used paracord, due to it's versatility

Paracord can be purchased online, with 50ft costing around £3

TIPS:

  • If you pull the cores from a length of paracord, the sheath can be used as an emergency boot lace
  • The cores can be used a sewing thread or fishing line

* Carrying a length of nylon webbing and a couple plastic buckles can also be useful

You can either buy or make your own paracord bracelet. This way you have a good 6ft or more of cord on you at all times
You can either buy or make your own paracord bracelet. This way you have a good 6ft or more of cord on you at all times | Source

How To Make a Paracord Bracelet

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#3 - Watchstrap Compass

You should always carry a proper compass for navigation. However, an inexpensive addition to your attire is a watchstrap compass. You can pick one of these up for around £3, and they come in extremely handy for quickly checking directions and landmarks on the fly.

Imagine, it's pouring with rain, and the wind is howling, and the fog has dropped. You've checked ahead on the map, but when you get to the junction of paths, it is not clear which one you need to take, or even if you're in the right place. A quick glance at the map tells you, you need to be taking the South exit. A quick look at your wrist confirms that you're heading in the right direction and which exit is yours. This little time saver has helped me out countless times.

I have attached a NATO strap on the watch in the picture. These straps are easy to fit and are extremely versatile, making adding items far simpler.


#4 - Different Types and Lengths of Tent Pegs

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#5 - Combi-Tool


This is the bulkiest item on the list, but if you don't mind the extra weight, this can come in very handy for everything from chopping firewood to digging a fire pit, and even butchery.


The tool in the picture costs around £10 and weighs 875g, so, for what it is, it's actually pretty lightweight. It isn't the heaviest duty tool in the world, but it's strong enough for most things. Featuring a saw, spade (with a built in tin opener), and an axe, it is weighted well, and comes in very handy.

Should you need to dig a pit in hard ground to shelter your fire, you have the tool. If firewood is sparse and you have to cut logs into smaller pieces, or branches from the trees, you have a saw and axe at the ready.

I also carry a wire saw in my pack.

Tent pegs.

If you're off on a bit of mission, and you'll be taking in a different terrain, stick a few extra pegs in your bag. This might seem like overkill, but pegs weigh very little, so stick a few larger and smaller ones in.

If the ground is hard, use a smaller peg. If the ground is especially soft and peaty, and your pegs keep pulling out, use a longer, textured peg for extra grip.

Pegs are cheap and aluminium ones are lightweight.

There's nothing worse than getting to the end of a tiring day and fighting to erect your tent as the rain and wind attack you from all sides, with the light failing. Packing a few extra lightweight pegs to suit all eventualities can take the pressure off, so you can kick your boots off!

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Our pleasures were simple - they included survival.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

#6 - Micro-fibre Towel

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Micro-fibre towels are super absorbent. The one in the picture measures 680mm x 310mm. That may sound small, but you can jump in the river for a wash and dry your whole body with that! It also dries amazingly fast. It packs down to 135mm x 85mm x 20mm, so take up very little precious space and can be poked into a side pocket. I carry one everywhere with me.

Top Tip- If you wet your towel in the morning before a trek, hang it over your pack and it will be dry in no time.

#7 - Filter Straw

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You should always carry water purification tablets with you to make harvested water safe for you to drink. I also like to carry a filter straw, especially in hot and remote environments. The straw pictured costs around £15 and can filter on average 1000L of water. The straw will simply cease to work when it has expired.

WARNING!! Do not use on salt water!!! But, you can use it on pretty much everything else.

This straw features a range of filter systems, some of which are replaceable, and it will remove everything over 0.05 microns in size. The flow rate is around 200ml/min. This rate slows as the filters become more filled. The more turbid the water, the shorter the life of the straw. Assuming you won't be drawing up swamp goo, the straw should last a few months, but it is recommended it is replaced after around the 6 month mark.

The straw will remove all debris, as well as bacteria and other organisms. Smell and colour are also generally removed.

These little gadgets are brilliant! If it's baking hot and you spot a puddle in a rock, or a stream you don't completely trust.... whip out your straw and sup it up! Simple!

Obviously, this can also be a life saver.

#8 - Emergency Food

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This is only really essential if you're going well away from civilisation

Foods like jerky and pemmican (dried fruit and rendered fat) are lightweight, compact and will last forever if they are kept sealed and dry. You can even make your own.

Cup-a-soups are excellent for boosting moral and getting in vital salts.

Kandal mint cake is compact and crammed with fast release energy for when you hit the wall.

Some vacuum packed jerky and pemmican, in a tin, along with some salt sachets and some sugar, could save your life..... and taste great!

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#9 - Foot Care

This is another simple one. Keeping your feet healthy is essential. Once your feet are knackered, so are you. A small pot of talcum powder and some wipes weigh next to nothing and mean you can freshen your feet on the fly. Spare socks would also be useful.

In hot environments, if you're on the move all day, I would recommend airing your feet when you stop, to avoid getting soggy and sore feet. This is an ideal time to give them a freshen up and apply a small amount of powder. It feels refreshing as well. Win win!

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#10 - Finger Toothbrush

Individually wrapped finger toothbrushes, like the one pictured (a crumpled one I found in my side pocket) are great for freshening up your teeth on the fly.

Simple as that really. Not so much a survival tool, as a moral booster. Don't subject the mountain goats to your jerky breath, stick a few of these in your pack or wallet.

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