In this series, we’ve covered the importance of having a well-stocked pack with an excellent knife and fire options, but there are just a few more items for your pack that may mean the difference between enjoying the woods and coming home discouraged.
There is no shortage of products to buy in terms of extracting water from the environment and making it potable (drinkable). Depending on your budget, these can range from less than a dollar to several hundred dollars.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, boiling your water will kill 100% of all pathogens and parasitic organisms. To do this, all you need is a container that can take the heat. Just buy a metal camp cup or water bottle. These can be found almost anywhere for about $5 to $10. If you’re looking to go with a very low budget item, then buy a can of soup, have the soup for supper, and then keep the soup can. Either way, having potable water is not as expensive or difficult as it sounds.
For a more durable option, buy a stainless steel hiker’s bottle, and spray some high-temperature grill paint in order to protect the bottle from wear and more evenly disperse heat. If this costs more than $10 to $12, then you need to shop somewhere else.
Finally, if you are willing to spend a little more, there are hiker’s filters available. These filters not only remove dangerous organisms; they can also improve the water’s taste and texture by removing dirt and sediment that may be present. These do cost a little more than the stainless steel cup, but it may be worth it if you’ll be spending a lot of time outside.
One of the most important things to pack with you (and which is incredibly time consuming to reproduce in the wild) is cordage. You will need cordage for building a shelter, hafting, stitching, making cargo nets, and more. The list continues indefinitely. There are two basic kinds to pack.
First, you should buy tar-coated synthetic cordage (also known as bankline or trotline). Usually made from polyester, this type of cordage is extremely versatile because of its light size and strength. In addition, you can even double or triple the strands in order to double or triple the pounds it can hold. You can use this cordage for just about anything, as long as it’s not bearing your weight (for safety reasons).
The second type is 550 paracord, which we’ve already mentioned in the last article. 550 paracord is extremely strong, highly versatile, and you can even break down the paracord into the seven inner strands. You can do almost anything with 100 feet of 550 paracord and 200 feet of bankline.
You might consider acquiring twenty–five-or-so feet of climber-grade rope, just in case you need to use it to bear your weight.
If you do decide to trek into a certain area, it is always smart to carry a topographical map with GPS grid coordinates. You should always be oriented to where you are and where you’re going, especially if you are not familiar with the area. Be sure to bring a map and a compass to minimize your chance of getting lost.
One of the best kinds is a “lensatic compass,” which will allow you to shoot an azimuth (find the direction for your bearing). This doesn’t need to be expensive, as these types of compasses are very common, but it should be of high enough quality to work well. Spend no more than $30, but no less than $15.
If you want to get classy, then there are military compasses that are available, which should last past your lifetime and into your grand children’s years. The brand is Cammenga, and it is built with nearly indestructible materials and loaded with features. If you’re planning hikes into no-man’s-land, then you might just want to spend the $80.
Vise-Grips or Multi-Tool
Perhaps you most valuable assets (which are next to impossible to duplicate in the wild) are your tools. Sure, you can manufacture cordage, shelter, and even make containers and fire out of woodland materials, but at the end of the day, you just can’t match the functionality of a multi-tool or vise-grips in the woods.
At the same time, these don’t need to break the bank. You can buy a good set of vise-grips at any hardware store for no more than $12. This tool will allow you to work with fire and hold on to your project without actually holding on with your hands. You can even clamp down your vise-grips on the point of your knife, creating an effective drawknife.
Also, if you carry a multi-tool, then you will even have the advantage of a file, an awl, needle-nose pliers, a bottle opener (in case you pack in a cold one!), and other helpful tools that will only put you at an advantage. The unit is small, compact, relatively light, and jam-packed full of items that more than compensate for its weight and cost.
Carrying a machete will immediately make you feel like wondering, “What did I ever do without this thing?” There are countless scenarios that will require you to clear a bushy area for camp, shape a piece of wood, chop down saplings, etc. Machetes are one of the most useful tools, and you can buy one of the best brands for under $30.
Ontario Knives sells their eighteen-inch model, which is made of very tough steel. Countless reviews have said that the machete will hold up to a decade of torture and abuse, and kick on for another five years before breaking. We recommend avoiding the “sawback” model, as you will want to use the spine of your machete to add leverage for various tasks. However, we are not saying that saws are bad…
A tool that will save you countless calories and minutes of huffing and puffing from whacking away at a log is a folding saw. Now, you may want to spend a hair above $25 (as cheaper models will not do the job effectively), but these are worth their weight in gold.
Having a folding saw in your pack will give you the ability to eat through hard wood, if you buy a good one. Folding saws are at the right size for doing smaller tasks, while just large enough to tear through a log that is eight inches in diameter. If you are building a debris hut, then you will be glad you purchased one of these.
Duct Tape and Bandanas
While you should buy a small first aid kit ($15), make sure you also pack in duct tape and bandanas. There aren’t many cuts that can’t be dressed with these supplies, and if it’s worse than that, then it’s time to find medical help immediately.
Other than that, the uses for duct tape are rather obvious. If you can’t fix it with duct tape, then it doesn’t need to be fixed. As for bandanas, you can use them as a head covering, char-cloth, and a host of other uses. The cost for both should run you less than $8.
Of course, there are countless items out there that certainly deserve mentioning, but we simply wanted to point you in the right direction, helping you start on the path to becoming a friend of the woods.
©2013 Off the Grid News