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Essential Backpacking Gear List: Surprising Supplies You Need



If you’ve got an adventurer’s head on your shoulders, you know what you need when camping and in survival situations. Everyone knows to carry a compass, map, water, but what about some everyday objects that might be handy in a pinch? Look around your home and you may just have a few odds and ends that could be life-saving backpacking supplies in a pinch. Here are a few weird ideas for your backpacking gear list that can get you thinking about how to DO:MORE with household objects.

Essential Backpacking Gear List: Surprising Supplies You Need 3Photo Credit: Steve Rainwater /


A little roll of wire can go a long way. You can use it to bind things together tighter than with rope, you can jury-rig a saw, repair a tent, create a trip line or, perhaps most impressively, trap animals. Imagine a scenario where you’re stuck in the woods with no food. Now how tasty does some rabbit sound?

If you want to be a bit more prepared, you can easily order some pre-made wire snares online. They’re cheap, very light and they don’t have to be used in survivalist situations.


This one is easily the most bizarre, but a tampon is a versatile  small, cheap, and lightweight tool.

Most importantly it’s extremely absorbent, which makes it ideal for stanching bleeding from a wound. You can tape or tie it to a wound in the place of gauze. Soldiers have been known to use tampons as a plug to stop the bleeding in a bullet wound.

This compact bundle of sterile cotton is also useful as a crude filter. Place in the top of a bottle or straw and the cotton will filter out dirt and other sediment, though it won’t get bacteria and chemicals. At worst, this is actually a handy way of adding to the life of your more thorough water filter by pre-filtering the liquid.

Unwrapping a tampon can get you an impressive amount of what we can call twine, which is always useful. Additionally, since they come in waterproof bags, the dry cotton is great as tinder to start a fire as well. Suck it up and buy a pack, or steal a few from a girlfriend, these agile tools are a top addition to your backpacking gear list.

Essential Backpacking Gear List: Surprising Supplies You NeedPhoto Credit: Greg M /


Continuing on the topic of string, floss is a cheap, light and surprisingly strong source of twine. Pared with a needle, you can use it to sew up clothes, or suture up a wound (it’s clean). It’s very strong once you loop it a few times so you can use it to bind things together, or make repairs.

It’s also very useful as a way of stringing along rope. Parachutists are known to carry a box of floss in case they get stuck in trees. Lowering down the box lets someone on the ground tie a heavier rope to the lightweight floss to raise up a stronger line.

Essential Backpacking Gear List: Surprising Supplies You Need 2Photo Credit: Yogesh Mhatre /


Most survival kits you can buy online include some parachute cord. Again, it’s strong, lightweight and it can be unwound to give you more cord. We all know how useful rope is in any situation.

An alternative to this, if you happened to forget your cord that day, is to use your shoelaces. The bow technique of starting a fire (wrapping a stick around the string of a bow which you then move back and forth to spin the stick quickly, creating friction) requires some string. You could try to fashion rope out of roots and bark like your ancestors, or just make sure that your boots have a good long lace and use that.

Essential Backpacking Gear List: Surprising Supplies You Need 4Photo Credit: Bill Bradford /

Saw Blade

If you get stuck in the woods, or anywhere really but the direst desert and tundra, you are liable to have some trees and wood around. Wood is great for building everything, but it’s tough to cut with your teeth and fingernails. A cheap sawzall blade and a stick is all you need to make a passable saw on your backpacking gear list. Sawzall blades are light and you usually have some lying around the house. Just make a notch in a stick and slip the blade in, to create your handle, then secure it with the wire that you brought along.

This is one option, some people go the extra mile and bring a wire saw along. These are very light, and great for cutting even fairly large saplings. Again, it’s all about preparation.

Trash Bags

These are survival gems, especially the big, heavy contractor bags. They have the most obvious application as a sturdy bag to carry things like game or firewood in. They are also waterproof and can be used to protect your gear from the weather, fashion a quick rain poncho, or even build a small, temporary shelter. The plastic is also surprisingly warm when worn under your clothes, it doesn’t breath and so keeps in a layer of air as insulation.

Essential Backpacking Gear List: Surprising Supplies You Need 5Photo Credit: NiXerkG /


Having a spare piece of cloth handy is important. You can use these backpacking supplies as gauze to wrap wounds or as a tourniquet to stop severe bleeding. A wet bandana wrapped around your neck goes a long way towards beating the heat and keeping the sun off you. When wrapped around your face, it keeps out dust. When doused in water, it keeps away smoke. It’s an all around useful item for your backpacking gear list.

Soda Can

Did you have a soda in the car on the way to the wilderness? Don’t throw away the can. This simple little can could save you in a pinch.

Perhaps the most common use of a soda can is to create a stove. An aluminum can stove is light and efficient, and many backpackers prefer this to the clunkier, store-bought stoves. Depending on how much effort you want to put into it, and how many cans, you can create a very nice set up that’s ultra-lightweight and dirt cheap too.

The usefulness doesn’t end there. An aluminium can can also be used to store water. If you’re low on water, you can even collect dew from the leaves in the morning. Or you can use the raw material, the aluminum, for repairs, shims and even to fashion some crude fishhooks.

Lastly, the inside of your can is unpainted and reflective, which makes for a passable single mirror.

The soda can is a great example of the inventiveness you can use to turn ordinary objects into the tools of survival. Be sure to look twice at your junk before your next camping trip. These backpacking supplies might just save your life.

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