One of the critical elements to starting a fire in the wilderness
is to get good tinder to ignite easily so you can build your fire on top of
this initial ignition point. Most people rely on available pine needles, bird's
nest, dry grass, etc. as their primary source of tinder. Sometimes these
critical elements are not readily available or in a crisis situation you don't
have time to look for them. Here is one you may not have thought of, Dryer
Lint. Ask your wife how much accumulates in the dryer catch screen, believe me
its readily available, plentiful and the cost is nothing. Considering that most
of your clothes are polyester or cotton blends, the off flow lint is a good
fire ignition source. You can get a large supply into a very small flat
polyethylene bag. If you add a few strike-anywhere matches you have a
ready-made fire starting kit. You can increase the volatility of the lint by
packing a 35mm film canister tightly with a supply, then carefully saturating
it with some white gas or kerosene. Close the container securely, wipe off all
spillage and then tightly seal the canister around the cap with duct tape. Be
very careful when you use this method of fire starting in the field, stay back
from the source, as it will flash up very quickly. Always practice at home
first, preferably in your back yard, with whatever components you select, so
you will know how to use them when the need arises.
A pair of
A pair of heavy-duty bootlaces packed in with your gear can
offer a multitude of useful and potentially safety related assistance in any
outdoor environment. There are some benefits to leather laces, but the new
heavy-duty type will work just as well in most cases. Aside from the fact that
if you break a bootlace on the trail you can remedy a very uncomfortable
experience, there are many other uses you may encounter where this simple $3.00
item will help benefit your outdoor enjoyment. Some of the things bootlaces can
help you with you in the field are:
poles together for an emergency shelter or for a cooking tripod.
a torn out tent tie down or a broken rain flap tie.
stringer, lantern hanger, net wrist strap, securing things in choppy
as a tourniquet, arm sling, holding a compress in place.
your hat or glasses on in high wind or while climbing.
possible need items on the outside of your pack like a coat or rain
repair of broken tackle boxes, watch bands, snaps or buckles.
for whistles, compasses, pocket knives, keys, or your GPS.
strap for pulling back pack straps tighter inward with a heavy
If you really
think of your own outdoor experiences, I am sure you can add 10 more potential
uses. Bootlaces weight nothing, don't take up any space, and they are
economical. Think about adding them to your gear for your next trip.
The common perception for waterproofing common stick matches is to
dip your "strike anywhere" match heads into wax as a preventative to water
penetration. Though this may work it is very difficult to do successfully.
First of all not many of us want to melt down a candle or a bar of wax for
coating a few matches, secondly there is the chance that the wax may become too
hot in its liquid stage and ignite the match. It also is extremely difficult to
scrape away the wax in order to ignite the match in times of crisis. The easier
and more practical way to waterproof your "stick matches" is with an
application of a heavy coating of clear nail polish over the match head and
down the wood stick. Don't forget to coat the bottom of the matchstick. Think
of it as the same way you would waterproof your deck. Clear nail polish will
seal the match head and coat the wood to prevent penetration of any moisture.
direction with a watch and the sun
This method is pretty accurate to within 10° -- plus or
minus 5°. It will give you some other method to help you determine an
approximate direction in the outdoors without a compass.
- Take your
analog watch (one with hands) not a digital, and reset the time to Greenwich
Mean Time, that is Eastern Standard Time plus 5 hours. (NOTE:
determine the number of hours difference from GMT in your area before using
your watch on a flat surface, preferably on the ground. Have a small stick
ready to stick into the ground. (see illustration to right)
- In the
Northern Hemisphere (this is the US and Canada) point the hour hand of your
watch directly at the sun. SOUTH is now halfway between the hour hand and the
12. Place the stick in the intersection of these points, now you have a
- In the
Southern Hemisphere (for those of you happen to find yourselves south of the
equator) point the number 12 at the sun and NORTH will be approximately half
way between the 12 and the hour hand.
NOTE: The above described method of obtaining a sense of direction is
considered ONLY fairly accurate and should be used only when and if needed.
Nothing in the outdoors environment takes the place of a good compass or a GPS
and up to date terrain maps.
I have found myself at times being a great distance from my camp
and the hours of daylight are quickly passing. I have used this simple and
fairly accurate " trick/skill" to determine how many hours of daylight are
left. This way I can decide if I should quickly establish an overnight camp or
if I might have time to walk back down to base camp in the daylight.
"estimate", the hours of daylight remaining all you need are your hands to
approximate this time frame.
your arms completely outstretched at face level.
- Bend your
wrists inward so your palms face you.
- Place one
hand on top of the other with fingers pointing in opposite directions and with
the bottom of your lower hand even with the horizon.
your top hand fingers one by one until the bottom of the sun is on top of one
of your fingers.
finger below the sun and above the horizon represents about 15 minutes of
has different width of fingers, so for better results practice at home and time
the sunset to see if your fingers represent 15 minutes, 10 minutes or maybe
even 20 minutes.
- Blowing a
whistle, if you are lost or separated from your party in the outdoors, requires
very little energy and is a highly audible distress signal.
- A shrill
whistle blast can be heard up to a mile away on land and up to 2 miles over
water, and it can be easily tracked to its source and can be answered by a
return whistle blast.
- A whistle
is a simple, low cost and easy, but effective outdoor signaling device. It is
especially simple and easy for children to use and understand.
children going into the outdoors should be equipped with a whistle, adults too.
As little as 50 feet off the trail is deep wilderness for a child.
to blow in long blasts of three in a row every few minutes, or every time you
think you see or hear something. The "3" blasts in a row is a recognized
- Blowing a
whistle uses significantly less energy than screaming, and screaming can cause
additional panic and frustration.
- A whistle
in the outdoors stops being a simple toy, and becomes a very valuable piece of
personal safety equipment.
note to parents:
the use of the whistle for emergency purposes only, NOT to cry "wolf" or use as
your child can do to alert others to their presence will help to locate them
quickly, if they become lost.
- Make sure
the lanyard is securely tied to the whistle and affixed to the child's jacket
zipper, on their belt loop, or around their neck.
- Have your
child practice the three short blasts, before venturing off into the outdoors,
and explain to them the reason for the whistle.
- Let them
know that you are very well aware that anyone can get lost, and you will not be
angry if this should happen. This assurance is vital to them using the whistle
in case of an emergency.
them to remain in one place when they realize they are lost, and blow the
whistle. Tell them calmly, but emphatically, that you will be there to find
- Sixty to
seventy percent of the average human body is made up of water.
- A loss in
liquids equivalent to 2% of the body weight reduces the mental and muscular
capacity by 20%, a loss of 4% reduces it by 40%.
from melted snow or ice can cause cramps and digestive problems because it is
devoid of mineral salts. When possible accompany the drinking of melted snow or
ice with the intake of food.
- Do not
put snow or ice directly into your mouth to melt. It is best to melt it over an
open flame in a cup. Cold in your mouth could cause local cooling and may cause
diarrhea that would aggravate potential dehydration.
- If you
become lost or stranded your survival often depends on others, and you must be
able to signal where you are to those looking for you.
- A highly
polished signal mirror used properly during the day can be seen for many miles
from the air and across valleys or over water.
- Smoke is
always a good location indicator; make sure you take all safety precautions
with your fire. Use leaves and damp material to create white smoke and try to
find a location with an updraft or place your signal fire in a wide-open area
to allow the smoke to move upward.
- At night
three small fires in a triangular layout can be seen for miles and recognized
as a distress signal from the air. Again use extreme caution in building your
fires, you don't need to set the woods ablaze. Also three smaller fires with
you in the center will keep you warmer than one large fire.
Always remain calm and do not panic. Use your human instinctive skills
to develop a plan and then and only then execute your plan.
All Purpose Pack Item
Something that you may want to pack in with your "Trail
Gear" is a couple of those common paper filters that you use around the house
as filters in your coffee machine. These weight almost nothing and they can be
folded into a very small compact size. You can use these in a variety of ways
around your campsite. They are very durable and they will not shred into
- To scrub
out pans after cooking.
- To strain
water before filtering or boiling.
- To clean
your camera lens or scope lenses.
- To use as
an emergency bandage.
- To use as
an emergency fire tinder.
- To use as
- To use as
"back up" toilet paper.
The original file for these following low-cost equipment
uses, ideas and/or fixes for Scouting and general camping was originally found
on a F-Net Scouting Message Board sometime back in 1992. The listed file only
gave credit as its source as originating with a BSA Troop Contest. Enjoy it for
what it is a very creative utilization of "cheap fixes and fun items".
lock pliers make good potholders.
- Make an
oven by lining a moving box with aluminum foil and pushing coat hangers through
both sides about half way up the box to form your grill. Put coals in a pan and
put the pan on three stones on the bottom of the box. Close the doors (lid) and
rings can be use to cook your eggs in for egg sandwiches. (Works well for
English Muffins or Hamburger buns).
- Nylon rope
can be used as shoelaces.
- Use a
large zip lock plastic bag, filled with air, as a pillow.
butter tubs make good storage containers for your camp kitchen. (Not a good
idea to use in a backpack).
- A plastic
bottle makes a good latrine for cold weather camping. (You don't have to 'go'
very far from your sleeping bag). Keep it just out side the tent flap.
- An old
closed cell foam exercise pad will make a passable sleeping pad.
bottles can be used for canteens. Make sure the lid does not leak before using
in a backpack.
- The pins,
which hold the backpack and shoulder straps to the frame, can be replaced with
a small piece of coat hanger threaded through the hole and twisted around it.
- Twist ties
can be used to hold up another tarp from your dining fly to form a windscreen.
- A small
automotive water hose clamp can be used as a stop for your dining fly's upright
- Drill a
hole in the bottom of nested poles and put a screw in to stop inner poles from
lengths of coat hanger or wire can be threaded through the holes and springs of
the summer camp cots to replace the missing springs.
several pieces of lumber cut into 2 inch squares to summer camp and use these
to level platform, tent and cot.
- If for
health reasons you must sleep on a cot in cold weather insulate yourself from
the cold air under the cot with several layers of newspaper.
- Old shower
curtains make great ground clothes.
- Make a
double boiler for melting paraffin from a 1 lb. coffee can and a 2 lb. coffee
can. Bend a coat hanger so it will support the 1 lb. coffee can inside the 2
lb. can. Pour some water in the 2 lb. can and put the paraffin in the 1 lb.
matches by dipping in melted paraffin.
- Make fire
starters by filling paper condiment cups with saw dust and pouring paraffin
into the cup.
matches in corrugated cardboard strips (about every other hole) and dip into
paraffin for fire starters. Cut off what you need to start a fire.
- If your
hand warmer came without a bag or the bag has been lost, replace the bag with a
- A length
of chain and a piece of coat hanger bent into an S-shape will allow you to hang
your lantern from a tree limb.
- Use a
cookie tin as a Dutch oven.
batteries in an appropriate size prescription bottle to insure that they cannot
run themselves down by accident.
- Prescription bottles make good match safes.
- Prescription bottles or 35mm file
containers make good storage places for small items.
from old ovens can be used for fire grills, refrigerator shelves cannot be used
as they will release toxic gasses when heated.
- A Frisbee
will add support to paper plates when the plate is placed inside the Frisbee.
- Make a
camp washing machine from a five-gallon bucket and a toilet plunger.
- Placing a
plastic garbage bag over logs in a triangle will create a washbasin.
- Making a
slit in a trash bag large enough to let your head through will make an
lint makes good tinder.
slivers off scrap lumber and heating in the oven to dry out the wood will
produce some very dry tinder. Remember to store in plastic bags for your next
trip. Save candle stubs for fire starters or to use as paraffin to make other
your backpacking stove from the ground in cold weather with a 6" X 6" piece of
- Cover the
ice in a picnic cooler with foil to help it last longer. Keep the water in your
canteen cooler by wrapping the canteen in foil.
- Use foil
ring dividers for frying eggs. Put rings in the greased pan and drop eggs into
- Find it
hard to put patches on straight? Tape them in place first with two-sided tape.
When you are halfway done sewing, remove the tape.
- Save a
handbook, guide book or map that's getting battered looking by putting on a
transparent contact paper cover.
- Run candle
stubs along the edge of a saw to help it glide better.
- When it
comes time to pack up at the end of a camp, a wet toothbrush, face cloth and
bar of soap wrapped in foil won't dampen the other things in your kit.
- To prevent
night accidents in camp, use phosphorescent paint to mark the edges of
latrines, the top of corner pegs of tents, etc.
starting to sew a tough material like denim or canvas, stick the needle into a
bar of soap. The coating will help the needle slide more easily through the
- To make
sure you don't sew a pocket together while sewing a badge to the front, slip a
jar lid, preferably plastic, into the pocket, and then fearlessly begin to sew
- To help
shed burrs easily rub the laces of your hiking boots with paraffin before
hitting the trail.
- Keep a dry
bar of soap in your sleeping bag to help combat musty odors that develop during
- Waxed milk
cartons are an excellent source of emergency kindling. Cut cartons into
slivers, wrap a bundle of them in a small plastic bag and carry them along in
- If a Scout
has to take medicine, give him a break by letting him suck on an ice cube to
numb his tongue before swallowing the vile tasting stuff.
- Ice cubes
are handy when you have to remove a splinter from a hand or foot. Use the ice
to numb the area around the splinter before operating.
- Make your
own insect-repelling candle from an ordinary thick candle. Drill a 1" deep hole
near the wick, fill the whole with citronella and cover it with melted wax.
handling evergreens or pinecones, they can remove the sticky sap from their
hands easily if they use baking soda instead of soap to wash.
proof matches by dipping them in nail polish.
- To prevent
batteries from wearing down if a flashlight is accidentally nudged on while
you're traveling, put the flashlight batteries in backwards.
foil can add extra warmth to your boots. Trace each foot on a piece of foil and
add a ½" border. Place the foil inside your boots, shiny side up so you
benefit from radiant heat.
- The little
plastic tags from bread and bun packages are great for pinning up wet bathing
suits and towels at camp, and they take up a lot less packing space than
- To protect
your feet from blisters smear soap on the inside of your inner sock at the heel
and underneath the toes. Carry along a bar of soap and, when you feel your feet
become tender, give it a try.
- Wear nylon
"footies" next to your feet to help prevent blisters.
- To keep
mosquitoes away rub the inside of an orange peel on face, arms and legs.
- Waxed-paper milk cartons have several lives
left in them after the milk is gone:
- Make a drinking cup by cutting off
the carton about three inches from the bottom.
- Make a water scoop by
cutting off the top.
- Cut a container into slivers, wrap them in plastic
and put them in your pocket for emergency kindling on a camping or hiking
- Make a leak-proof mini-garbage can by opening up the top of the
container and putting in your scraps.
roll on deodorant bottles make an excellent insect repellent applicator because
it enables you to keep 'bug dope' off your hands and out of your eyes. Snap off
the plastic top or snap out the ball, rinse out the bottle and refill with your
favorite liquid repellant.
- Make handy
fire-starters by filling egg carton cups with lint from the dryer and pouring
melted paraffin over the lint. Break the cup off to start each fire.
- Keep your
toilet roll dry by packing it in a coffee tin with a snap-on lid.
that mosquitoes and biting flies seem to like dark colored clothing and the
perfumed scents of many grooming products (soaps, shampoos, colognes, etc.)
Dress so that you won't attract the biters, and try using unscented grooming
fibers can be damaged by insect repellants. Don't apply repellants to spandex
(from which bathing suits are made), rayon, or Dynel fabrics. Tent fabrics,
plastic and painted surfaces also can be damaged by insect
- An insect
repellant will not keep bees, wasps, or hornets from stinging you. Your wisest
move is one away from stinging pests.
- Try using
a 35mm film canister when collecting insect specimens. A drop of alcohol makes
the canister a fine killing jar. Label the canister with tape and keep the
specimen in it.
- It is
easier to cut plastic containers if you soak them in very hot water immediately
before cutting them.
fishing gear in foil to keep line from tangling and hook from rusting. By
lining the compartments of a tackle box with foil, you can prevent rust damage
to plugs and other equipment.
- Wrap a wet
washcloth in a foil package and put it into your pack. You'll have a handy
'wet-wipe' for cleaning hands and face after a satisfying camp meal.
provides good packaging material for a campers personal toilet articles.
matches by dipping them in shellac.
- To remove
musty smell from canteen, put three teaspoons of baking soda into the canteen
with a bit of water. Swish it around and let sit for an hour, then rinse out
- An empty
plastic soda bottle, cut off to a convenient height, will work as a camp bowl.
You may want to sandpaper the cut to smooth the edge.
- Make a
survival fishing kit out of an empty 35mm film canister. Wrap fishing line
around a small empty thread spool. Tie the end to a fishhook, and place in the
canister. When ready to use, take the spool of line out. Lay the line across
the opening of the canister and snap the lid back on for use as a bobber.
- Make a
fish scaler by nailing metal bottle caps to a wood block. Scrape against side
of fish against direction of scales.
conserve rope, mark each length of rope with a distinctive color and make a
rule that the rope is never cut.
- A rope
tied to a bleach bottle with an inch of water in it will make an effective
water rescue throw line.
- Save inner
cardboard tubes from kitchen and toilet rolls, stuff with waste paper and use
- Cut a
rubber glove, when discarded, into thin strips to create varied rubber bands.
- Did you
know that the egg whites left in empty eggshells makes good glue? Use it for
- When using
a bucket for a messy job, line it with a plastic bag that can be thrown away