There are any number of pieces of hiking equipment that can be improvised or turned into multi-use products. Some hikers just enjoy seeing what they can get away with as far as the lightness of their pack. But there are good reasons to lighten the load, if possible. The lighter the load, the easier the trail. The easier the trail, the more enjoyment can often be found. This can sometimes even be a safety issue. Climbing over large boulders with a large, heavily laden pack can cause weight shifts that can throw you off balance potentially leading to falls, lacerations or worse.
Other reasons to include improvised or homemade gear include cost and environmentalism. If you can make a hiking stove out of an old tuna or cat food can or other “trash product”, you can save something else from sitting in the garbage dump for the next thousand or so years. Plus, you can save your self about $100 since you don’t have to buy that fancy new stove and the fuel to go with it.
A few of the improvised products I use are :
1. Large garbage bags for overnight gear on short treks. While tents and sleeping bags are certainly nice to have, on those short treks where you aren’t planning on using them, but want to have overnight gear just in case, a low weight option is a nice option to have. These can also be used for rain gear. I will go over how to modify these bags with just a few simple cuts to accomplish these improvisations, in a future article.
2. Tuna can used for a camp stove. This could really be any kind of small can. I have seen examples made from beer cans, soda cans, cat food cans and coffee cans. I will be posting a video shortly on how quickly one of these stoves can be made at home.
3. Old water or soda bottle with squirt lid for fuel storage. Just be sure to clearly mark that this is fuel so no one accidentally ingests this on the trail. The squirt lid can come off a bottle destined for the trash and makes filling your stove a great deal easier and cleaner.
4. Trekking poles. While I like the newer, fancier poles, these can be made out of old golf clubs or wood laying around your workshop or the forest floor. Watch out for splinters but these can be much less costly than the store-bought kind. These can also be used to support your tarp at night and to make noise to keep bears, and other undesirables, away during your hike.
5. Tent stakes. These can be made out of bicycle spokes, large nails or, in the winter, garbage bags (dead men posts, another article!). The metal, more durable kind, can be repurposed for a digging tool, pot stirrer or even a crude utensil (after cleaning, of course).
6. The all purpose bandana. This piece of cloth can be used for a handkerchief, a wash cloth, a pot holder, a sweat rag, a head covering, sun protection and many, many more uses.
There are a million examples of multipurpose and homemade items that you can use to make your trek fun, environmentally friendly and to lighten your load. What are some of your favorites? Always love hearing about the exciting new ways people have come up with to turn garbage into gold!