Gear Guy

What Backcountry Gear Hacks Should I Know?

Six tricks for better off-the-grid travel

What Backcountry Gear Hacks Should I Know?

Your new backcountry faucet. Photo: Joe Jackson

Many of my friends are backcountry guides, first responders, and outdoor educators. Read: They spend a lot of time outside. Over the years, they’ve thought up clever hacks that both make their trips easier and can help them in an emergency. Here are six of their favorite hacks. 


Bean Can as Faucet 

Instead of relying on hand sanitizer to keep your hands clean, this hack helps you create a faucet for hand washing. Step one: Thoroughly wash the can, then take a church key, can opener, or knife and punch a triangular hole on the side as close to the bottom as you can get it. Next, take an inch-long piece of duct tape, fold it over sticky-side-to-sticky-side (leaving you with a doubled-up half-inch piece), shape it into a half circle, insert it into the bottom of the triangular hole, and tape it to the bottom of the can, creating your spigot. Finally, fill the can with water and you have a nice, even-flow faucet.


Beer Tab as Fishing Lure 

Tie a beer tab just above your hook, and it will reflect light and look just like a small fish, hopefully tricking the bigger guys into taking a bite. It sounds gimmicky but it really does work. 


Empty Hotel Shampoo Bottle as Sunscreen Dispenser

It’s easy to put sunscreen on at the trailhead, but you still need to reapply at least once about every 80 minutes. Instead of hauling a full tube of sunscreen into the woods, my buddies often fill an old hotel shampoo bottle with the stuff: it's small enough to fit in the pocket of your pants or a life jacket but holds just enough to keep your face and arms lathered for a day.


Duct Tape Rings

You should never head into the woods without duct tape. It’s great for everything from fixing holes to repairing ski poles. But don’t bring a full roll. Instead, wrap nice long pieces around circular gear. I currently have tape wrapped around my kayak paddles, water bottles, lighters, backcountry ski poles, and even a pencil. 


Iodine + Ziplock Bag for Wound Care

If you get cut in the backcountry, you’ll want to wash the wound. And iodine, which is often used to purify water, can serve as your disinfectant. First, mix iodine and water in a Ziplock, enough so the mixture turns the color of strong iced tea—about three tablets for a sandwich-sized bag. Then cut the corner of the bag and squeeze to get a stream to irrigate the wound. 


Trash Compactor Bags for Waterproofing

These bags are twice as strong as regular trash bags, lighter than a dry bag, and cheap. I line my backpacking pack with them. If you make sure to fold the top carefully, they’ll keep everything dry, regardless of how hard it’s raining.

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