Backpacking Gear with Multiple Uses

Backpacking Gear with more than one Use:

Reducing the weight of your backpack can have a huge impact on how far and how comfortably you hike. To cut your packs weight try to select gear that can be used in a number of situations.

Leatherman Multitools

Here are some pieces of backpacking gear that have multiple uses:

  • Tarp – Can be used for shelter, rain gear, ground cover, rain catch, etc…
  • Paracord – For traps, fishing, clothesline, food bag line.
  • Multitool – Knife, tools, scissors, nail cutters, saws, etc…
  • Duct Tape – Use to prevent blisters, repair gear, bandage wrap.
  • Candles – lighting, fire starter, waterproofing.
  • Metal Canteen with CupBoiling Water, cooking food, bowl for eating.
  • Hiking Poles – Walking stick, shelter poles, emergency splint.
  • Socks – warming hands, filtering water
  • Bandana – cooling head or neck wrap, sunscreen, water filter, bandages.
  • Safety Pins – fishing hooks, hanging items, securing bandages
  • Dental Floss – fishing line, sewing thread, etc…
  • Plastic Baggies–carry items, emergency water carrier, storing food.
  • Compass with mirror – emergency signal, personal mirror, finding your way.
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The Ultimate Situational Survival Guide


  1. I’ve found that instead of using a tarp a military poncho and poncho liner is a lightweight and inexpenisve option for your kit. I got used to sleeping in these when I was in the Marine Corps and found them to be excellent choices when we had to travel light. Other than that this is an excellent list. Obviously it comes down to individual preference and if you come out the other side alive then you’ve made the right choices with your gear selection!

  2. Good bag! My first three; (besides the clothes on my back) the multitool, a cigarette lighter and 100′ of fishing line. I can floos with fishing line.

  3. I did my duke of edingburah award when i was a kid and loved camping and survial and did that for some time. I did however begin to loose the time i could dedicate to it. Evetualy I stoped all together. I decided to go camping againg next week. Going through your web site I have hopefuly been re-educated in worldines survial to a standed I feel very comfatable going back into that situation. I know now that i can go and have fun safely and I hope with ease and comfort. Thank you very much. Lee Gallagher.

  4. Also I would throw in the pack a lighter. A fire is very important to survival and helps lift the spirits. A lighter is small too. The best ones are the BIC lighters because they last forever. I know this being a smoker, they can even withstand being washed in the dryer. If you get it wet, just let it dry, and it will work again. Great post man. Keep em coming!

  5. What I always tell my students : Bring at least 3 ways to make fire. Two ordinary ways such as prepped matches, firesteel and flint, firepiston, Ferro rod and striker, chemical firestarters such as potassium permanganate + glycerin and finally one solution you can use with materials you find on the spot, friction fire such as bowdrill, handdrill, fireplow or friction sleigh. When choosing your preferred firemaking tools remember this : ONE of them must be stable and durable.. ie NOT a lighter which can get mechanical errors, run dry or get stepped on and crack. One of them must be able to light even when pulled out of icy cold water. Finally ONE of them must be easy to use with reduced dexterity if subjected to cold weather conditions. you do NOT want to fiddle with a lighter if you can barely move your fingers.

    My personal choices are : Ferro Rod and Scraper, Firepacks and a hand drill.

    Let me share a really good tip with you : I have made my own INSTANT fire packs. I took a freezer bag and a solding iron. Using a steel ruler I heated the plastic bags forming a grid of small containers open in one end. I made 20 of these. I put glycerin in half of them, and soldered it shut using a heated metal clip. I put potassium permanganate in the other half, and sealed them shut too. I used red and blue plastic bags to know what is what, red is potassium, blue is glycerin. Each of these are packed in a double plastic bag each closed individually. to use the packs grab one of each, put them where you want he fire and cut each one or hit them with a sharp rock hard enough to break the surface. Stand back. They will start in seconds to smoke lightly and then flare up pretty violently as the two chemicals react to each other. Easy way to make fire if you have low dexterity or the fuel wood is damp and need lot of heat to catch on fire. These two packs of chemicals can also be used as antiseptic, water purifier, against foot problems and stomach problems. Many uses and very light.. easy to carry. If you feel confident in your ability to make fire in a conventional way just bring 2 or 3 of these. Carry them in double bags closed individually and in pockets on the separate sides of your vest or utility belt. This way, if the bags should break, it will not self ignite as the two need to be in physical contact for it to work. You will love the ease with which you light that fire under difficult conditions, especially if you are cold, hungry, dizzy, tired, hurting or just grumpy. Sometimes you dont feel like playing super bushcraft dude right? People living in primitive societies often carry the fire with them as smoldering embers in a container filled with tinder. by keeping the embers alive by adding oxygene. I have often carried embers from a fireplace with me if I knew for a fact that I was gonna camp already around noon that day. Even at best of conditions, its work to make fire, and if you got an ember ready to put in a “bird nest bundle) you are halfways done already. Always remember to PREPARE your fire before you start the process. Make sure you got MORE kindling than you think you need, dont be stingy with the initial birds nest. a two hand full birds nest will do a better job than a half hand full. If theres materials to spare, use them. They will grow back next year.

  6. Good Article. I also use dryer lint to start a fire. Seems to go up pretty easy. Along with my striker, I usually bring one of those mini torches – they get super hot and really help when you need a fire.

  7. i think allan thinks very highly of himself. You are dumb to not include a 99cent bic lighter among your fire starters, small, cheap, lightweight, durable and reliable. hell spurge and bring two so you have a backup. i bic will last you plenty long to see you through 99 percent of survival situation, not these single use sally chem packs twinkle toes here recommends.

  8. Candles may also be used for warmth.
    On a trip up Mt Baldy near Santa Fe we had to spend the night rather unprepared. A little wet and shaking from cold, we found a single 8=hour plumbers candle beaneath the tarp draped over us warmed us enough to stop the shivering.

  9. When I was a kid and did not know the woods very well (being a city boy from NYC)I would take a 80lb backpack with me fill of lots of useless stuff. Now at 56 a knife is alls I need and even that is debatable. My point is that we are not separate from the woods and the need to brings things in comes from an illusion of division. I currently live at least a few days a week a mile in the woods in a place I built from just what I found there and on food that is also provided from the abundance of the place I live.The only real reason I’m not there all the time other then the need to socialize with people is because of the need to help others back to the ways of truly living and balance. I leave my haven of truth to help others with this time of transition.

  10. Regarding Ron Burgandy’s comment on Allan’s post. I agree, a bic should be included in your fire kit due to it’s cheap price and lightweight. Saying it will work for 99% of survival situations proves how little you actually get “out there” however. Your bic needs to be dry and warm to work well enough to light a fire. Think you will be dry and warm in a survival situation?

    Fire making is specific to your region. In a dry desert? Sure bic will work. Alpine high elevation? Good luck. Short of windproof lighters (of which I am not a big fan) no mechanical device that I am aware of can do it. Maybe if you find a wind break. Again, good luck. A prevailing endless wind is more common by far than a stand of trees at 7000ft. How about rainforest? I would like to see your bic handle that. If weather proof matches and fire steel fail to do the job I carry solid fuel cubes. Still need a flame to get it lit but man do they burn forever. 1300 degree’s c for 15 min. I do recall however a time in the rainforest when even that did not work. Nor did the butane soldering torch I had with me either! Matches would not light, and I buy quality gear. Just too humid. Fire steel was not encouraging. The bic I had with me was a joke, wouldn’t even spark. Again, high humidity. Even standing dead trees were soaked through, no dry wood. Perhaps if I would have had just such a handy chemical fire starter like Allan describes I may have had a better chance. As it was I spent the night very cold and wet. In an environment where even getting a spark is difficult maybe chem is the way to go. I am a little paranoid about the chemicals accidentally combing say, in my pack, but I will likely add a similar chem fire system to my fire kit with proper precautions. Fire has saved me from hypothermia many times. And let me tell you, it was not a bic that lit those particular fires. Bic is the first thing I try cause it is cheap, and it is the first thing to be tossed back in the fire kit cause it didn’t work. My point is this. Please don’t mislead readers with silly crap. Bic 99% of the time is laugh out loud stupid for those of us that are outdoorsmen. And no, weekend camping/hunting I don’t consider good outdoors experience.

    For those looking for education on survival it is difficult to distinguish between true outdoorsmen and internet hero’s. Fire making is a skill that needs to be practiced. I recommend trying all methods that you can find, and keep the ones that work for you. Remember to try them out in adverse conditions. Survival fire kits should have minimum 3 methods. Then if you decide that you want to carry solely a bic for fire I will eat my hat, and my boots…..and chew on my arm till you tell me to stop. By the way, all three environments I described are quite common here in British Colombia so I plan for all three.

  11. Tell me more about the chemical fire starter like Allan describes. Where do I find them, how much do I need, etc.

  12. I’m with Ron Burgandy, on this one.
    it’s great if you can call yourself an TRUE outdoorsman, i can light fire with a damp twig an bum fluff outa my @ss crack, but the truth is a real survival situation will happen when your not packed and prepared. you gonna make and carry around chemical fire packs all day everyday. A cheap lighter is invaluable, i dont give a monkeys how experienced you are, better to start a fire in two mins, than spend hours making fire bows, drills etc. I am not saying these are not valuable skills in their own right, only if the SHTF you need a fire, not an ego.
    a lighter could light a hundred fires for 50g carry weight. No might not work all the time everytime, but for the 10 seconds it would take to try it, well worth it.
    most every day I have a pen knife (gerber) and a lighter or matches with me.

  13. well I’m new to these blogs, but it seems to me a lot of you missed a great way to ensure dry fire starting devices and materials. Simply seal your things w/e they might be in food saver bags. They are vacuum sealed and very heavy duty. Yes it might be a 1 time seal but if you use said duct tape you can almost gaurantee multiple dry seals and the bags have many other uses P.S. this is also a great space saver in your BOB.

  14. Just adding my two cents – a BIC lighter is all you need if your outdoor trip involves walking a few yards from your vehicle to your campsite. If you’re planning anything more extreme or more remote the experts recommend at least three different fire-lighting mechanisms – in a survival situation you would want the most reliable option – I’ve had a couple of occasions when a BIC lighter failed on me while trying to get a barbecue started in my own backyard (either wet from being at the poolside or just low on fluid)

    In a nutshell take the BIC lighter with you on your expedition – it is probably the most practical item – but don’t let it be your only option for fire.

  15. Looks like there are 2 approaches:
    1) Camping – i.e. you have your equipment with you. In this scenario, sure, carry 3 ways of making fire and any fancy kit you like (chemicals, pistons, lasers etc.)
    2) Survival – i.e. you have what you carry day to day (EDC) if your lucky.
    Hence I can only conclude that from a survival scenario it’s best to make sure you have a lighter (preferable to matches) with you at all time. A Bic becomes a good EDC option.
    NOTE: you should ALSO always have a knife some cordage and a small flashlight (LED keychain type).

  16. I have recently been checking out different web sites in regards to GOODy bags. I have been surprised in the fact that very few sites cover the fact that a good pair of leather gloves are not recommended.

    I can tell you that the morning after beating your hands up, cold and wet, puckered from over-exposure without good gloves will prove their worth. Buy a pair, give them a good coating of neatsfoot oil and put them in a zip lock freezer bag and keep them with your vehicle, EDC bag, and GOODy bag.

    • How about the ole 9 volt and some steel wool. I really like this one but I can honestly say I havent tried it in ALL conditions.

    • Cotton Balls without vaseline are good for first aid use. Just add the vaseline as needed from the lip tube.

  17. I like those long stemmed charcoal lighters. They don’t add much weight and the trigger locks so they don’t get discharged jammed in your pack.

  18. Can’t we all just get along?lol Seriously folks,leave your bic out in the cold for awhile and see if it lights or not.It usually won’t.Good idea to keep one handy but don’t count on it to possibly save your life.I keep a new one still in the package and a ferro rod and scraper.However I will be adding the chempacks Allan decribes to my bug-out bag.Don’t think I would add one to my vehicle kits though,potential for accidental ignition being a realistic concern.Now where to obtain said chems would be a great help.

    • Um, folks, if the BIC is too cold why not tuck it up under your armpits for a few minutes to warm it?

      While you guys are getting all wierded out about fire, I haven’t seen any mention of ways to make water happen. No matter how nice the weather, a few days without water can can keep you from making it.

  19. Great list, except the obvious oversight of a fire starting method. Of course, this IS a ‘multi-use’ list, so I guess that can be forgiven. Here’s my opinion:

    *Tarp – Can be used for shelter, rain gear, ground cover, rain catch, etc.

    *Paracord – For traps, fishing, clothesline, food bag line, making a boleadora and other primitive weapons, securing gear and tons of other stuff.

    Securing a tarp shelter should be mentioned due to the first entry on the list.

    *Multitool – Can definitely be useful, but don’t forget a trusty fixed blade knife or three.

    *Duct Tape – Anything can be done with Duct Tape, almost.

    *Metal Canteen with Cup – Boiling Water, cooking food, bowl for eating, and can also be used to keep warm while sleeping.

    You can even rotate a couple between the fire and bed to warm it up, and if you time it right then when they both cool down you have cool, safe drinking water – or even throw some pine needles or coffee beans or a wild herb in one of your backup socks for a filter, honey if you want it sweet, stoke the fire back up, and make some tea!

    *Hiking Poles – Um, go find a stick laying around, can also be used as firewood. Lame entry.

    *Socks – Warming hands, filtering water. **They can also be used on your feet (and should), and you should have 3 pairs, so you can dry one out while wearing one, and have extra for these types of uses perhaps.

    *Bandana – cooling head or neck wrap, sunscreen, water filter, bandages.

    *Safety Pins – fishing hooks, hanging items, securing bandages – ** I think these might make good fish hooks (so does a tough twig where it’s forked, or small bones carved correctly) but for hanging items and securing bandages I think knowing knots is better.

    *Dental Floss – fishing line, sewing thread, **small game snares, etc…

    *Plastic Baggies – carry items, emergency water carrier, storing food, **Pasteurizing water with solar radiation in lower latitude and especially desert climates, solar still, aspiration still (tied around tree branches), water distillation, emergency magnifying glass (when filled with water), etc.

    *Compass with mirror – emergency signal, personal mirror, finding your way.

    *Bic lighters, get an already sealed 5 pack or something and put it in a plastic baggie. Also get a magnesium firestarter from WAL*MART for $7.88, a GOOD magnifying glass, and maybe a windproof lighter as well. Also learn to make fire with a primitive technique or two you are comfortable with.

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