Here is one man’s list of 15 of the best hunting camp hacks to prepare for the unexpected.
A hack is a clever, often spontaneous solution to a tricky problem. A hack may be as simple as adopting an unconventional behavior or repurposing an object to solve a problem.
Here are my top 15 best hunting camp hacks and/or hack-friendly materials that lend themselves to solving a variety of problems other than what they are originally intended for.
Let’s get this one out of the way straight off. Duct tape is the dilithium crystal of hackdom. Duct tape can solve many problems with nary more than a moment’s thought of “How can duct tape solve this problem?”
There are websites dedicated to the seemingly endless ability of duct tape to effectively hack almost any problem. All you need do, it seems, is look at a roll of the stuff and solutions magically appear.
No need to list any specific duct tape hacks. Just make sure that you pack some duct tape with you when you head out.
Baking soda has a lot of periphery uses. For health and hygiene baking soda can serve as a toothpaste, remedy for an upset stomach, minor burn, bug bite or rash poultice, disinfectant and wound cleaner.
It can also do duty as a deodorant, leavener in making bread and host of other applications. Baking soda may be the chemical equivalent of duct tape.
Blue auto shop towels:
These extra heavy duty paper towels have a lot of uses outside of a mechanic’s shop. For one thing, they don’t fall apart as easily as regular paper towels.
I have cut them to serve as coffee filters and gun cleaning patches. They can soak up liquids, such as blood, be rung out and used again.
I have also read about, but never tried, using a shop towel as a wick for a makeshift oil lamp.
Apparently you fold a length of the paper towel, accordion style, cut a hole in the lid of an empty jar and feed the piece of blue towel through it. Fill the jar with lamp oil or citronella oil, and voila! – you’ve got mosquito repellent and light.
A sewing kit is something that is not always included in many camping or survival packs, but to me it is an absolutely essential piece of gear.
A proper sewing kit can not only make life a little easier by providing a way to make minor clothing, backpack or tent repairs, but it could also help save a life. Being able to perform emergency sutures is necessary knowledge.
Along with a few needles of various sizes and configurations (straight and curved) you should also include a sail maker’s needle, also known as a cargo sail needle.
You can effect sturdier repairs with a sail needle, and its larger eye will take stouter line and be easier to thread. A needle can also be made into a compass to enable you to locate magnetic north, should you find yourself lost in the backcountry.
Forget including regular cotton sewing thread in that sewing kit. Instead include heavier polyester thread and/or dental floss.
Dental floss is an especially useful hack-worthy item. It is strong and durable, making for tougher, longer lasting sewing applications and strong sutures.
Floss can also be employed in fashioning small animal traps and snares. It can not only serve as an emergency fishing line, but can be used in making a small, low profile fishing hook by wrapping it tightly around a bent piece of wire (image below) or a thorn and twig in the classic hook configuration.
A short length of floss tied to the end of your bow or gun barrel can serve as an ever-present wind direction indicator.
Tripod camp chair:
This old Boy Scout trick for making a comfortable and attractive camp chair from a tripod and blanket has been such a favorite that I often make it as a regular part of the camp routine.
Lash together a sturdy tripod or a two-pole X-shape of strong dead sapling trunks, such as you might use for a campfire cooking tripod only much heavier and longer.
Using the two-pole system, you will need a standing tree to serve as the third leg of the tripod. You will lean your two-pole X into the tree to form the tripod.
Next, fold a thin blanket or tarp in half and then fold the open side accordion style. Tie the bunched accordion end together securely, and then tie to the top of the tripod or two-pole X.
Slip a length of wood through the folded loop end of the blanket and brace it against the front, outer legs of the tripod. Spread the blanket out to each end of the braced bottom stick.
You have now created a sort of hammock chair. The video below offers a brief and clear illustration of this old bushcraft chair build.
A small mirror is another multi-purpose item that could come in handy for solving a number of problems that arise in backcountry. A mirror is most commonly and correctly assumed to be of use as a signaling device, in order to help effect a rescue.
But a mirror may serve an equally important service in enabling you to check hard-to-see areas of your body for injury, ticks or rashes.
It may also prove indespensible in performing any necessary steps to address such problems. Suturing a gash or removing a tick from, say, the back of your thigh by yourself will be easier with the help of a mirror (duct taped to a stick?).
You can also start a fire with a mirror by focusing the sun’s light in much the same way as a magnifying glass.
Hot water bottle:
This is a great little item that you probably won’t appreciate until you use it.
A hot water bottle will help keep you warm on a chilly night. Fill it with hot water and hold it between your upper thighs inside your sleeping bag. You’ll be amazed at how much warmth for your entire body it will generate, and for how long.
Carry it inside your shirt, again full of hot water, when you head out in the morning. It will hold its heat and warm your body on cold mornings, in addition to storing drinkable water if you need it.
A hot water bottle also works as a cold water bottle for treating injured or painful areas of your body.
Finally, when you’re ready to pack up and go home, if you’ve got ice available you can stuff the bottle with it and add it to your cooler to help keep perishables cold.
Unfortunately, it is not unusual to find broken glass just about everywhere these days, even in some pretty remote backcountry places.
Finding a piece of glass just might be the thing you need to solve a problem. Glass can work as well or better than a metal striker for throwing sparks from a ferro rod or “fire stick.” Just make sure that the edge of the glass you’re using is sharp and not worn down.
If you’ve got some skill at knapping stone (a skill well worth learning) a piece of found glass could be knapped into an arrowhead or small blade to process an animal or fish.
Depending on its shape, thickness and clarity, the right piece of glass could also be made into a magnifying glass with which to start a solar fire by adding a little water to a concave area.
Condoms have a variety of applications unrelated to their original purpose. Condoms can hold nearly a gallon of water.
Fill them only partly full with water and they can be used as a solar fire starter. Cover the end of your rifle or shotgun barrel with a condom to keep dirt or mud out.
They can be inflated for use as a balloon-type float or bobber. The rubber can be used in any variety of ways you might use a rubber band.
I’ve even seen a video where a fellow employed a couple of condoms as slingshot bands.
Wine bottle cork:
A wine bottle cork is small and weighs almost nothing. But in a pinch it can also save the day in a couple of ways.
Forget or misplace your camo face paint? Burn the end of a cork with a lighter and use the cork as a smudge stick to cut the glare from your face.
Remember that needle compass trick in #4? Slice a disc from the cork and shove the needle through it. The magnetized needle will now float easily atop the water to make your improvised compass work.
You could also use all or part of a cork as a makeshift fishing bobber. One fellow reports using a cork stuffed into the ends of his duck and game calls to keep the dirt and grit out.
Problem: Fallen leaves make walking to and from your hunting stand or moving around in it about as subtle as Bigfoot walking through a field a corn chips and bubblewrap.
Solution: Bring a small camping rake with you one morning before opening day and rake the trail as you get closer to your stand, as well as the area in the stand itself (if you’re in a ground blind stand).
A rake can also be used to clear an area to create a buck scrape.
I like this one. If I’m camping light and can cut down on pack weight while keeping some of the luxuries of home life, I’m all for it.
Toothpaste is one of those at-home items that I don’t want to do without, because there’s no better way to start the day off right than with a fresh, clean mouth.
Shave a few unnecessary ounces from a tube by making lightweight, dried toothpaste dots.
Squeeze little portioned dabs of toothpaste on a plate, dust them with baking soda and let them dry. When dry, pop them off the plate and into in a small ziplock baggie.
You just made a week’s worth of toothpaste at a fraction of the weight of even a small tube.
Ladle from plastic bottle:
We once found ourselves with a kettle of soup ready to dish out but no ladle to be found anywhere in the camp mess kit.
An empty, thick-walled plastic bottle provided a solution. Cut the shape of a ladle from the bottle with the base of the bottle as the cup and the side as the handle.
Plastic bottles are also useful as problem solvers in other ways. They too can function as solar fire starters when filled with water.
A thin, continuous string of line can be cut from them. By removing the spout end and inverting it back into the body of the bottle you can create a small minnow trap. There are so many useful applications for plastic bottles that it pays to have them on hand almost as a matter of course.
Tarp and stick trick:
When hanging a grommeted tarp you necessarily put stress on the grommets when tying them with knots. This neat little trick eliminates that problem and allows for easier adjustment of the tarp as well.
Run a loop of line up through the grommet and secure it by placing a small stick in the loop. The tension alone will hold the tarp in place without stressing the grommet.
Many of the materials used in these hacks can also be effectively replaced with materials found in nature. Birch bark, for example, is sometimes referred to as “nature’s duct tape.”
It can be fashioned into any number of waterproof and resilient forms. Pine pitch serves as a glue and antiseptic bandage for wounds.
Nettles and other plants have floss-like fibers that can be made into cordage.
Sewing needles and fish hooks can be made from bone. The list of natural material hacks is endless. But those are for another article.
What are some of your best spontaneous camp hacks?