Learning a better way to do something when backpacking often comes from fixing your own mistakes (looking at you, #7), learning from other people on the trail (thank you, #2), or figuring out how to manage when you forget something at home (cough, cough, #9). Use these tips and tricks from the trail for easier goings on your next trip.
1. Whittle Eating Utensils Out of Sticks
Don’t worry if you lose your trusty camping spork: Find a flat piece of wood and use your knife or multi-tool to carve it into an emergency spoon. Thinner sticks are great for fashioning a pair of chopsticks—with minimal carving skills required.
2. Use Duct Tape to Prevent Blisters
Even with the right hiking shoes and socks, foot blisters can still pop up and cause you pain on the trail. To prevent them, stop and remove your shoes as soon as you feel the telltale hotspots on your feet. Instead of bandages or athletic tape, which will slip off when you sweat in your socks, apply duct tape to the affected area.
3. Keep Electronics in Your Sleeping Bag to Stay Charged in Cold Weather
Have you ever noticed how a fully charged battery seems to drain overnight when you’re sleeping out in the cold? Preserve the juice in external battery packs, cell phones, and rechargeable lights by keeping them in your sleeping bag with you overnight. Your body heat keeps them at a warmer temperature to prevent draining.
4. Make Your Own Waterproof Matches
Dip the match heads into melted candle wax or coat them with nail polish before stashing them in your pack.
5. Fill a Shirt with Clothes to Make a Pillow
Some people recommend filling a stuff sack with clothes to make a backcountry pillow, but the softer fabric of any of your shirts will feel much nicer to sleep on.
6. Switch to Dry Sacks for Your Gear
Unlike regular compression sacks or packing cubes, dry bags—yes, you can even find dry compression sacks—can save you a lot of heartache. Dry bags are so trustworthy, in fact, you can comfortably strap your sleeping bag to the outside of your pack even during a rainstorm if it’s in one.
7. Keep Your Feet Dry with Plastic Bags
In rainy, wet, or snowy conditions, keeping your feet warm and dry is a must. If you don’t have waterproof hiking boots, put plastic bags over your feet as a simple alternative. Correct order: foot, sock, plastic bag, shoe. Use some rubber bands or hair elastics to secure the bags around your ankles or shins.
8. Reuse a Garbage Bag for Lining Your Backpack
Waterproofing your gear by lining the inside of your backpack with a household garbage bag is a tried-and-true hack. But what a shame to use that plastic bag only once. At the end of a trip, hang the bag out to dry with your tent before stashing it back in your pack to use next time.
9. Use Sticks and Stones to Dig Your Cat Holes
In soft or moist soil, it’s not all that difficult to use natural tools for digging a hole to bury your human waste. This means you can forego the heavy trowel, just as long as you can dig a hole the appropriate size. (Pro tip: Cat holes should be six to eight inches deep in most places but limit them to four to six inches in a hot desert where the sun’s heat helps decompose waste.)
10. Poke Tiny Holes into Sealed Food Packaging to Compress Them
Anyone who has tried to fit a week’s worth of backpacking food into a bear canister or a crowded backpack knows how frustrating it is when food packages balloon up as they’re crammed together. Making a tiny hole in the packaging and squeezing the air out before you stuff everything into the canister will prevent this from happening.
11. Preseason Your Camp Meals at Home
There’s no need to carry salt or spices out to the backcountry. Instead, add them directly to your food when you package it for the trip. The easiest way is to mix in salt and seasonings to your pre-measured baggies of couscous, millet, quinoa, or even breakfast oats (they’ll taste so much better with cinnamon and nutmeg).
Written by Jenna Herzog for Matcha in partnership with Outdoor Gear Exchange.