When backpacking, our creativity is often challenged and pushed when we have that, “Oops, I left that at home” moment. Here are some cool backpacking hacks that could save the day next time you go off on a adventure with your life packed in no more than a 50l Osprey backpack.
1) Homemade Fire Starters
Prepare cotton pads dipped in wax or cotton balls in vaseline, as they make real good fire starters! Keep them in a ziplock bag or waterproof container with a lighter, matches and a small strip of sandpaper for convenience. If you run out of these halfway through your trip, your bag of chips make for pretty good fire starters too (the chips, not the bag!)!
2) Bring Vaseline
With the unlimited uses for vaseline, such as the one mentioned above, this versatile petroleum jelly can almost be considered a backpacking essential. Vaseline soothes sunburns, blisters and abrasions and also helps with cuts, bruises and rashes. It protects and moisturises skin in harsh climates too. Apart from this, the jelly also works as a lubricant on zips and tent poles.
3) Toilet Roll, Without the Roll
Toilet rolls are up there on survive-or-die backpacking hacks. If you’re staying outdoors for a few days, toilet paper is almost always needed. Remove the cardboard, compress and keep it in a ziplock bag to ensure dryness. Don’t throw the cardboard away as it can be used as a backup fire starter! Also, instead of toilet paper, wet wipes are a good alternative as it is multifunctional and takes up less space.
4) Roll Don’t Fold
Pretty much all backpackers know this trick. But rolling an entire set of clothes (t-shirt, pants, underwear and socks) together really saves much more space, is easier to pack and allows you to easily count how many sets of clothes you have left before the next wash! Tuck those little undies and socks between to make use of the nooks and crannies, and to avoid having to unload an entire pack to reach a fresh pair of jockeys at the very bottom of the backpack. Roll, don’t fold!
5) Soap Sack
If you’re bringing a bar of soap, use a pair of clean socks (please!) to keep your bar soap separate from everything else in your backpack (double wrap the soap if you need). Otherwise, shave a bar of soap with a vegetable peeler to save space and avoid bringing the entire block. If you’re out camping, soap socks can also double as a scrubbing cloth and keep the soap from slipping.
6) Single-use Ointment
Cut a regular straw into 3 and burn one end with a lighter to seal it. Fill it with ointment and seal the other end. Repeat. This works with toothpaste too, or vaseline or shampoo, if you’d like! Instructions here. Toss out the straws as you use them up, instead of keeping a half-empty bottle of whatever.
7) Light in the Tent
Lumos! A simple trick to fill the entire tent with light: tie your flashlight or headlamp to the hook at the top of your tent for instant illumination!
8) Duct Tape
With many uses from taping blisters to sealing tears in tents, duct tape or athletic tape is a travel essential. Roll a decent amount of tape around a lighter, water bottle or tent pole instead of having to bring the entire roll out. Might be pretty obvious for a backpacking hack but still a regular lifesaver. Things break when you travel! You can even make sexy duct-tape flip flops if tragedy strikes your footwear. Day in the life, day in the life…
9) Air Pillow
We all want to sleep a little more comfortably, after an entire day of trekking. Fill a medium to large ziplock bag with air (using a straw, if you have one) for an instant pillow. To make it more comfortable, don’t fill it to the brim to allow for some “cushion-y” effect. Alternatively, fill the ziplock bag with clothes to make for a comfortable pillow.
10) Money in Lip Balm Tubes
None of us like losing our wallets. But just in case, it’s best to keep some spare money around in the least suspecting places. Keep spare notes in empty lip balm tubes for emergencies. Also, for good measure, keep photocopies of your passport in different bags, in case the actual one gets misplaced.
There you go. A couple of cheats to equip you for your live-in-the-moment adventures on the backpacking road. Macgyver on!