I have been looking at some of the things that in my various kits (especially in the vehicle) that usually get head-scratching “huh??” responses, but have been very handy over the years. Maybe they can be helpful for you too.
1. Spring-loaded wooden clothespins
Have you ever needed to dry that nasty, wet pair of socks by an open fire without setting them on fire, or even just sun-dry wet clothes? Ever needed to post a really-obvious note. Wet weather? Split the wood for dry tinder. Pound one of the wood pieces under something when you need a quick shim-wedge. Decent woodworking clamps if you need to glue something not too thick (add a rubber band if needed). I haven’t tried, but I suspect that a tension/compression steel spring might have some trap/snare uses, as well.
2. “Singing Straws”
Cheap, flexible, corrugated plastic drinking straws from the grocery or dollar store. Warning: these are REALLY annoying and noisy if you give them to young kids. Weigh nearly-nothing, take up almost no space. Drink from puddles “Survivorman-style” if you really have to. Turn one and a bottle into an improvised “hydration unit” on your pack harness. Focus air-flow right where you want it on a tinder-bundle under your fire-lay. Instant electrical wire insulation. CA glue and a lot of Gorilla-tape WILL fix a broken automotive fuel-line, hopefully long enough to get you to a service station.
3. Bamboo chopsticks
If you eat out or order in, wash, dry and save them (along with the paper wrapper). Small and light. Obviously, great eating utensils for your kit. Pair with one of the clothespin springs for kids or the chopstick-averse, improvised cooking tongs, or ‘hot object movers’. Stirring tools, “dibble sticks” for planting, glue-spreaders, put one in a pencil sharpener as a craft tool, split one as a shim, use a sharpened one and a cotton ball as a heavyweight squirrel-getter through a blowpipe. The package give you both dry paper tinder and dry kindling, if you should ever need it. I get them for $2.50 for a 50-pair pack at my semi-local Asian supermarket. Best online price I have found is $1.36 for a 50-pair pack. Very cheap tools, and amazingly handy.
4. Coffee can with TP inside
A must for every vehicle you drive. Depending on your onboard supplies, you can probably cook a gourmet meal on a fire using just that coffee can as a cooking pot, or at least boil water for coffee. Add rubbing alcohol, and you have an emergency heater. More likely, when you find yourself in dire straits, 30 miles from the next exit on the Interstate at 2am, the clean, dry contents of that coffee can will make you glad you prepared ahead.
5. Tube of Barge Contact Cement
I normally resist recommending brand names, but in this particular case, there simply is no good alternative. Barge contact cement is it. All of the usual megamart/hardware store contact cement brands are pretty close to useless. If you are old enough to remember shoe repair shops, Barge contact cement was “that smell”. It isn’t “non-toxic and environmentally-friendly”, but it WILL hold on a boot sole until the sole wears out and needs to sanded off to be replaced.
If you need to quickly join leather, cloth, canvas, PVC, etc., this stuff is just unbeatable. Get the smallest tubes you can find, and resist the urge to get the gallon can. When I was doing leatherwork semi-professionally, I usually ended up tossing the last half inch or so of every pint can, because it dried out (I didn’t like keeping a can of toluene around in my house just to keep it liquid – YMMV). When you need a ‘quick permanent fix’, this stuff is nearly as useful as duck tape, if you follow the directions.
6. A “Four-in-Hand” Rasp/File combo
Originally a farrier’s tool for trimming hooves. You can pick one up at your local hardware store. Combines round and flat wood rasp and coarse wood file surfaces in one small, light tool. You sometimes find the need to make a piece of wood (or plastic or aluminum – too coarse/soft for most other metals) “just fit”, or knock down rough surfaces. Very, very handy tool.
7. Cane or Walking Stick
You can pick these up at yard sales and flea markets for a couple bucks. Stick one behind the driver’s seat in your vehicle and it takes up almost no space. Three legs are more stable on ice, snow, mud or rough ground. You might actually injure yourself outdoors, and a support comes in handy. If you only spent a buck on it, and it’s not a priceless family heirloom, you should have no problem splitting it for dry kindling in an emergency. You can use it as an improvised weapon in bad situations, or just shake it in the air and yell “You kids get the hell off my lawn..” as needed.
8. Dollar Store Shower Curtains
A small, light package holding a reasonable-gauge translucent plastic tarp with sorta-reinforced grommets on the edge. This will never take the place of a big roll of plastic painter’s tarp, but it only costs a buck, and you can slip an extra one in almost anywhere. The packaging makes a decent (cold liquid) drinking cup.
9. A Cast Aluminum “Shrimp Deveiner” tool
You need to go to an old-school hardware store or online to get these. About $3 apiece. They have been replaced in most kitchen stores by plastic junk, cast aluminum is better. You’re not going to use it to shell and de-vein shrimp, unless you’re REALLY lucky. Round down the sharp point with a file and some emery cloth and you now have a tool that old-time mariners called a ‘marlinspike”. Any time you need to deal with tangled, fouled, knotted, wet, nasty cordage, it is absolutely priceless. It is used to pry open knots or as leverage to tighten seizings without fraying or cutting the rope. I actually prefer the shrimp tool to the marlinspikes on my rigger’s knives.
10. A 2-ft D-Handle Garden Spade
We all secretly (or not so secretly) love playing Billy Bad*ss and tossing Spetznaz entrenching shovels into the ends of big logs on camping trips. Ever try to actually dig a hole with one without a good supply of analgesic meds? It’s painful. A ‘real’ small shovel will fit in nearly any vehicle, and costs about $12. (Often on sale 2 for $14 at Sportsmansguide). If you live in snow, mud or sand country, a “kiddy-size” snow shovel is not a bad thing to have stashed in the vehicle, either.
11. A Gooseneck Crowbar
Put it where you can reach it with your strong hand and find by touch in your vehicle. The first funeral I ever attended was my best friend’s uncle’s, a NYC cop who broke his old wood nightstick trying to move a steering wheel and window in a wrecked and burning patrol car. We all started carrying ‘old school’ lug wrenches or crowbars by the driver’s seat, and I still do, 40+ years later. Mine mostly is used as a campfire poker, but it has pried apart locked bumpers, served as a visual ‘attitude adjuster’, helped demolish an old barn and helped move a stack of rack-mount computer servers that someone had not actually rack-mounted. Don’t leave home without it.
Good morning, Wyz! Some cool tips here.
Question on the Barge CC: it probably has a very strong odor, right? For a severe asthmatic who easily has asthma attacks set off by “smells”, it’s probably not a good choice?
Drinking out of the Dollar Store plastic curtain pack? Depends. If it was made in USA, not nearly as scary as made in China. Never eat or drink from anything made in China, never eat or drink anything coming out of China, and do not give it to your pets. China DOES NOT maintain U.S. manufacturing standards, no matter what the parent company says; China doesn’t give a fyin’ flip, and “what are you gonna do about it?!”.
Shrimp tool? Huh. I like it!
You amaze me, Wyz – you look at an object we see in a “fixed” way – we look in the box for the purpose. You see the big picture – you look outside the box, and you ask, “how many ways can I use this?”. A true prepper in wisdom and heart.
The Barge cement is definitely ‘stinky’ and probably shouldn’t even be used indoors even by non-sensitive folks. The hardware store/megamart stuff is mostly intended for sticking formica-type sheet goods to counters, and is not flexible when set, so very limited in its uses. The Barge is basically ‘rubber cement on steroids’ (coat both surfaces, let it dry non-tacky, stick together, no second chances on alignment), and was developed as a quicker replacement for steel shoemakers tacks (and that funny-shaped hammer)
I don’t know if it would be perfect protection for someone very sensitive to respiratory stuff, but check a local hardware store’s ‘safety’ section for respirator masks rated for “organic vapor” – these protect against gasoline fumes, toluene/xylene, fiberglass resins, etc. and might be helpful to keep around.
Stay safe :)
I have N-95 particulate masks; that might do – or maybe I’ll just “let” the DH use it?!!! Works for me.
I’m chuckling at a long-forgotten memory – when I first moved to VA, there was a lot of ‘junk’ left in the basement of the house we rented. When, a while later, coworkers got invited over for a cookout, my “work partner”‘s husband noticed my metalworking forge made out of a rusty old cast iron hibachi, an old hair dryer and some soaked cat litter, and asked “You sure you’re from NY? You oughtta be out in the yard sippin’ ‘shine with my grandpa. That’s some crazy*ss hillbilly stuff, there”
Don’t let names/pre-defined ideas limit you. “The Box” can only hurt you. Which is more generally-useful? A pipe-wrench or a monkey-wrench? Same tool, different words. Call it “Fred” and you can probably think up even more uses for it :) Every time you look at something and think “that would be good for…..”, you win.
Such wisdom, Wyz. I’d welcome you to my survival pack, any day.
Hey Wyzyrd, Great tips. I especially like the one “Tube of Barge® brand Contact Cement” In a SHTF situation we may need to glue our boots/ shoes back together until new one maybe purchased. Would it also work on repairing canvas tent material? Thanks for the posting.
Morning, Suni! How r u today? a/c working, I trust? Hope you have a blessed day!
Unless it’s a REALLY old canvas tent (paraffin waterproofing) it should work well. Won’t be a pretty repair but the joint will probably outlast the canvas :)
Of course, there’s always “FlexSeal” – you know, that stuff that lets you turn a screen door into a fishing boat…but it smells really bad, too – for a long time. Ya’ pays your money, ya’ takes your chances.
Just messin’ with you guys.
shhhhh… you’re giving away the secret to my super-secret stealth screen-door bug-out submarine :)
ooohhh! oooohhh! I read that on the internet, too!
Great tips Wyzyrd! Thinkin’ outside the box. Bev :)
Not sure how many ways you could find to use it,….. but the metal long forks used to roast wieners over an open fire. I know it can be used to roast things other than wieners. Could in a pinch be used for protection, used like a small spear. Found at Wallyworld and most outdoor sports stores in the camping department.
I like the way you think, Olivia!
a great idea :) Very good fire pokers, etc (but PLEASE use tongs instead on steaks, burgers and sausages, so you don’t lose all the moisture while cooking – sorry, being a cook :) )
And, definitely a good protection idea – way back when the UK started getting overly-crazy about allowing it’s citizens to own anything sharper than a credit card, similar grilling tools suddenly started being used in ‘football hooliganism’, so you know they work.
Nice article. Don’t forget wire coat hangers, the ultimate twist tie for construction, cooking over a fire, even as an emergency welding rod. Keep a hundred or two around. Multiple uses.
Oh, good thought!
another “silly” idea I should have thought of, since I mentioned it twice – a little manual pencil sharpener.
It puts points on things faster than you could do with a sharp knife, and cranks out tinder from a dry twig at warp speed.
Go to an art supply/craft store and get an aluminum-body sharpener- about $3 – and it won’t go ‘crunch’ if you drop it or step on it, like a cheaper plastic one will :)
Dollar store idea buy some bags of marshmallows. Cheap and what a toy and food for a kid to pass some time.
Well, now, there’s one I had not thought of…see why we need a place to exchange ideas?!
Welcome to the conversation, Bridget.