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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.