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Emergency Shelter

10 miscellaneous things to take along camping (that you didn’t know you needed, but won’t want to forget)

10 miscellaneous things to take along camping (that you didn’t know you needed, but won’t want to forget)

The checklist for the camping trip gear is done, and everything is checked off. But wait a minute – have you thought of everything you might need?

by Leon Pantenburg

Go camping long enough, and you’ll figure out things that are nice to have along, in addition to the standard stuff.

Here are 10 miscellaneous camping-related items to include. You can thank me later.

Many shelters are improvised from whatever materials are available.

A tarp can save you from being miserable in a leaky tent.

Tarp: I take a tarp everywhere, be it backpacking, camping or a trip to the grocery store. On a camping trip, the tarp can be used to create a rain shelter, to cover a leaky tent, as a ground cloth or carpet etc.

In your car, you can use to kneel on while you change a tire, or a rain shelter while you’re changing that tire. Size is up to you, but I always carry a 5×7 and a 10×12. I’ve had to use both to change a tire in the rain!

Toilet paper and paper towels: Because you never know if the porta potty or campground toilet will be out of the one-layer waxed TP. Paper towels are for everything, and you’ll regret running out.

Tent stakes: Always take extras. Chances are you will lose or break one. If you don’t take spares, you’ll end up whittling a stake from a stick. Murphy says this will happen as you desperately try to set up the tent before the rainstorm and wind hits. Best portable battery?

 Small rug: I put a small rug outside the entrance of the tent, and sometimes inside. The rug is a great place to stand, off of the dirt while you wash your dirty feet prior to putting on socks or hiking boots. Or to change pants. Or anything. Inside the tent, the rug insulates the floor and gives the dog a place to sleep.

Survive this: Check out these prices on MilSpec paracord

Paracord is lightweight and incredibly useful.

Paracord: Paracord is the cordage used on parachutes. Today is used for everything. There are a millions uses for the stuff, and you’ll need a lot to set up tarps shelters in the rain. Take a minimum of 150 feet.

Individual keyring lights: I’ll bet 99 percent of your lighting needs around camp can be met with one of those tiny LED keyring lights. Get the ones with the on-off switches , and make them into necklaces, using paracord, for everyone.

These will work great for trips to the bathroom in the dark, finding stuff in duffle bags, reading in the sleeping bag etc. These are so handy you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it sooner.

Practical shelter building techniques are another lifesaver.

Practical shelter building techniques are another lifesaver.

Extra trash bags: Extra large bags, sure. But also take along smaller gallon and quart-sized Ziplocks. These can be used cover things in the rain, to put wet, nasty dirty clothes in and to waterproof items in your pack. The large, 55-gallon contractor grade trash bags can be used for shelters, pack covers, improvised ponchos – you name it.

Duct tape, zipties and bunji cords: I take duct tape with me everywhere, and use it for everything. Take along zipties to fix things, and bunji cords to fasten coverings around gear.

Personalized drinking cups: This can be anything from a red solo cup with you name on it to elaborate drinking mugs. People will be using the water container, and using a disposable cup every time is so wasteful and American.

Individual hand towels: If everyone sticks a hand towel on their belt around camp, it will make a world of difference in how clean everything stays! Wipe your hands frequently, as needed on the towel, and you won’t be wiping them on your shirt. This hand towel becomes particularly appreciated when cooking. When the towel eventually gets dirty, was and hang it out.

That’s my miscellaneous list, and it has evolved after many years of camping in all sorts of climates, weather conditions and seasons. The items are cheap, easily found and possibly invaluable later on!

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View Comments (7)


  1. Leon

    11/15/2016 at 08:30

    A friend of mine passed that tip on. Incredible how much hand wiping needs to be done!

  2. Chris

    11/14/2016 at 10:47

    I love the hand towel on the belt idea, definitely using that.

  3. Aaron

    05/27/2016 at 04:45

    oh, and a hammock!
    (didn’t know you needed, but won’t want to forget!)

  4. Aaron

    05/27/2016 at 04:41

    Solar lights have come a long way in the last few years, and wonder if they are worth adding to an “essentials” list yet?
    Solar yard lights would make for a nice camp lantern with renewable (free) light. am experimenting with going solar in my tent light. Some companies ( d.light for example) make solar lanterns being used in underdeveloped nations, and they are increasing the battery life to last for “years”.

  5. Leon

    05/04/2016 at 07:10

    I’ve used ratchet straps to secure canoes on top of a vehicle, and they work fine. The little flashlights, along with a whistle, makes a great kid camping necklace. If the youngster gets lost, teach then to hug a tree and blow periodically on their whistle.
    You can never have too much paracord!

  6. mark keeler

    05/03/2016 at 21:13

    Great advice about taking 150 feet of paracord. We carry about 50 feet and now I am adding another 100 feet.

    Ever use ratchet straps? My engineer friend turned me on to Ozark Mountain (Walmart) ratcheting straps for hanging cloths to dry. I string several together and they never droop like paracord or rope.

    I think I will try to make one of your tarp tents with the ratchet straps and hiking sticks for pole.

    We carry large Dorcy LED lights because my kids always loose the small flashlights. They are getting older and I think I will try the small key chain lights with a paracord necklace.

    We used to carry a rug to place in front of the tent. We left it behind and some one else is enjoying it. We will find another at a thrift store on our next trip.

  7. Linda

    04/28/2016 at 02:57

    I always carry a tiny whisk broom and dust pan. They are great for sweeping out small spots in the tent that get dirt, rocks, leaves or whatever in it.

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Emergency Shelter

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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