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Kit lists are great, but even better is a list of the most used and favourite outdoors items that other campers, hikers, survivalists and preppers like to keep in their outdoors bags. As part of my own research I asked a number of people what their favourite and most used items were to when they stepped out into the wild and I received some pretty mixed responses from flint sticks and tarp shelters to collapsible washing stations.
The basics of prepping is to be prepared for anything, but while most of that preparedness is based around the aspect of the family home there is an element to being prepared for whatever activity you are undertaking as well. This is especially true when you are heading out to go camping for the weekend, to go backpacking or to hike a mountain. Any good prepper is going to ensure that have all bases covered for a simple outdoor trip, such as a medical kit, fire source, suitable shelter and food.
So what was a common result with all of the campfire conversations I had? Surprisingly, the most common item was a medical kit, but it was also the least used. Most of the campers I spoke to said the most frequented items in their medical kits were blister patches and small band-aids. For their favourite items, I made the assumption that most responses would be a fancy tool that they would never leave home with, you-know, one of those multipurpose 15-in-one tools that can do everything? But I was wrong, only two out of the 30-or-so responses were about multipurpose survival items.
So you’re curious to know what the most used items were right? Let’s look at what some people had in their kits.
I never really thought about my own kit’s most used items until I started asking people what theirs was, but I would have to agree that the item I use the most is my own tarp. In fact, I keep mine stuffed into a pocket on the lid of my pack so that I can get to it quickly. This is also a common military setup for outdoors trips, when you stop at night time that first aim is to set up your shelter so unless you want to be pulling everything out of your bag, the shelter goes in the top.
The differences in these vary, for a number of campers I found the plain blue tarps being used very frequently, these are also great to use for a flooring if you are camping as well. I use a simple hex tarp which is a lot more flexible than the simple blue ones and still really affordable staying under the $30. It’s bright yellow though, which stands out for me, but perhaps you might prefer a more discrete color.
From the people I spoke to, their shelters ranged in two colors: very bright or camouflaged. For people that didn’t want a birght-as-can-be shelter, they used Hennessy tarps which is a high quality rip-stop tarp in a hexagonal shape and can also be used to collect water from it while it is set up.
So I mentioned that the most used item in my pack is my bright yellow tarp, but my favourite and a lot of others’ favourite is the flint stick to start a fire. This is a reliable replacement to matches and lighters and is an easy-to-use tool. The most common type I saw was a magnesium fuel bar. It’s also what I use.
For the price of this (less than $6) it’s easy to see why so many others had this as their most used, and favourite, item. I asked a few others what they thought about using a flint stick, their response was “what’s the point when you can just use a normal lighter?” or “I’m not trained to use a flint stick”. For them, the handy firestarter was a normal bic lighter. If you are a survivalist and are of this school of thought, for fun I would recommend you check out this fun lighter from LighterBro. It’s a survivalist lighter with a few little added extras like a knife, scissors, screwdriver and a bottle opener.
I had a lot of people recommend their Klean Kanteen bottles which have are known for their good insulation to keep things hot or cold and are made of strong steel so they are very durable. For me as a coffee drinker (I know this isn’t advisable outdoors) these keep a good brew quite warm for a very long time which is great. For me, I prefer to use the same type of drinking equipment that I used in the military, which is a bottle that fits into a canteen. I have found a lot of other people use these as well just because you can use a quality canteen cup over an open fire or gas burner and the compact storage of having the bottle fit in the cup is pretty handy.
Gerber makes one of these under the Bear Grylls brand which is a pretty good quality brand and the same price as any ex-military surplus canteen you are likely to buy.
Paracord is an essential item for most of the kits I saw and for some it was their most-used item. The ideal amount of paracord is about 7-10 meters which some cut into smaller lengths just for those simple things like hanging your pack up in a tree, tying up a tent, a clothesline or the thousands of other reasons why you would need it. Paracord Planet is a pretty good brand and is reliable for when you request a certain type of sizing or colour which can sometimes be an issue when ordering paracord online.
The versatility of paracord in the outdoors community is very wide. I have met people that use paracord for boot laces, dog leads and even wrapping the handles of knifes and axes for better grip. The more you talk with others about it the more you will find you can find different innovative ways to use it. Backdoor Survival has 44 uses on this which you should check out to see some more creative uses.
Another one that surprised me as I thought I was the only to use it was the knife, fork and spoon multitool. This is a simple cutlery tool with a bottle opener in the fork and still quite cheap as it is under $20. It’s also good if you’re the type to misplace your spoon or fork just before you are about to eat.
Cooking stoves and gas burners were a big item with every camper I met. Some go big with an overpriced gas burner that has a huge gas consumption which I recommend not doing as you’re going to have to carry around spare gas bottles all of the time. Using something small and efficient that concentrates the flame is the ideal method.
For a lot of the minimalist campers, the Jetboil was the favourite choice. It is a personal system though so if you’re cooking for a
family you should probably look for something a little larger. For two people this is more than enough. The cup that fits on top holds a litre of water and has a colour indicator on the side for the heat marker. It takes about two minutes to boil water with this and the gas use is great as it does not have any waste points for the burner. If you use freeze dried meals or MREs this would be perfect for you.
The jetboil is a costly investment though (around $100). If you are on a tight budget I would recommend checking out the Super Cat DIY stove. It’s a simple idea that I saw a few backpackers using and is a very easy-to-make idea and works really well.
If you are cooking for a family, or just enjoy making a big feast while you are outdoors, this backpacker’s cooking set is under $20, compact and comes with a camping stove as well.
This was definitely was one of the more common additions in outdoors kits that I have seen and for good reason, a headlamp is really useful and surprisingly you can get a real quality one for a low investment. I use the LE headlamp as it does what it is meant to and is pretty reliable for a headlamp under $10.
The LE headlamp and the Vitchelo have a red light function which is easier on the eyes to adjust at night and are both under $10 but are just as good as most of the headlamps that are worth $100.
There are different schools of thought about water purifiers. The first is that you need one and should not walk out the front door without it, the second, and very contrasting one, is that it is not necessary at all and is a ‘toy’ addition to an outdoors kit. I am still caught in the middle of the necessity of a water purifier. I can understand it is necessary to have if you’re caught out in the wild and trapped without clean water. For me this has never occurred but as a prepper these are the sort of things you plan ahead for.
I think a water purifier is a backup, so for this purpose, if you feel like you might need one, get it. For the survivalists I met, the LifeStraw was the most used item and for its price ($15) and the sizing (small) it wasn’t too bad of an addition to their packs. LifeStraw also has a great charity behind their brand as well. The alternative to the LifeStraw is the Sawyer filter which is a little more expensive but comes with filter bags to use later.
I am still on the fence as to the necessity of these items, but if you fall into the survivalist family as some of the outdoorsmen that I met do then you might be interested in adding one of these to your own kit and testing it out.
Surprisingly, I met a lot of hikers who had either a backup hammock or only used a hammock. There was even one couple that slept in a two-person hammock together. They used a small tarp suspended over the top of it and another one below it as a floor and it looked like a pretty homely setup. For the hammock lovers, the most common brand was Hammock Bliss and the No-See-Um type. The couple that I met used the Hammock Bliss Triple, which was much larger. Both of these are under $100 so a pretty good investment if you are interested in hammock camping. As for the couple, their only complaint was that the Triple didn’t have a mosquito net. If you get the No-See-Um type it has a bug proof net on it which you can string up.
Compact collapsable buckets fold up very well and are great to use for washing hands, dishes or just washing your face in the morning (something I do). You can get these in various sizes and they fold up in a very compact way so its easy to keep in your pack. I met people that carried a few of these, most used the 10L one and some people would use the 10L for kitchen purposes and a smaller one just for personal washing use. The Freegrace is one of the more popular brands with this item and are a good replacement to the camping bucket that a few others use to stack dishes.
I always enjoy hearing recommendations from different survivalists, preppers and hikers as to the sort of stuff they use the most in their outdoors bags, if you have something not on this list that you always use, let me know in the comment section below.