One of the problems I have always had with my pack is the overall weight. I start loading up every survival and first aid item I think I may need, add to it food, extra clothes, and something to drink and I have a 200-pound pack. What I need after lugging it around all day is a truss, but that’s a story for another day.
As I have padded around the woods, I have discovered several items that are really handy, and sometimes necessary, to have along. Some of these things are for comfort more than survival, but I have found I don’t want to be without them.
The first item is good old-fashioned 550 Paracord. Parachute cord, or 550 cord as it is sometimes called because of its 550-pound breaking strength, was originally used for parachutes during WW II. Soldiers found hundreds of uses for it in the field like bootlaces, which by the way, is an excellent way to carry some cord instead of in your pack.
I have used 550 cord for so many things it is almost impossible to list. I have secured items to the outside of my pack, hauled out game, hung food stash in a tree to avoid bears, lashed branches together when building a shelter, and even used it to hold a tarp in place for a hasty shelter during a downpour one night.
You can make a tourniquet in a pinch with a length of cord and a stick. While I would much prefer a SWAT-T or a CAT tourniquet, the cord will work in a pinch.
A 50-foot coil of the cord weighs very little and can easily be stuffed in your pack. The cord is flammable, and could be used as a fire starter in a pinch. Be certain to burn the ends of the cord to melt it, so that it does not unravel.
There are now bracelets and key chains or straps made of Paracord braided together. Some of these contain over 20 feet of cord and can be a lifesaver in an emergency. I wear a cord bracelet most of the time and hardly know it is there.
It’s not just for rednecks anymore. Duct tape has more uses outdoors than any other single item. Duct tape has been around for 75 years and I doubt the folks who invented it had any idea how useful the product would become.
Duct tape can be used in many first aid emergencies. I have used it to wrap up a bleeding finger and dam the flow of the red stuff. You can trim it into butterfly bandage strips to close a larger wound or use it for a pressure bandage or tourniquet.
Even cheap duct tape has a lot of strength, and by twisting the tape you add more strength. You can make a rope with it and get around 25 pounds of breaking strength. Use small pieces of tape to blaze a trail, repair just about anything from tents and bags to shoes. The uses are endless for this waterproof, stick anywhere miracle.
Save an old plastic credit card and wrap 10 yards off a roll onto it. This card with the tape fits much easier in a pack or pocket than a full roll. I keep a separate amount of tape in my first aid kit for medical uses, and a card full in my pack for repairs.
I started carrying super glue several years ago. You can mend all kinds of broken objects with it. I carry the Krazy Glue brand, which is the closest match to the Dermabond formula used in medical circles. Krazy glue can be used to seal up small cuts on your appendages very neatly. Just put a drop, or a row of drops at the surface of the wound to keep it closed. Be certain you don’t glue the “clamping” fingers to the wound as this stuff bonds skin instantly. Once I got a well glued up finger stuck to my cheek so I know this stuff works.
I usually buy the small plastic bottle of Krazy glue with the screw top lid. It seems the “tube” type dries out very quickly once it has been opened. Usually I don’t discover that it is dried up until I need it, a thousand miles northwest of nowhere.
This little gem now gets carried in my first aid kit. If you are like me, jerky is a regular snack outdoors. When a hunk of the jerky gets wedged in your teeth it may not be life threatening, but certainly annoying. All progress must stop until the problem is eliminated. A piece of floss cures the problem much better than a tooth pick improvised from a tree branch or the point of a knife blade.
Besides the dental uses for floss, there are a few others. Suturing material is one use in a pinch, as is a fishing line because it is a high strength cord. Keep it in the original pack if you can because of the built in cutter.
Moleskin is a tough, super sticky, waterproof tape used especially for blisters. A small piece placed over a blister on your foot can save the day. I never carried the stuff until recently. I was on a trip where I wore high top snake boots and walked many miles a day in them.
The top of those boots wore a quarter-sized hole in my shin. I tried a piece of duct tape over it but that failed miserably when I tried to remove the tape at night. The hole got increasingly bigger. After that, I chose to ignore the wound until the 4th day when it became infected and I had to go through a round of antibiotics. A simple piece of moleskin would have prevented the whole circus. I did get a new scar to add to the collection when it finally healed up a couple months later.
Felt Tipped Pen
I always carry around something to write with. Usually it is a pencil because a ball- point pen never seems to work when I need it. The ballpoint is picky about what surface it wants to write on while a pencil is not. Problem with a pencil is keeping it sharpened and there are surfaces pencils don’t want to write on either. Enter the felt tipped pen because it will write on just about anything. Keep the pen in your pack and not in your pocket. I broke one once and created some very interesting black stains on my clothes and skin.
I carry a set of these in my first aid kit. EMT shears are very strong scissors with a blunt rounded tip so they won’t cut a patient when used in a medical emergency. If you have to cut clothing off a patient who is injured in order to reach the wound, these are the ticket. Use a knife and you run the risk of cutting or impaling the patient, especially when the wound is in a sensitive area.
EMT shears are strong enough to cut through seat belts, leather belts, and even a penny. The shears can be used for dozens of non-medical tasks and weigh next to nothing. I carry mine everywhere.
All of these items of convenience weigh next to nothing and take up very little space. I try and limit what I carry around for weight and space concerns but these multi-use items go with me everywhere.
A person has to be careful about how much “stuff” they want to lug around in their packs and pockets. The last thing any of us needs is a truss so keep that pack light.
Mark Rackay is a columnist for the Montrose Daily Press and avid hunter who travels across North and South America in search of adventure and serves as a Director for the Montrose County Sheriff’s Posse. For information about the Posse call 970-252-4033 (leave a message) or email email@example.com
For outdoors or survival related questions or comments, feel free to contact him directly at his email firstname.lastname@example.org