By Kerry Cartier, The Disaster Guy
When I was a kid, the only piece of camping gear I had was a hunting knife – a Christmas gift! We didn’t have money to buy camping gear. So we made it.
I’ve been told that camping gear is too expensive, so it’s impossible to prepare to go camping if a disaster renders your home uninhabitable. If you buy camping gear at REI, it’s expensive. It isn’t expensive to make your own camping gear.
No pot? If you need to boil water for soup or hot drinks, it doesn’t take a kettle or pot. You can take a gallon-sized #10 tin can (such as a large coffee can) and use it as your pot. If you want to hang it over your fire, punch some small holes near the top, opposite each other. Make a bail or handle from some coat hanger wire. Instant pot!
No cups? Use smaller cans. Cut out the lids, and you have tin cups. No handles? Bend coat hanger wire around the tin cans with pliers, top and bottom, and make your handles out of coat hanger wire.
No skillet? Make a large circle with doubled or tripled coat hanger wire, and run some straight pieces across the middle like spokes in a wheel. Make some of these straight pieces long enough to form a handle. Add enough straight pieces to get a handle that doesn’t droop. Cover the large circle with layers and layers of aluminum foil. Instant skillet!
If any part of the coat hangar wire touches your food, burn of all the paint off the coat hangar by sticking it into hot coals. This gets rid of lead-based paint.
No cook pan? Cover a piece of board with aluminum foil, shiny side out. Nail stakes to the sides of the board, and pound the stakes into the ground, tilted toward a bed of hot coals. Use nails or carpet tacks to put bacon or thin strips of meat on the board. Put a filet of fish on the board. A board one foot wide by one and one-half feet long will broil a fish nicely. To give the fish the browned appearance, rub a stick of butter over it occasionally.
No knives and forks? Bring them from home! Or after you’re done using them at a fast-food restaurant, bring them home, wash them, and put them in your cooking kit. While at a fast-food restaurant, get a couple packets of salt, pepper, and sugar – just a couple, as many as you might use while eating there – and add them to your kit.
No soap to clean dishes? Use a little sand instead. It is as abrasive as a Brillo pad.
No tent? Make one from plastic sheet and suspend it with a rope. Put duct tape on all four tips, with a loop of rope, if you need to stake it down. Oh, there’s no tent floor? Use some more plastic sheet. You can also make a tarp tent, staked down behind and suspended in the front. The tarp material can be a tarp or plastic sheet.
No sleeping bag? I never had one when I was a kid. The cowboys rolled up some woolen blankets in a piece of oilskin and tied this blanket roll behind their saddles. You could do the same thing today, substituting plastic sheet for oilskin. Make the plastic sheet long enough to go both over and under your body, tuck under your feet, and pull over your head if it rains. You need blanket both under and over you. The blanket under you insulates you from the cold ground.
Sleeping tip… if sleeping on the ground, make the area under your body as flat as possible, with no rocks. Dig small depressions under your hips and shoulder blades to fit the contours of your body. Or make a pile of leaves and put your sleeping gear on the pile. Soft!
You know about cutting branches for cooking food. Be sure to cut the bark off, down to the raw wood. You can use such branches to stir pancake batter, etc.
To complete your education, go to the camping section of a big box store. Look at the various pieces of camping gear for sale. Two questions: Could I live without it? If I couldn’t, how could I make something like that, which would work?
The homemade camping gear you make won’t be pretty. It will look like a pile of junk. Looks don’t matter – your pile of junk is free camping gear!
The Disaster Guy has made a lot of junk camping gear. You can find almost 160 emergency preparedness and disaster survival tips on his website, www.DisasterGuy.com. He’d welcome your comments on this article by e-mail to <DisasterGuy@wildblue.net>.