Western Traveler

Tips and Tricks

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CANDY BAR SIGNAL – I’ve noticed over the last several years that many candy bars (and other snacks too) are now packaged with a foil lining inside. As a rule the tendency is to throw this into your trash bag all crumpled up, but you may want to fold it up instead and place it somewhere in your pack as a possible signaling device. Let’s face it, how many of us actually carry a mirror? In a pinch this could be used to get the attention of rescuers looking for you in the event you get lost or injured

EMERGENCY CANDLE – I found this video on the Internet from CrazyRussianHacker and thought it to be too cool not to pass on. Believe it or not you can make an emergency candle from a stick of butter and a paper towel. Just cut your butter into the size you want (leaving it in the wax paper) and poke a small hole in one side. Then, take your paper towel, twist it up like a twist of tobacco, fold it in half and stick it into the hole you just made, leaving about a half inch sticking out the top. Next, push the butter back into place to seal the hole, lay the exposed paper towel onto the butter and saturate it. You’re now ready to light up. If you are in windy conditions just stick the whole thing in a glass (not plastic) container and there you go.

BATTERIES FROM BATTERIES – It’s fair to say that I consider myself a bit of a survivalist and as such am always looking for ways to re-purpose things from non-usable to usable. I discovered that inside many batteries are several smaller batteries. So, if you’re out in the wilderness and you don’t have the exact sized replacement batteries you need it may be possible to open up a big battery and remove smaller ones that can be made to work in your device, sometimes with the assistance of a piece of aluminum foil as a spacer, something to think about. Make sure to consider voltages on the smaller units to make sure they’ll work in your device.

THE WORLD’S SIMPLEST LED LIGHT – If you’re like me you can never have too many flashlights. My love of these probably comes from years of giving cave tours in Mammoth Cave, go figure. Believe it or not you can make an LED flashlight from a single button battery and a single LED lamp (assuming it has the two lead wires still attached).  All you have to do is to hold the button battery in between your thumb and forefinger, put the two lead wires on opposite sides of your battery and squeeze.  if it doesn’t turn on, no big deal just reverse the leads onto opposite sides and it’ll turn on.  As always, try to match voltages, works much better

PASS THE MAYO – Have you ever gone out camping and forgotten your light source for camp? If so you may not be totally out of luck if you happen to carry mayonnaise in your food stores. You can actually make a very respectable candle by melting the mayo and making a wick out of a paper napkin. You’ll need to saturate your “wick” with the mayo, and it can be hard to start, but once it does it’ll burn for quite a while.

FIRECORD – There’s something new and exciting on the market that you really need to get for your backpacking and hiking adventures. It’s called “firecord” and in a nutshell is a special type of parachute cord that has a strand of highly-flammable material inside that can be used to start fires in the backcountry. You just peel back the sheath layer and there it is, a clearly-marked string ready to start your fires with. If you have matches, striker and spark device or lighter this will help you get your fire started. Once you’ve taken out what you need to start your fire you can still use the remaining cord for whatever you need; zipper pulls, bootlaces, lanyards, etc.

ORANGE PEEL FIRE STARTERS – Believe it or not you’re probably been throwing away great fire starters, seriously. Like many hikers & backpackers, oranges are a staple. It turns out that not only do they taste great, but once dried they make fine fire starters as well.  How you ask?  Because they contain a high amount of natural oil, which burns beautifully.  Start saving and drying out your peels and you may never have to buy a fire starter again, plus your pack will smell awesome.

CABLE TIES AS CHAINS – One of the hottest trends in outdoor entertainment is mountain biking. The problem is that any bike tire will spin in the snow and traction is at a premium. If you’re wanting to try some snow riding, take some large cable ties and put them around the tire, joint side out. This will give you a nice row of traction blocks on the tire, which should help you move through the white stuff. Make sure to put it on both tires so you’ll also have better slide-free cornering.

FIREWOOD SELECTION – No one can argue the importance of having a good campfire while in the wilderness, but not knowing what wood to pick can make the task of making a good fire nearly impossible. Though this is by no means “rocket science” there is actually some science involved in picking good wood. Simply stated; try to find wood that is off the ground where it can absorb moisture. In any wooded area you’ll find tons of wood hanging in the foliage. Look for both hanging limbs, and trees that have fallen over, but are not totally on the ground. It’s okay to use downed tree material that is still suspended in the air on other plants. Don’t forget that you can use the bark from dead trees for fires as well, just make sure it isn’t on the ground.

EMPTY LIGHTER FIRE STARTER – It happens, you go into the backcountry with the best of intentions carrying your liquid fuel lighter. But when you try to start a fire you find out that it’s empty. All is not lost. You can make a fire with just a little ingenuity. First, take out the cotton batting and spread it out. Next use the flint from the lighter to make a spark and ignite the cotton. End result, you get a fire from an empty lighter.

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Last modified on: September 27th 2023.
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