8 Ordinary Objects with Extraordinary Uses in the Backcountry

8 Ordinary Objects with Extraordinary Uses in the Backcountry

8 Ordinary Objects with Extraordinary Uses in the Backcountry


One of the most important things you should have on you for any trip in the backcountry is a first-aid kit. However, imagining every possible thing that could go wrong while on the trail and being prepared for those potential scenarios isn’t always realistic. But, what if you knew how to use ordinary objects in the case of an emergency, or if you run out of supplies for something else? Knowing how to improvise certain ordinary objects can be a matter of comfort vs. discomfort, and sometimes even life or death.

There’s no saying what could happen while you’re in the backcountry. So, you should know how to use these tools in other ways. You’ll be surprised what they could do for you!

1) T-shirt

A t-shirt can really come in handy when you’re in the backcountry, and not just because you want to keep yourself covered up. Keep an extra t-shirt in your bag, and use it if nature takes the turn for the worse against you. A t-shirt can be used to cover your mouth or eyes in a dust storm. It can also be used as a tourniquet or an extra layer of warmth.

2) Knife

A knife has many uses outdoors, and not just for cutting. Though, being able to cut something outdoors is very important. Anyway, we could have a whole other article that discusses the uses of a knife in the backcountry. But, some of the bigger ones involve:

  • Using a knife to start a fire or to make wood shavings for tinder
  • A weapon against wild animals (or dangerous humans)
  • A means for cutting up a dead animal
  • Carving wood to make an emergency shelter or raft
  • An anchor, to hold down a tent if you’ve lost your stakes or the weather is bad

Ordinary objects with uses in the backcountry, knife

3) Coffee Filters

Coffee filters won’t really be useful in case of an emergency. Unless, of course, that emergency is lack of energy for your upcoming hike. Coffee filters, though, have a lot of alternative practical uses. Some of these include:

  • Using one as a bowl
  • Using one to clean off all the blood, sweat, and tears
  • A strainer
  • A bandage
  • A funnel
  • Sanitary pads

4) Chapstick

Lip balm or Chapstick is great for keeping your lips nice and moist outdoors. It’s also a great companion when it comes to starting fires! A little lip balm is of course made with wax. Take two with you. In an empty one, store matches or other fire starters. The other, use as regular lip balm and have as a backup in case you need an emergency fire, which can be done with a little twine or toilet paper.

5) Food Cans

If you’re on a longer hike in the backcountry, then one of those ordinary objects you should have in your bag are cans of food. Whether you go for classic SpaghettiOs or the more reliable can of tuna, it doesn’t really matter. When the tuna can is full, it can be used as an emergency light. Just roll up some paper, stab a hole (with that knife you have), and viola. You’ve got yourself a candle.

Otherwise, when you’re done eating, save those cans. They have many other uses, like:

  • A make-shift stove
  • An animal trap
  • A shovel or scooper
  • An alarm (see dental floss)
  • A megaphone
  • A water filter

Ordinary objects with uses in the backcountry, tin can

6) Dental Floss

Wow…dental floss. Some people don’t even know what it’s used for to begin with. But, if you’re smart and clean enough to know it’s intended use, then you’re ready to handle its extended uses. Use it for anything from tying things together, fishing line, creating a trip alarm to alert you of intruders at your campsite, etc.

7) Garbage Bags

Garbage bags are another perfect ordinary object with an extraordinary use in the backcountry. You should always bring garbage bags along outdoors, as they are necessary for making sure you leave the clean trail behind you. However, garbage bags can also come in handy when the rain starts to come down. Poke a hole in one of them, stick your head through, and pray you stay dry. They can also be used to protect equipment and food, a means of catching rainwater from frozen snow, or even a pillow when packed with leaves.

Got any other ideas? Let us know what other ordinary objects you can use in the backcountry!

hanalarock I'm Hana- a freelance travel writer and teacher who currently lives in South Korea. I'm originally from New York, but have spent the last two years traveling and living abroad. My first time hiking in the US was when I traveled around the country as a teenager. Though, my first adult backpacking trip was a year ago, when I hiked from Thailand down to Singapore for a month. I'm looking forward to many more adventures in the future. Visit my site for more information.