It happens to the best of us. No matter how well you prepare, or how many checklists you use, it is inevitable that someday you will show up in the backcountry only to discover that you forgot to pack something important. It might be as simple as a can opener or maybe the fuel for your camp stove, but it’s important to stay calm and not let the situation ruin your weekend.
Fortunately, the vast majority of campers are a friendly bunch. If you have camping neighbors, don’t be shy about taking your can of soup over and asking if you can use their can opener. I find that asking to use someone else’s item at their campsite is generally preferable to asking if you can borrow it and bring it back later. Keep in mind that many of us would hesitate about loaning our gear out to our own relatives!
If you don’t have camping neighbors, the next course of action is to hunt-down a Park Ranger. Believe me, these people have heard it all and, while they may not be able to assist you directly (remember, they’re probably not camping), they will surely be able to recommend a solution to your problem.
If the neighbors can’t help you out and the Rangers are scarce, then you’re down to doing what our ancestors did when they crossed the prairie: improvise. Being able to improvise when you forget something, or even break something, requires a little foresight and preparation, though, so make sure you stock an emergency kit before heading off on your adventure. Some items that you will hopefully never have to use, but you’ll sure be happy to have them if you do:
It was always MacGyver’s best friend and it can be your best friend too, if you need to patch a rip in your tent, or splint a broken tent pole. You don’t have to pack around the big roll, either. To save space you can wrap 20 or 30 feet of duct tape around a wooden dowel.
Preferably the heavy-duty variety, aluminum foil works great for cooking if you find yourself without pots and pans. If you run out of gas, you can wrap aluminum foil into a cone shape, and use it as a funnel. Like the duct tape, you don’t have to pack the entire roll. Just strip-off 6 to 10 feet and fold it up into a little square.
An amazingly small and strong cord, parachute cord is actually a small diameter kernmantle rope that has a 550-pound breaking strength (it’s also known as “550 cord”). Parachute cord has as many uses as duct tape, from hanging laundry and hanging food in trees (something we do in bear country), to replacing tent guy lines and broken boot laces. Because of its small diameter, 30 or 40 feet of parachute cord doesn’t take up much room. Note that when you cut parachute cord you need to burn the ends or they will unravel.
McNett Seam Grip is like super glue for the outdoors. You can use it to glue everything from the shoulder strap on your pack to the sole of your boot. If it can’t be duct taped and it can’t be tied, Seam Grip will probably do the trick.