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How to Survive Minor Mishaps: Five Must-Have Camping Supplies

Camping tips to get you through the nights...
March 18, 2014

Whether you’re a first-time camper or seasoned adventurer, here are a few sneaky camping essentials to keep you warm and dry and keep your gear in order.

Em Bell - 5 camping tips

1. The answer to everything: Electrical tape and WD40

There are two camping supplies I was told would fix everything - electrical tape and WD40. Electrical tape is beneficial for fixing holes in tents, boats, rucksacks, shoes and anything else you can think of. It’s also a great waterproof plaster when you need it. During our adventure on the Missouri River, everything had electrical tape on it by the end; including us.

When I was kayaking the length of Britain last year, WD40 saved us; every single part of the boat had been coated in WD40 by the end of that trip. For basic camping trips I wouldn’t worry about the WD40.

2. Use garbage bags to stay dry in a pinch

Garbage bags are a simple yet useful camping supply to pack. Get your hands on the large, heavy-duty 55 gallon type, cut a whole in the top and you can use it as a windbreaker or water-repellant if you’re caught unawares by a storm. Obviously they can also be used to protect the goodies in your bag and to store all your garbage until the end of your trip. That way you never leave anything behind and are able to leave the place as you would wish to find it.

3. Dental floss: more than just for oral hygiene

Make sure you carry some dental floss in your bag. It barely takes up any room and is surprisingly strong. If you’re on a hiking trip with a pair of well-worn boots and the soles split, it can be a game changer. Don’t panic. You can weave the dental floss through the sole’s grooves and tie it tightly in place. Wrap your electrical tape (mentioned above) over the top and you’re good to go. Then when you get home, pick up a new pair of  hiking boots for your next adventure! You can also use dental floss when putting together sticks and leaves for a fire.

4. Seam Sealer for an uninterrupted night's sleep

You’re certain to sleep better in the silence of the forest than you do overlooking the city – unless you have a leaky mattress. Seam Sealer is a camping essential if you’re bringing an air mattress on the trip, just in case you happen to spring a leak. A dab of that with the electrical tape (again) will patch up the tear and make sure you have a comfortable night’s sleep for the rest of the trip.

5. An empty milk jug makes wonderful mood lighting

I love this trick I was taught a while ago. Fill a gallon milk jug with water and wrap your headlamp around it. Make sure the light is facing inward and you will get a big, soft light to help you cook and eat your nutritious camping delights.

Packing extra shoelaces, making compasses from a wristwatch, using socks to start fires and catching rain water – the list goes on. There are hundreds of sneaky camping tips to keep you happy on your trip, but these are just a few camping essentials to help you sleep well, stay dry, and keep moving on a trip into the wild.


  • http://www.RunDustin.com/ RunDustin

    Love the mood lighting ;-) hehehe Bon chika wah wah! Awesome post #Merrellpack

    • NoBiasIntended

      bet you can add food colour for effect. rose lighting anyone?

  • Mike Shilko

    Anybody know what tent that is in the picture?

    • Bikemonkey

      It looks like a Hildebrandt tunnel tent, which I highly recommend. It is a Norwegian company.

      • BillinDetroit

        Looks big … with enough stakes to deal with a LOT of wind.

  • BillinDetroit

    Good list. I have duct tape packed in my BOB / backpack wrapped around an Altoid tin with my “gawd what a monsoon!” fire starting stuff (char cloth, cotton balls, fatwood & ferrocerrium / magnesium bar [Harbor Freight sometimes has them on sale at 99cents -- I grabbed extras and stashed them throughout my packs]). Maybe I should get a small bottle or can of the WD, though.

    I have a separate fire kit for my main backpack and another for my top / fanny pack intended for side jaunts or fast & light skinning out. The fanny pack has the bare essentials in each main category (water, first-aid, shelter, defense, high-energy food, signaling, orienteering) and the main pack fleshes each of these out.

    I discovered a little ‘cheat’ with the char cloth: after making the char cloth, soak it in some (real) turpentine and let it dry in the sun. It’s much happier to hold a spark after I did that and it adds next to nothing to the weight. Us newbies need every leg up we can get.

  • TheMista

    WD-40 coating a kayak, then putting said kayak in the water? I don’t even know where to begin with how stupid and polluting this is.

    • theUg

      I highly doubt they were talking about the outer shell.

      • TheMista

        Even if not, some still ends up washing into the water.

        • http://www.oh-ya-I-have-one.com Jared Haer

          Please tell me how stupid and polluting it is.
          Without looking it up,
          can you name one chemical in WD-40?
          If you care about the environment and environmental issues, don’t be afraid to actually invest some of your time in learning instead of reacting in a generic “chemicals are bad” manor to posts on the web, it’s not a very intelligent or effective position to take.

          • TheMista

            I can’t name a single chemical in WD-40, which, by your misspelled logic, means it makes a good salad dressing. So I took your advice and did a quick bit of research:

            DANGER! Harmful or fatal if swallowed. Flammable aerosol. Contents under pressure. Avoid eye contact. Use with adequate ventilation. Keep away from heat, sparks and all other sources of ignition.

            SPILL RESPONSE: Wear appropriate protective clothing (see Section 8). Eliminate all sources of ignition and ventilate area. Leaking cans should be placed in a plastic bag or open pail until the pressure has dissipated. Contain and collect liquid with an inert absorbent and place in a container for disposal. Clean spill area thoroughly. Report spills to authorities as required.

            So if you want to read more about the substance you apparently want to drink out of a shot glass while sitting around a campfire, please read here:


          • NoBiasIntended

            You’re nuts. You exaggerated your side to make them seem more ridiculous than what they are.

            Funny that you’re research was the Danger warning. You never did answer their question. Name one chemical?

          • TheMista

            I don’t have to name one chemical found in there; I included a link that has the list of chemicals. Why take my word for it when you can read a document from their website?

            Also, if you really think it’s safe, call the company and ask if it’s a good idea to risk putting it into freshwater rivers and streams. Pretty sure the spill warning on that document answers that question fairly clearly.

          • Troll

            He also said without doing research..

          • TheMista

            Did the info I got off D-40′s website magically appear?

          • Proud2bfromtheUSA

            WD 40 is made with fish oil Which makes it an excellent attractant if you need to catch fish spray your bait with WD40 you will be amazed at the results. Of course if you are worried about the pollutants of adding fish oil to the water course then I guess maybe we need to remove all the fish first so that they wont inadvertently pollute the water when they die of old age or when a predator catches them.

          • TheMista

            …or you could see what WD-40′s website has to say on the matter: http://wd40.com/about-us/myths-legends-fun-facts/

            Scroll down to “What a Fish Story!”

        • veloscente

          TheMista is right: WD40 has a 62%+ volatile (solvent) content and is 25% petroleum based. No mention of “fish oil” – unless that’s the 10% inert ingredient.
          Unless your boat is all-metal, dousing it in solvent & petroleum products is an AWFUL idea: WD40 attacks most synthetics & rubber. Spraying it on anything but metal will weaken & shorten the life of that product.
          These volatiles are air pollutants and petroleum will pollute the water.

          As for electrical tape, has anyone here actually used that stuff? The adhesive is poor, will only stick to perfectly smooth plastic if you wrap it over itself several times over, and is highly heat sensitive: the glue essentially melts in temperatures over 90deg F. Duct tape is FAR tackier, waterproof, much more durable to stretching & abrasion, and has a wider temperature range.
          Surfers & skiers use duct tape for field repairs where *real* waterproofness & durability is required. I’ve never seen a real outdoorsman bother to carry electrical tape.

          For all the “do your research” posters who didn’t do their research, here is your answer from the exceptionally thorough Wikipedia article:

          50% “aliphatic hydrocarbons” (volatiles)
          The manufacturer’s website specifically claims that this fraction in the current formulation cannot be accurately referred to as Stoddard solvent, a similar mixture of hydrocarbons.[8]
          <25% petroleum base oil, presumably a mineral oil or light lubricating oil.
          12-18% low vapor pressure aliphatic hydrocarbon (volatiles), to reduce the viscosity for use in aerosols. This fraction evaporates during application.
          2-3% carbon dioxide, presumably as a propellant, is now used instead of liquefied petroleum gas to reduce WD-40's considerable flammability.
          <10% inert ingredients.

          The German version of the mandatory EU safety sheet lists the following safety-relevant ingredients:

          60–80% heavy naphtha (a petroleum product used e.g. in wick type cigarette lighters), hydrogen treated

          1–5% carbon dioxide

          • Chipper Lakes

            lmao FINALLY some common sense….

    • Jeffronimo

      WD40 is biodegradable. Spray away

    • David

      WD-40 contain anchovy oil in it.

    • CitizenVetUSA

      WD 40 is fish oil…

  • Steve Lim

    How do you wrap a headlamp around a gallon milk jug?

  • Buck Disqus

    Exactly what did you do with the wd-40? Did you feed it to the editor who didn’t review this silly article?

  • StevenP

    What a bogus article. For starters, you need DUCT tape, not ‘electrical’ tape. Electrical tape is thin, stretchy (usually) black plastic tape that doesn’t stick that well. Second, ‘seam sealer’ is a WATERPROOFING liquid for tents. It on’t fix a leaky air mattress! Also, instead of dental floss(!), nylon fishing lin is much better–actually usable for the mentioned repairs. And why would you put WD40 on a kayak at all? It’s penetrating and water-removing thin oil.

    Emily, have you really ever been camping at all? If so, did you actually know what you were carrying and usng? Didn’t stop you from writing an article about it, that’s obvious.

    • whatever1959

      um, i’ve got electrical tape on my air mattress right now…without any seem sealer and since putting the tape on, it’s probably been used at least a couple of dozen nights and can go 3 nights without adding any air all…and my weight puts alot of pressure on it!

    • Rocketmissile

      Yeah! Read StevenP’s expert camping article at…where?

  • David Bell

    Who takes a mattress..that is not real camping.

    • whatever1959

      i do! you camp the way you want to and everyone else will camp they way they want to!

      • David Bell

        no…that’s still not camping

        • Donna

          Yes it is, especially for car campers. You want to go minimalist, you go ahead. Bet you don’t sleep on the floor at home, do you?

    • NoBiasIntended

      If you can carry it, why not unless you like a stick in your ass. In hind sight, that might be the issue.

  • Arthur Radley

    Seriously DUMB article.

  • Emily Bell

    Thanks everyone for your comments. Just wanted to clarify a few things.

    WD40 was used inside our support boat, not on the kayak itself. No WD40 went into the ocean. I found electrical tape worked better for me on my last trip. I used it on my blisters and cuts and found it stayed on longer. Some people use air mattresses to make their camping experience a bit more comfortable. I don’t actually use one but use seam sealer to fix other peoples on camping trips with schools and my family. Dental floss is easily obtainable and could definitely be useful – obviously there are other options. The head lamp idea is a novelty suggestion and the kids absolutely love this one!

    I have been camping my whole life and then spent 60 days camping on the banks of the Missouri as I paddle boarded it and then spent 4 1/2 months camping while I kayaked the length of Britain. I’ve used the things on this list and so wanted to share the tips with people that may never have camped before, to help them get started.

  • whatever1959
  • Pedro Mercado

    Total Article FAIL.. lmao, still laughing at all the bad advice. I’ll make sure to look for Emily on Naked and Afraid next season as a self decribed outdoors woman!

  • Mike Elliott

    Dental floss with a large needle is mandatory . Heavy catfish fishing line also. Duct tape is better. The guy who said he patched his air mattress and still using it with electrical tape is either lying or weighs fifteen pounds

    • John Ashurst

      I’ve known electrical tape used to seal a puncture in a bike inner tube so I guess it will cope with a mattress. You use seam sealant to seal a hole in a self inflating mat by squashing it down and applying the glue. As the mat re inflates it draws the glue into the hole.

  • Goeasy0

    Empty fabric softener jug for late night urinal, pull out the pour spout. Sturdy, wide mouth, screw top and smells good while filling.

  • dantopic400

    What I like to do is make a shot glass out of electrical tape, and drink WD-40 out of it.

  • Woolis

    I want to see Emily’s milk jugs!!

  • Gary Puntman

    I’m glad I found this list of items. I am going to be going camping a lot for the rest of the summer. I want to make sure I have the right supplies. I am willing to buy some new supplies and spend some money.
    Gary Puntman | http://www.aplusoutdoors.com

  • Eric Von Hollen

    Nice…so bring more trash is the idea!?!?1

  • TS Eliot

    Have used dryer lint in a cardboard egg carton coated with candle wax to start a fire with wet wood in driving rain. Works.

  • Bob Deck

    MSDS Info on WD40
    Aliphatic Hydrocarbon 64742-47-8 45-50 Petroleum Base Oil 64742-58-1
    64742-65-0 <25 LVP Aliphatic Hydrocarbon 64742-47-8 12-18 Carbon Dioxide 124-38-9 2-3 Non-Hazardous Ingredients


Emily Bell

Cycling, Hiking, Kayaking, Trail Running, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
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RAB waterproofs, Merrell Barefoot Running Gloves
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