Garage Gear Guide
6 Household Items That Prove Clutch At The Campsite
When it comes to packing for an outdoor trip, we all know the big ones: tent, sleeping bag, pad, backpack, shoes, lights – you get the drill.
Today at The Clinic, we’re focused on the quiet heroes in your kit: the unsung, often unbranded, tools and materials that can make a big difference around your campsite. For many of us, these started as last-minute hacks, but have grown to be must-have items that offer a variety of useful and easy-to-implement applications.
Take a look at the list below for inspiration and then head out to your garage, check those junk drawers, or laundry rooms, and see what you’ve got waiting in the wings to join you on your next adventure.
1. Duct Tape
Great for quick, temporary repairs - to your gear, your clothes...and even your body.
Uses: Break a tent pole? Wrap some duct tape around it and you’re back in business. Rip a hole in your down down jacket or pack? Create a temporary patch for holes in bags, jackets, or tents with a small piece of tape. Forget bandaids? Use duct tape as a blister patch. And if things get a little more serious, you can even use duct tape to fashion a quick splint for an injured finger or create a waterproof seal over a wound to prevent infection.
Packability: Here's our best tip: you don't have to bring the whole roll. We’ll never forget when we watched our friend roll up a bunch of duct tape around their lighter. It's a genius way to bring along some really useful material without any wasted space.
2. Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
Foil is the ultimate cooking companion - and reusable if you treat it right.
Uses: Forget a cutting board? Foil can serve as an alternative when you don’t want to place food directly on a picnic table. It can also sub in as a makeshift serving tray or plate. Foil comes in handy when you’re cooking meals too. Use it to craft foil packet meals or cover the food on your Portable Grill or BaseCamp to trap in heat. Leftovers? Foil is camping Tupperware. Wrap up your food and feast on it in the morning. Pro Tip: With some careful folding and easy cleaning, your foil can be reusable throughout your trip - just try to minimize perforations.
Packability: If you're packing light, tear off a large sheet and fold it into squares or wrap it around your water bottle and remove as needed. If you're traveling with a larger camp kitchen, remove foil from the box and toss the whole roll in to your kitchen box.
Where to buy: Your local grocery store
3. Plastic Zip Bags
Your breakfast will never be the same.
Uses: Plastic baggies (we call ’em ziplocs even though that’s technically a specific brand) are flat-packing alternatives to tupperware - you can store leftovers inside them or pre-pack spices and ingredients ahead of your trip. They can also be part of the cooking process in a brilliant hack to scramble eggs: crack some eggs into a press and seal plastic bag (ideally pre-loaded with some spices and chopped veg inside), squish them around to mix, and place the bag carefully in boiling water for about 5 minutes - just make sure it doesn’t touch the hot sides of your pot. We recommend hanging the top of the plastic bag on your KettlePot and using the KettlePot lid to keep it in place. They can also add a layer of protection for your phone or other electronics as a makeshift dry bag (but if you know you’ll be out doing stuff like whitewater rafting and there’s a high chance of dumping, splurge on some proper storage). Lastly, they’re really good training guide for those looking to improve their Leave No Trace practices: give each member of your trip their own ziploc as their own personal trash receptacle and remind them to pick up after themselves and anything they might see on the trail (and remember, in fragile ecosystems you can’t just throw your orange peel into the woods, that goes in the bag, too). The transparent material is a literal window into what we consume and what we can leave behind if we’re not careful.
Packability: Roll up a few plastic bags, house them in one “organizer” zip bag so they don’t go all over the place, and slide them into any compartment in your pack. It’s always good to bring a few extra just in case.
Where to buy: Grocery store, Amazon
4. Garbage Bags
It's for way more than just trash. Consider it a personal size tarp-in-training.
Uses: Experiencing wet weather? A garbage bag can be a backpack liner, a mat for the outside of your tent, a container for your muddy boots at the end of a trip, a poncho, or a waterproof mat if you need to sit on wet ground. And if you’re in *desperate* need of a mid-trip refresh, toss your rank clothes in a trash bag with some water, a teaspoon of baking soda, and shake vigorously for a backcountry trip to the laundromat.
Packability: We like to roll up a few bags and slip them inside the middle of a roll of paper towels. We usually leave this in our camp kitchen box if we are car camping so we always know where to find it. If you’re hiking out further, stash a few in a side pack for easy access if you know rain might strike.
Just a bit of medium-length, small-diameter rope can really tie your site together.
Uses: Rope can be used in a variety of ways, but one of the most useful is getting stuff elevated and off the ground. By connecting it across trees, you effectively create your own custom “branches” that you can use to create a quick rain shelter, clothesline to dry some soaked layers, or a strategic access point to hang some overhead light. Pro-Tip: learn a few basic rope knots and your rope potential will soar.
Packability: Tie a rope to the outside of your pack so you aren’t using up precious inside space. And if you plan to cut your rope, make sure you have a blade that can do the job.
Where to buy: Your favorite camping store, hardware store, or Amazon
Use up high or on the ground for quick, effective protection from the elements.
Uses: First off, we recommend getting a tarp with some grommets (or install the grommets yourself). From there you can attach some rope (hello, fellow Garage Gear) and hoist it into the sky as shelter from oncoming rain or a blazing sun. Maybe you forgot a tent footprint? A folded tarp can serve as proxy. Coming back from a muddy trek? Fold your tarp into a smaller rectangle and use it outside the door of your tent to serve as ‘welcome mat’ to keep your wet/muddy stuff away from your sleeping zone.
Packability: Tarps are super car-friendly since they actually protect your trunk just by being there: fold to roughly the size of your trunk and make it the base layer you pack everything else on top of. Once out of the car, you can roll it up and tie to the outside of your pack if you’re hiking in.
This is just a few of the hundreds of items hanging around the house ready for some adventure – we asked the BioLite community for their own favorite multi-purpose items, and here’s a few of our favorites:
BONUS ROUND: Community Submissions
Shout out to Eleanor for sharing this one with us (and yes, we’re all practicing the pre-climb hand stretches now):
Uses: This simple piece of elastic is incredibly versatile. Need to stretch your fingers before a climb? Use this as a support. Tent rods need some help staying together? Wrap this around them. Cut your finger on the trail? A hair tie can sub in as a tourniquet. Pant legs won’t stay up during a river crossing? Hair tie. Don’t want to bring your whole wallet out with you? Take out your most important items and use a hair tie to secure them.
Packability: Slip it on your wrist or attach it to a zipper on your pack (doubles as a zipper pull).
Where to buy: Grocery store, CVS, etc.
And a few quick-hit honorable mentions:
- Pringles Can: make it a utensil holder for your camp kitchen
- Toilet Paper Tube + Laundry Lint: Homemade firestarter
- Laundry Basket: Sturdy makeshift playpen for babies on a day hike to a destination
Got any garage gear tips to share with the community? Share them with us here – we’ll be featuring new additions across Facebook and Instagram all week.