Other than the obvious things, such as heating and air conditioning, one of the biggest differences between living indoors and living outdoors is that products designed for the indoors tend to be made better than outdoor products at that same price point. High-quality outdoor gear is expensive, and if you don’t spend a lot of time outdoors, you probably don’t want to invest a whole lot of money into camping and survival gear. Or, if you do spend a large amount of time outdoors, maybe you don’t have the desire or disposable income to purchase top-of-the-line equipment.
In any case, for a more reasonable cost, you can easily take midlevel gear you already own or plan to purchase and modify it to make it better.
When modifying gear, I try to reinforce the durability of equipment and increase the gear’s overall functionality. To increase functionality, I like to follow the Dave Canterbury “Rule of Threes”—this simply means that every piece of gear should have at least three separate functions or it’s not worth carrying.
Anyone who spends time in the outdoors should carry a survival kit as part of their EDC.
How To Make A Good Tent Great
The tent I decided to modify was my six-person, four-season Wnnideo pop-up tent. I chose this tent because it is a very wellmade tent that has a surprisingly low cost of under $80.
One of the best things about this tent is its ease of setup via permanently integrated poles and a locking hub so you are not inserting poles every time you set up the tent. I also like the fact that it has four screened windows and two zippered doors. While this tent is a bit heavy at slightly more than 9 pounds, I don’t mind the added weight in exchange for a shelter that sets up completely in fewer than three minutes.
In order to increase the life span and performance of this tent, for an additional cost of under $40, I simply used two spray cans of rubber sealant applied to the seams and two spray cans of silicone protectant/waterproofing applied over the entire tent. This process reinforces the seams so they won’t tear or leak, and it provides a second layer of protection from the elements to the entire outer surface of the tent.
A good tent can protect you from precipitation, provide shade from harmful UV rays and heat, provide warmth in the cold, and it will provide protection from disease-carrying insects such as mosquitos and flies.
Turn Your Lighter Into A Mini Repair Kit
Only a fool would venture off into the wilderness without a combustion device. The ability to make fire is one of the single most important things a person can possess in the wilderness. Fire can keep you warm in the bitter cold, it can purify your water and cook your food, and it can be used to signal your rescue. Plus—and this shouldn’t be understated—psychologically, it can boost morale and make you feel safe.
There are many lighters to choose from at varying price points, but I prefer to use a simple and low-cost BIC lighter. For that rule of threes, I like to secure a 3-foot lanyard made of 550 paracord to each of my lighters, along with a quick-release snap link to attach to each of my field top garments or jackets (depending on the time of year). Then, I wrap 2 feet of Gorilla Tape and 2 feet of electrical tape around the lighter, one on top of the other. The result? I now have a lighter to make fire, 3 feet of 550 cord from my lanyard, and 2 feet each of Gorilla and electrical tape to conquer just about any situation that can arise in the field.
To increase functionality, I like to follow the dave canterbury “rule of threes”—this simply means that every piece of gear should have at least three separate functions or it’s not worth carrying.
A Good Survival Kit Is A Must-Have
Anyone who spends time in the outdoors should carry a survival kit as part of their EDC. However, full kits are expensive. It’s more cost effective to start with a basic kit and expand—or build one from scratch.
I start with the SOL Origin Survival Kit because of its low price point of under $40, as well as its many built-in functions. Plus, it comes in a water-resistant case.
A few important items to consider adding to your survival kit include—
- assorted fish hooks
- dental floss
- strong needle for gear repair
- magnifying glass for fire-building
- magnesium shavings
- iodine tablets
- razor blade
- chewing gum
- antibacterial ointment
- iodine and alcohol wipes
- glue stick
- condom for water storage (warning: If you plan to use a condom to keep in your survival kit as an emergency water container, only use a nonlubricated condom. Thoroughly clean the condom prior to use. Also, be aware of latex allergy precautions.)
Plus, I replace the existing lanyard with my own, constructed of 4 feet of Titan 4-in-1 Survival Cord (developed by Titan Survival in collaboration with the U.S. Army Green Berets). It has a unique design that combines Military 550 paracord with 25-pound fishing line, waxed jute, waterproof tinder and conductive copper wire. It has hundreds of application options beyond the original nylon string lanyard.
I then use Gorilla glue to secure a BIC lighter, Live Fire ferrocerium rod with striker, Live Fire emergency fire starter tin and a magnesium striker to the kit.
These are just a few ideas for making good outdoor gear great—without breaking the bank.
Shelter, fire and emergency survival are three very important items in your kit, so it’s best to start here before moving on to other items. The important thing to remember is that you can make improvements to any of your gear, and you don’t have to go broke doing it.
All it takes is a little bit of imagination and ingenuity.
Brian Morris is a retired Army Special Forces master sergeant with more than 25 years of active-duty experience. He is a former Special Forces weapons sergeant with multiple combat tours in the global war on terrorism. Morris is also an avid hunter, fisherman, outdoor enthusiast and self-proclaimed “prepper.” He is the author of two books: The Green Beret Pocket Guide and his newly published book, Spec Ops Shooting.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2018 print issue of Gun World Magazine.