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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

A homemade kit sewn from old boat canvas keeps simple tools for boat and motor repair together and at hand. © Thomas J. Senatori
A homemade kit sewn from old boat canvas keeps simple tools for boat and motor repair together and at hand.

© Thomas J. Senatori

August 2008

What do you pack in for the outdoors?

Share your stories of homemade kits and customized gear that help you explore the outdoors more safely and confidently.

David L. Sperling


Suggestions for crafting your tale
A second story idea

These days, our outdoor adventures more often end up in a cabin than a tent, and we do more weekend trips than week-long camping. Still, I like to be prepared to be self-reliant. That means we plan our trips, make lists of what we need to pack and follow our plan.

The planning process has many benefits. First, it stretches out the experience and gives more time to think and talk about our vacations. Second, planning provides an excuse to socialize with friends at a pre-trip session. Third, talking through the trip ensures that we will have the gear we need so we don't arrive for shore lunch with duplicate camp stoves and no fry pans. Fourth, for me, part of the joy in getting outdoors is getting away from a lot of "stuff." I prefer when we pack light, like we did in the days when everything we needed had to be lightweight and fit into a backpack. I still find light packing to be liberating when I travel.

I think that explains why I am so drawn to the "little packets" that often play a role in outdoor survival stories: people who made it through harrowing circumstances because they did little things to be prepared. They kept their cool and their advanced "what if" planning provided a mixture of survival gear, skills and confidence. These are the people who pack a first aid survival kit in a Band-Aid tin or keep a boat repair kit in an empty plastic peanut butter jar. These are the trip leaders who always have a compass, fire starting stuff, knife and emergency rations in their hiking vest. They are the people who keep a winter survival kit packed into a small coffee can in their car. These may even be the parents who keep a special fun pack in a Ziploc in the camping gear just so their tent-bound youngsters won't be bored to tears on a rainy day. And these are the folks whose campsite cooking gear includes packets of breading and spice mixes just in case the bluegills are biting when the freeze-dried soups are starting to look old.

If you are one of those folks or if you pack a special little bundle that makes your stay in a tree stand, hunting blind, kayak or campsite better, we want to hear about what you pack and how it helped you. If your foot care bundle of moleskin, bandages and nail clippers means you can cut your pain and finish a hike where you'd otherwise hobble, tell us about it. If you pack a little something that makes your camping trips that much more comfortable, share your tips. If your safety kit provided a safety net on an adventure, tell us your tale and fess up about what you carry.

If you can take a picture of your kit both taken apart and bundled up, show it to us in your hands or place it on a white background in good light and share that photo as well so we can see the items you are describing. We are more interested in seeing your customized, homemade kits rather than a commercial kit you might carry. We want to give other readers ideas they can adapt for their own needs.

We'll print as many of your responses as we can in our February 2009 issue so your fellow readers can spend a little of their indoor time getting ready for the outdoor season to come.

David L. Sperling edits Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.

Suggestions for crafting your tale
Send a description of your kit, can or bundle in up to 200 words. Tell us what's in the kit and why. If possible, please include clear photos, slides or digital images in good focus by September 30, 2008. We'll print as many of your entries as we can.

  1. Keep it entertaining and tell us why you made space in such a limited kit for each item. Please mention generic names of products rather than brand names, if possible. If you believe a particular brand name was crucial, tell us why, but no product endorsements.
  2. If you had to use your kit, tell us the story of how it proved to be handy. Keep it short.
  3. Show us the kit. Please share a photo of the kit and components so readers can see most of the pieces and will better understand what you are describing.
  4. Sign on the dotted line. Please print your name and tell us from which community you are writing. We want to make sure we spell names correctly for those stories that are published. By the way, we'll publish as many usable entries as we can. Also include a phone number or e-mail address. We won't print the number or e-mail, but if we have a question about your submission, we'd like to have a way to reach you.
  5. Take several images as digitals, slides or prints. We prefer slides, but quality digitals taken at at least 300 dpi will work, too. If your digital camera is at least 6-8 megapixels, we should have enough resolution. Please include a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you would like your images returned. Send digitals on CD, if possible, or send via e-mail attachment to David Sperling
  6. Send submissions by September 30, 2008 to: Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707 ATTN: My Kit
A second story idea: Homemade gear that works for me
Another area that just fascinates me is the ingenuity folks have in designing little gizmos, innovations and adjustments that make their outdoor equipment that much more functional. These are the little "Why didn't I think of that?" moments. I'm talking about the people who figured out how to duct tape a little LED flashlight to the brim of their cap years before such clip-on lights were available. Or a friend of mine who put a dab of fluorescent paint on his fishing rod exactly 15 inches up from the end of the cork handle so he'd have a handy way to measure a legal fish day or night. Another carries a small inflatable gun rest to his hunting blind that keeps his aim steady and comfortable.

Maybe you are one of those who can turn a milk jug into a boat bailer or marker buoy. Or you figured out a way to turn Velcro strips into rod holders that keep your poles on board a bouncing boat or well protected in your pickup. If your homemade hunting gear, fishing tackle, hiking helpers and camping aids make your outings that much more enjoyable, describe it for us, draw it, and send us a picture of your gear in use.

Maybe your special gear helps you spool up a line without a partner, keeps your hunting dog happy, patches up a damaged tent, stops leaks, protects your hunting firearms, helps you launch a boat, keeps your trailer wires dry and working (Boy, would I like that invention!), organizes your gear for quick use or is just darn handy at a campsite. We're happy to share those tips with your fellow readers, and you just might get your picture in the magazine. That story will run in our October 2009 issue. Here are the steps we'd like you to follow:

  1. Describe your homemade device, improvement or innovation and send us a drawing and photo if possible. Keep the description to a few sentences, and we will write it into a caption to run with a photo that you provide.
  2. Take close-up photos so we can really see what you are describing. Again, we can use digitals, slides or photos. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope if you want your entry returned after publication.
  3. Send submissions by April 30, 2009 to: Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707. ATTN: Homemade Gear