Make your own backpacking equipment for your next camping trip, using these helpful instructions.
Now — while
winter's upon us — is the time to plan for
the coming year's warm weather pleasures: camping, fishing,
backpacking, and the like. And whether you're a neophyte in
the wilds or a seasoned outdoorsman, cold weather musings
about such activities bring to mind at least SOME essential
camping gear that you don't have but wish you
Well, Russ Mohney — author of MAKE
IT AND TAKE IT, a new book on homemade equipment for camp
and trail — wants you to fill in those gaps
on your own . . . and his book contains simple, illustrated
instructions for putting together 40 different
rough-it-in-comfort devices. You need only take one look at
his text to see that the man makes a good case for some
fairly inspired self-sufficiency. (You name the camping
necessity, and Russ has a way for you to create it
Here, for starters, are five projects from the
book so you can make your own backpacking equipment. Why not try one or more, just for what Russ Mohney calls the "pure, unadulterated fun" of it? It's never too soon to start gearing up!
From Make it and Take It by Russ Mohney,
Copyright© 1977 by PacificSearch, Seattle Washington.
Reprinted by permission. Available in paperback ($4.95)
from any good bookstore or from MOTHER's Bookstore.
Homemade Backpack Oven
There are few outdoor arts that have progressed as rapidly
as the business of eating. In the past few decades, we've
gone from a bacon-and-beans fare cooked in a cast-iron
skillet to such delicacies as turkey tetrazzini fixed in
the backpacker's equivalent of a French oven. After a
rather short evolutionary period, we have been blessed with
every imaginable version of dehydrated, freeze-dried,
enriched, and vacuum-packed food. And most require nothing
more than a warm breeze to complete the cooking and serving
Although the outdoor gourmet's hardware has also improved,
mainly through the development of newer and lighter metals,
we are still accustomed to sadly dismissing such culinary
delights as fluffy cakes, cinnamon rolls, and the Yankee
pot roast as patently out of reach.
But these delectables — and an unending list
of others — are suddenly within the realm of
possibility! The device that will satisfy our innermost
mealtime lusts is the simple backpack oven. To add one to
your camping essentials, begin by dropping by the nearest
hardware store or thrift shop and securing a ten-inch angel
food cake tin and a lid that fits it. (Because of the
steep, tapered sides of the pan, you may be forced to adapt
a cover that ALMOST FITS.)
Once constructed and then placed over a little backpack
stove, this pan and lid will be transformed into an oven
capable of baking biscuits, roasts, or angel food cakes.
This oven adds an entirely new dimension to camp cookery,
and weighs just a tad compared to the benefit it provides.
Moreover, it can be assembled in short order for about
one-tenth the cost of a comparable commercial model.
A. Make the oven body out of a 10-inch angel food cake tin.
Using wire cutters, cut off about one inch from the top of
the inside center column.
B. Fit a 10-inch cookware lid to the oven body, being
careful not to wedge the lid in too tight. At about
two-inch intervals, cut a series of V notches. Tabs will be
formed at the same time.
C. Bend the tabs inward until the lid conforms to the
angled sides of the cake tin. The form-fitted cover should
D. When using your backpack stove, keep it on low heat,
allowing the dry heat to draft up the center column. This
also helps to keep the bottom of the pan from burning.
Homemade Fillet Board
When I first started filleting fish, I found that the
simple procedure shown in the handbooks was anything but
simple. Instead of whisking away a couple of perfect
boneless fillets, I usually reduced the slippery little
creatures to a state variously described as shredded
asbestos, skinny scallops, or wet linen lace. If I did
manage to carve a reasonable little fillet, it was either
at the cost of around eighty percent of the original fish
or several injured fingers, depending on whether I
attempted frugality or safety.
One summer, in the midst of my frustration, I happened to
go fishing with an almost retired commercial fisherman
named Ed Brown. His mastery of filleting was exceeded only
by his colorful vocabulary and legendary prowess at sea. In
moments, Ed could transform a flopping, bucket-mouthed
lingcod into a pile of the most beautiful, pure white
fillets ever seen by man. The difference in his technique
and mine (quite beyond the obvious difference between
experience and novice enthusiasm) seemed to be only the
board that firmly held his fish during the operation. In
short order, I learned that a good filleting board was
infinitely superior to holding the wriggling fish between
The fillet board consists of only a board and a clamp. The
board serves as a platform that keeps the clamp
— and subsequently the fish — in a stable position for dressing.
Since most of us are going to be filleting the occasional
bass and rockfish that we land, the board need not be a
large one. Most of us can get by nicely with about an
inch-thick, 24-inch-long fillet board. (The added weight of
a fairly thick board helps keep your slippery quarry in the
same county as you during the filleting operation.) DO NOT
PAINT OR VARNISH THE BOARD. It is better to occasionally
replace the wooden part of your device than risk
potentially dangerous paint chips in your dinner!
The clamp is a spring set of laws that holds the beast in
place while the dark deed is done. The standard office
clipboard (with a good, strong spring) is ideal for
fashioning into a nifty clamp.
This is another of those really simple devices that makes
the whole outdoor business a lot more fun.
A. Remove the clip from a standard office supply clipboard.
B. With a hacksaw, remove the wide wings on either side.
C. Then saw notches into the face of the clip to create
three or four teeth.
D. Bend the teeth into a slight downward curve in order to
better secure the fish on the finishing board.
E. Mount the newly formed clamp onto a solid board about 12
by 24 inches.
F. To use, just clip the fish onto the board, and use BOTH
hands to cut away the boneless fillets!
Homemade Fanny Pack
The more genteel among us will undoubtedly refer to this
simple little day pack as a belt pack, but this is the same
gang that refers to underwear as "unmentionables"! As I do
not belong to that group, it will be called here, as it
ought to be, "the fanny pack".
The design of this particular fanny pack is about as
straightforward and logical as it can be. Although there
are many exotic designs on the market, a box belt pack is
the easiest to make and the most efficient for day hiking.
The pack body consists of a nylon box that is large enough
to carry a lunch, camera, first-aid kit, or any of the
other paraphernalia you ordinarily take on a short hike
from a base camp. Because the fanny pack is not expected to
carry a particularly heavy load, a light nylon web is
strong enough to be used for the belt (an adjustable buckle
is attached to it). Just below the top cover, the pack
closes with a nylon zipper, which will not corrode.
This pack is my favorite way of carrying gear on the short
day hike. It is less tiring than even a small backpack, is
easier to get things out of, and is out of the way during a
A. Make the entire body of the pack from one-half yard of
coated, waterproof nylon.
B. Before sewing anything, cut the inch zipper hole by
merely slitting the material two inches below the edge of
the top cover and cutting two one-inch T's on each end.
Fold the flaps under in order to install the zipper, as
shown. Make sure the zipper is installed so the seams and
edging will end up inside the finished bag.
C. Fold the material to form the box shape. (For
simplicity, this illustration shows the box right side
D. Now sew the basic box in the following order. Use plain
seams on all edges.
1. Sew the bottom edges to the short side edges (a).
2. Sew the front edges to the long side edges (b).
3. Sew the top edges to the short side edges (c).
4. OPEN THE ZIPPER.
5. Sew the top edge to the front edge (d).
6. Push the complete bag through the open zipper. Be persis
tent until you have the bag right side out and the zipper
E. Sew the pack to a lightweight nylon web belt (its length
is determined by your circumference) that has an adjustable
buckle. Spread the zipper as wide as possible and sew the
back of the bag to the belt.
Homemade Boot Hanger
This is one of those simple little devices that really does
a good job, takes only a dime's worth of wire, and can be
made in a matter of minutes.
The hanger is bent from wire in such a manner that it
adapts to almost any boot and also folds flat for carrying.
The boots hang sale upward, allowing the moisture inside to
evaporate quickly and naturally. When drying hiking boots
this way, be sure to keep them away from direct heat, even
that of the campfire. Nothing will age or damage the
material faster than overdrying after a thorough soaking,
so use a little patience when drying your shoes and boots.
They'll last a lot longer and serve you better while
A. Make the hanger by bending three feet of wire. Be sure
that dimension X on each side is narrow enough to grip each
boot firmly, and that dimension Y is equal on each side for
B. For a hanger, fashion a wire hook out of a short piece
C. Make the clamping loops of the hanger narrow enough to
fit below the heal reinforcements of your boots so that the
soles are held upright.
Homemade Crawfish Trap
The best crawdaddy bait is NOT — contrary to
popular misconceptions — a chunk of
well-seasoned fish. I have found crawfish to be pretty
fussy eaters, and they greatly prefer a fresh fish to
almost anything else. In an effort to be consistent and
characteristically cheap, I usually bait my traps with a
small tin of fish-flavored cat food. I punch a few holes in
either and to lot the wildly appealing odor (to a crawfish,
at least) wash into the water to attract my quarry.
Once you're ready to fish, weight the trap down with a
couple of hefty rocks or anything else that will make it
sink. It's imperative, of course, that you tie a rope to
the whole affair before you toss it overboard, unless you
cherish the thought of swimming after it!
The weighted, baited trap can then be tossed into water
practically anywhere, just as long as the water is
relatively pollution-free. Crewfish live in almost every
body of fresh or brackish water in North America, so keep
looking until you find a hot spot. The trap is usually left
overnight in order to catch the bigger crawfish, which are
mainly nocturnal feeders.
When you bring in your catch, thoroughly rinse them, and
then pop them into salted, boiling water for about five to
seven minutes, after which they will be bright red and
quite dead. Break off the tells, and peel and devein them.
Eat the 'dads as is or add them to almost any kind of
seafood dish you like. Many people also eat the
comparatively small but delicious bits of meat in the
claws, a morsel that is usually referred to as "nectar" by
crawfish devotees. It is a rare and delicate feast. When
this trap is so easy to build and use, it's incredible that
the rewards from using it can include some of the finest
eating to be found anywhere.
This cylindrical trap is constructed of hardware cloth, a
rather folksy name for one-half-inch mash galvanized wire.
The hardware cloth can be purchased at almost any store
bearing the same name and is relatively inexpensive. It's
different from most other wires because —
when you cut a piece of it with tin snips —
little pieces of stiff wire protrude every half-inch along
the fresh cut. These little wires are the means by which
two pieces of hardware cloth are joined. Push the little
wires through the solid wire on the edge of the other chunk
of cloth (see illustration) and then bend them around the
uncut wire like hinges.
A. To make the body of the trap, take a 20 by 24-inch piece
of hardware cloth and roll it into a cylinder. The diameter
of the cylinder is eight inches.
B. Connect the ends of the hardware cloth where they meet
on the cylinder by pushing the cut wires of one end through
a complete course of wire squares on the other and. Fold
the cut wires back onto the first end.
C. To make the tunnels, cut the cloth into a large circle
(at least 12 inches in diameter for an eight-inch
cylinder). Next cut a smaller inner circle about four
inches in diameter.
D. Join the two sides of the tapered cut and you have a
tunnel. Overlap the two edges to adjust for the proper
size. Wire the tunnel closed and trim off all protruding
wires. Wire the tunnel to the cylinder.
E. Cut a six-inch-square access door along the side of the
tunnel. Connect the upper edge of the door to form a hinge
using the same method as described in instruction B. You
can fasten it with any wire hook or rubber arrangement.