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How to Assemble A Survival Backpack Out of Items in Your Home

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Native Americans and other early explorers didn't have the luxuries of expensive modern day backpacks that enable today's hikers and mountaineers to embark on treks taking a week or longer.
Often the "backpacks" of native peoples were assembled out of items from their local environment. What can we learn from them about these "backpacks"? Quite a bit, I believe.

But before we talk about backpacks, let's talk about this... There's a good chance you're on this website casually reading, starting to seriously consider the idea of worldwide disasters taking place that perhaps are from the pages of Revelation (the last chapter in the Bible).

A large number of Christians believe these events will occur, and that the signs of these events are happening in the world today. Many -- including myself -- hope to escape the "wrath of God" when His "righteous" judgments against the wickedness of mankind begin taking place here on earth. Please see: The Rapture

But though we wait with hope to "escape all these things that will come to pass" (Luke 21:36), the reality is some areas of the world are likely to experience the "birth pains" that Christ warned would occur in Matthew 24, prior to the truly destructive events described in much of Revelation.

For example, we see that in Japan right now (March 2011) and we also saw that in Queensland, Australia (Jan. 2011), and Haiti (Jan. 2010). The disasters that have taken place in these countries have effected hundreds of thousands of people (millions of people, if you total the number). Many were made homeless instantly when homes and neighborhood and entire cities were destroyed.

So, we in America, a nation with the highest number of people who identify themselves with the Christian faith, have to ask ourselves whether or not we are going to have to suffer through "birth pains", or if in fact we will be taken out of here ("raptured") before hand?

No one knows God's time-line, or his unfolding plan of end times events, so we can only wonder and pray for the Lord to guide us individually in our own lives. Though I publish this site on survival, and warn people about the end times, I don't feel lead to stockpile food, or supplies, nor do I have the financial means. What means I do have has been given back to the Lord, through giving to the needy people he has brought into my life and I'm sure will continue to bring into my life.

When I share things like this I'm not looking for a pat on the back, but just to include among these articles a reminder that we are called to live by faith, knowing that God will provide for all our needs, even as we give away the last of our funds on a repeated basis -- giving even when it hurts.

That doesn't mean that you as an individual shouldn't purchase survival supplies, or outfit your car and home with items useful for an emergency (I keep a few items on hand in my car, for example, and a few items in my home). I encourage readers to pray and seek the Lord, as his plan for some may be different than his plan for others.

Should you move to the country and build a garden? Seek the Lord in prayer on that. Should you stockpile food and emergency supplies? Seek the Lord on that also.

Should you ignore the poor the Lord has brought into your life, just because you'd rather spend your money on stockpiling food, rather than giving? That's a foolish, selfish step to take, in my opinion. We are called to live by faith, and not let our fears drive us to ignore the poor among us.

Transforming Backpack

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With this said, I'd like to discuss today how a backpack can be assembled in just minutes out of items found in your home. As stated at the beginning of this article, our model for this idea comes from the packs assembled by native people in different parts of the world. They build their packs out of items from their environment, and so will we. Only we have a lot more items to choose from, and many times these items can double for other uses effectively making this a "transforming backpack".

Parts We Need for the Backpack

The frame of the backpack is going to be nothing more than a metal rack from your oven, that you would typically set pans on to bake food.

Then we are going to use two bed sheets, each one wound up, and then "woven" through two sides (the long sides) of the metal grill. These are going to tie together at the ends, effectively creating a "loop" that will fit over both arms just like the shoulder / arm straps on a store-bought backpack.

If you have outdoor supplies on hand, plenty of rope is helpful for survival situations. You can take one really long rope (for example, 100 feet) or two shorter ropes (both 50 feet) and then tightly coil them around the oven grill. Coil the two sections of rope 12 inches apart, and on the grill where each of the sheets weaves through.

After this step is completed you will have arm / shoulder straps, as well as padding that will cushion your back from the oven grill, where gear is going to be strapped on to next.


Tarp is an excellent item to have, as you can use it for both a shelter and a "rain catch" for collecting fresh water. An abundance of tarp also means you can have a fully enclosed shelter, complete with waterproof floor.

Somewhere in your survival supplies have a smaller section of tarp ('12 x 12' for example) and a larger section ('18 x 18'). Roll the larger section up, and include a number of supplies (such as food, fire-starter, and clothing) in the roll. Make sure that the weight is balanced, knowing that you are going to need balanced weight for the pack to be semi-comfortable over long distances.

Once a few supplies are rolled up in the large section of tarp, tie it (or use a bungee chord) securely to the lower section of the homemade pack. Next, take the second section of tarp and roll more gear into it (for example, clothing and a couple tools such as a machete and light-weight axe) and strap it to the pack. If you have a third section of tarp, you should have room for one more to be rolled up (with food or gear) and tied to the top of the pack.

At this point that means three rolled up tarps, stacked one on top of the other, and tied / strapped securely to the oven grill.

You still have room for a sleeping bag, wool blanket, etc to be rolled up and tied to the outside of the pack. You can also get creative with the tarp sections, and roll a sleeping bag up with a section of tarp if you choose to, protecting your sleeping bag / wool blankets from getting wet, if it happens to be raining.

Note: The better you get at compressing supplies and balancing your pack, and the better you get at taking only essentials, your goal is a sturdy, durable pack that is not too-heavy, and that can be worn for a few miles at a time. It might not be as comfortable as something from a sporting goods store, but in a survival situation comfort shouldn't be high on your list of priorities.

A Campsite on Your Back

What if you could carry enough gear that you had an entire campsite on your back? What if every item that was used to construct the pack had multiple uses?

With the pack we've assembled above, when deconstructed let's look at how some of the items could be used.

The oven grill (used as the frame) can be used to cook on, as well as smoke meat on, after you've made camp and taken the backpack apart. The grill could also be used as an "elevator" platform, with two ropes used in such a way that it could have items stacked on top of it, which could then be hoisted up into a tree (should you be building a shelter in a tree high off the ground, for example).

In one episode of the show, Man vs. Wild (Discovery Channel), the host Bear Grylls demonstrates a technique used by native people to fish, that involves building a fire about a foot in height over the water (using a tripod assembly of long tree branches) to attract fish at night. He then goes after the fish with a spear. The oven grill could be used to hold the fire wood that is burned, without actually catching fire itself, enabling many weeks or months of spear-fishing. That's just one more use for this grill.

Rope: Now let's look at the rope that was wound around the grill as part of the backpack assembly. By itself this rope can be used to raise up tarp when creating shelter, and to also tie the tarp down to keep it from blowing wildly in any strong wind. 100 yard or larger sections of military spec paracord are both inexpensive and take up little space in your pack.

Security: Rope or paracord can also be used to create a "security perimeter" around your camp, where with enough length it could be strung out around the perimeter of the campsite, and then raised about two feet off the ground, and kept suspended by trees. Next, metal cans or plastic containers with a few rocks inside each one could be hung from the rope in different sections. Now, if any large animals (such as a bear) attempt to enter your camp, they would "bump" the rope, shake the cans, and alert you to the intrusion. Perhaps this would give you enough time to grab a nearby gun.

* Small bells are often worn by hikers while in grizzly bear country, to alert unsuspecting bears, giving the bears time to move away, rather than be suddenly spooked, potentially initiating an attack. Regarding our roped security perimeter, 3 - 4 small bear bells would work better than cans with rocks as an alert system.

Hunting: Small sections of the rope could be used in a variety of large snare traps, for animals like hogs and deer.

Bed sheets: The two bed sheets that were used for the arms could be filled with dry moss and wrapped up to become two pillows. If wet, the moss could be dried by a fire first, and then the "pillows" filled over a period of days, becoming larger as you added more moss. This dried moss could then be a source of daily fire starter, dried tinder always nearby when you need it. Another use for a bed sheet could be as a bag, that simply stores gear up off the ground and tied at the top, and hung from a tree.

Wool blankets: Considering that your excursion into the wilderness is likely to put you into harsh conditions at times, rather than use two bed sheets as arm straps what if you could use two wool blankets instead? Wool has long been used by explorers and people trekking into the outdoors because it can keep you warmer than many other materials and even in wet conditions. Wool is also very durable and longer lasting that other materials like cotton.

Wool of course is not going to thread through the grill or tie together very easily, if at all (it's thicker, denser material), but using two small sections of rope you could tie a section of rope to both ends of each wool blanket, and then tie each of these "arm straps" you've effectively created to the backpack. (When buying a wool blanket you want the "woven" kind. A few brands are cheaply made and are reported to fall apart after a few days use in wet conditions.)

Your arm straps (made of wound up wool blankets in this scenario) may now provide more stability for you than the two bed sheets, be more comfortable over longer distances with the weight of the pack, and also have more uses when you set up camp and break apart the pack. For example, wrapping your sleeping bag in a wool blanket would mean more warmth at night, while also helping protect your sleeping bag from any condensation.

Consider using thin rope / twine / even shoelaces to coil around each section of wool, to compress the wool blanket more into the shape you desire. Bungee chord can also work for this.

In fact having a number of bungee chords on hand can make assembling and dis-assembling the backpack a faster process.

Finally, study the assembly of large, store-bought backpacks. Notice the height of the arm straps, as well as the chest straps and waist straps (which fit like a belt, and clip together at your waist-line). Then figure out how to double up small sections of rope to create your own chest and waist straps, giving you a more secure fit and helping to stabilize the load on your back so it's better balanced.

Where the weather is concerned, consider a small number of industrial size heavy duty trash bags. Just one of these can be pulled over the top of the backpack during wet conditions or (if setting up camp in a storm) over your sleeping bag to help protect it from the weather.

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