One Overlooked Material with Numerous Backcountry Uses
Outdoor retailers are overflowing with gear designed to do two things: perform a solitary function, and sell. In some cases, this is inevitable. A tent can’t cook a meal for you, and a stove can’t put a roof over your head. The accessories that surround camping and backpacking gear however can nickle and dime you to the poor house.
There is one material though that can replace a ton of different “specialty” items, and the best news is that it’s cheap, light, packable, durable, and readily available! In the gear world, that’s an enigma. Those into the ultralight backpacking discipline may be familiar with it, but for most people venturing out into the woods for the first time, it is all too simple to go to REI, purchase the “essentials”, and then stand in wonderment at all of the extra “comfort” accessories designed to make your life easier and your wallet lighter. They can walk out of the store with a $200 tent, and $300 worth of items that get used for one single thing.
So what is this wonder material I’m talking about?
At it’s simplest, Reflectix is bubble wrap, laminated with a layer of aluminum foil on each side. You can purchase a 25 foot by 24 inch roll of it for less than $20 at any home improvement store, found in the home insulation department. That entire roll weighs less than two pounds. When you have it, you’ll immediately begin finding uses for it, and even after making a few items, you’ll still have plenty to spare! I’ve found that there is no need for the foil tape they usually sell right beside it, as duct tape is more durable and much better priced, plus it comes in more colors for those of you that like to “jazz it up”.
I’m sure there are a ton of more uses for this stuff, but here are some of the things I’ve used Reflectix to replace:
- Sit pad – Why spend $30 on a self-inflating pad that may spring leaks and doesn’t have the best insulation? Fold a piece of Reflctix in half, and you’ve got a lightweight, padded butt, with insulation designed to insulate!
- Pot/ Meal cozy – In the colder months especially, it helps to keep your freeze dried meals hot by insulating the bags they cook in. Don’t buy a $10 pouch….make a small one with Reflectix and duct tape, and it will work better than any store bought item! Cut and shape one (you can use any scissors to cut it) to fit your cook pot, and you can keep water at near boiling temperatures for quite a long time! (Note: don’t attempt to heat your water up with the pot cozy attached, silly)
- Windscreen – with a few sticks, you can prop a piece of Reflectix on it’s side for use as a windscreen for your stove. As a bonus, it will also reflect heat back towards the pot! Alternativley, install a few duct tape loops on your sit pad, for a piece of gear that serves two purposes! (Unless you like to sit while your water heats up.)
- Sleeping Pad – Similar to the sit pad, you can create a slim, lightweight sleeping mat that will insulate you just as well as any store-bought pad for one tenth of the cost. Not padded enough for you? Add a closed cell foam pad underneath, and you will stay even warmer and more comfortable!
- Cooler/ Water bottle holster – What if you want to take a few perishables fresh (or padded) in your pack for a day of hiking? Make a small pouch out of Reflectix, and if you’ve frozen an item beforehand, you can hike all day, and your item will be perfectly defrosted at dinner time! Cut one to fit your water bottle, and you can hang it from a loop on your pack…giving you easy access and keeping your fresh creek water cold!
- Pack Liner – Unfurl a roll inside your pack, perhaps cut a piece to fit the bottom, and all of your gear will stay dry in a downpour! As a bonus, it makes it much easier to see items inside the pack, as it reflects light!
- Stuff Sacks – Yes, it will be bulkier and heavier than a standard nylon stuff sack, but it will also be cheaper, more durable, and easier to see in the middle of the night!
Every item I listed above could be made with one $20 roll of Reflectix and a $3 roll of duct tape. To purchase these items, even with conservative pricing, would cost at least $150! Because you can use tape to repair and attach it, you don’t even need any special skills, and it’s cost lends itself well to experimenting!
As it is flame resistant (not flame proof!), flexible, lightweight, warm, waterproof, and durable, Reflectix makes an outstanding outdoor material. What other uses have you found for it? Leave a comment!