Introduction: Ziplock Toilet Paper Dispenser - Camping and Canoeing

I recently came across this old photo which reminded me of a week long canoe trip down the Yellowknife River back in 1995 and inspired me to share this simple awesome! method of keeping toilet paper accessible and dry on camping and canoe trips. This is my go to, every time method for packing toilet paper on camping and/or canoe/kayak trips. If you don't already know about this trick, I guarantee that you will be converted!

Feel free to skip the intro story and move right on to the next step if you have suffered the disappointment of discovering a soggy mass of toilet paper weighing about 10 pounds in the bottom of your pack half way through a camping trip, need no further convincing and are just eager to get down to brass tacks.

Back to the photo: Canoe tripping on the Yellowknife River, Yukon Territory - Summer 1995.

A party of five and our dog Zane. We were lining our fully loaded canoes through a rugged section of fast moving water when back behind me, unbeknownst to me at the time, my partner had cut the stern guy rope from our canoe when it became snagged on the rocks in a tight corner of the river. Leading the way ahead at the bow of our canoe, intent on keeping my footing while scrambling along the rocky shore, something vaguely caught my attention and I glanced back behind me to see the frantic faces of my party, hands wildly gesturing, and through the roaring of the water I could faintly make out what sounded like: "let go! let go!". At the same time, I took in the surreal image of the back end of the canoe swinging out into the fast water, pivoting in slow motion out around and past me, broadside to the current and then quickly beginning to over take the bow.

Taking this all in, in just a split second, not entirely understanding the situation, I hesitated briefly, but was quickly convinced to act. I tossed the bow rope towards the canoe into the river and watched helplessly as the canoe continued downstream around the corner and out of sight with our food, shelter and dry belongings... we were still at least a few days paddle from Yellowknife.

Apparently, between the force of the river and the weight of the loaded canoe, there would have been no way for one person to hold on to the canoe, and there was a real concern that I would try to hang on (as was my instinct!) and then be pulled into the river and/or tangled in the ropes...

Later, around a few bends in the river, we came across the bright red canoe where it sat lodged upside down, partially submerged and trapped on a section of rocks right in the middle of the river. A strong current of water held it securely in place, severely disfiguring the canoe.

The story ends well. After a few hours of unconventional use of life jackets, dead trees, ropes and a fair bit of ingenuity, my partner made his way out to the canoe, retrieved backpacks and other gear still attached to the canoe and we were able to dislodge and retrieve the misshapen canoe itself. Being made of ABS? we were also able to reshape our Old Town - Discovery canoe (somewhat) to make it travel worthy and we then sat back to survey the loss and damage. As it turned out, we were in really good shape! and, as the above photo reflects, I for one at least, was super happy to discover that the ziplock bag toilet paper dispenser, had come through perfectly dry.

As for the rest of our trip, we continued on down the river keeping an eye out for and retrieving the few remaining pieces of lost gear along the way. We found everything except sadly an old but cherished metal reflector oven that had been lent to us, that likely still rests somewhere on the bottom of the river.

This trip was hardly the first time I used this toilet paper storage method, but one of the more memorable times and for sure the one I consciously remember appreciating it the most.

Step 1: Materials and Tools:

Pretty simple! You just need a roll of toilet paper (with a reasonable amount of paper on it considering the length of the trip and the number of people on the outing) and a ziplock bag in excellent condition.

  • Roll of toilet paper
  • Ziploc bag medium size heavy duty freezer style (or other brand)

Step 2: Put the Roll in the Bag

Open up the ziploc bag and put the roll of toilet paper into the bag so that you are looking down into the middle of the roll.

Note: You don't need to use a full roll, if you are just going on an over night or a day trip - just keep an eye on the roll in the bathroom until its about the size you think you'll need.

Step 3: Removing the Tube

Flatten the roll of toilet paper inside the zip lock bag (photo 1)

Stick your fingers in between the cardboard tube and the paper on the inside edge of the roll and press your fingers against the tube, folding the edges towards each other (photo 3).

Twist and pull the cardboard tube out of the middle of the roll (photo 4) while trying to separate the cardboard tube from the paper. Sometimes it comes out very cleanly, and other times you end up pulling a few wraps of paper out with the tube as I did (photo 4).

Separate the cardboard tube completely from the paper and leave a small tuft of paper sticking up out of the middle of the roll - this is what you will use to dispense the paper from the inside of the roll (photo 5).

Step 4: Seal It Up and Throw It in Your Backpack

Lay the tuft of paper down across the top of the roll inside the bag for ready access (photos 1-2).

Flatten the roll a bit and squeeze the ziplock shut, making sure the dispensing tuft of toilet paper is completely inside the bag so that it cannot act like a wick for water (photos 3-4).

By barely opening the seal of the bag and pulling on the tuft of paper, you can dispense a bit of toilet paper from the middle of the roll without needing to take it out of the bag!!

This will ensure access to a supply of (clean) and dry toilet paper, even when its pouring rain!

I'm sure, like me, that you will find this to be a welcome luxury on a canoe trip (or any camping trip for that matter)!!

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