From car camping to backpacking to serious survival prep, there's one rule that always holds true: space is limited. Even if you have a car or truck to haul your gear around, there's only so much that can fit, and when you're on foot the amount you can comfortably carry while still covering ground is cut down dramatically.
Anything taking up room in your pack needs to be as useful as possible, and that often means having a range of applications. Swiss Army knives, Leatherman multi-tools, and other 20-devices-in-one-1 combinations are all great—I don't leave home without one—but there's plenty of other gear in your pack that can be used for multi-tasking.
Here are three things I almost always have on hand when I'm off in the great outdoors, and that are well worth a bit of precious room in my pack.
Tarred Twine/Bank Line
Tying down duck decoys, attaching a knife to a stick for an impromptu spear, suspending caught fish and other food at a bear-proof height, securing a tent—there are a thousand in one (or more) uses for any high-strength, waterproof, and lightweight piece of twine, and tarred twine/bank line is my favorite for a number of reasons. It's slightly tacky surface gives it a better grip than straight jute, it's comparable in strength to 550 paracord, and it's about as compact as it gets. Inch for inch, this twine is typically at the top of my multi-use gear list.
For a chopping tool/hammer/shovel/defensive weapon/stake sharpener/projectile, there's no better all-in-one than a good old (or new) sturdy hatchet. No other tool compares when it comes to collecting and chopping firewood or building a shelter—these uses alone make a hatchet invaluable. Add in everything else it can do and take notice of a hatchet's extreme portability, and it should make perfect sense why a hatchet is part of my go to gear list for any excursion
Paracord and tarred twine/bank line are close rivals in the contest for most useful rope-like tool, though each has applications that they're best suited to. Add a twist of naturally-flammable jute to the inner strands of your standard 550 paracord, though, and you might just have one of the most useful pieces of gear ever to find its way into your pack. Unlike other multi-purpose fire starting cords, paracord embedded with a natural jute fiber contains no smelly oils or volatile compounds that can weaken the cord itself, and the flammability can't be washed away by water or diminished over time, either.
It's cord when you want it to be cord, and kindling as soon as the need arises—wherever and whenever that may be. Keep a spool of this in your pack at all times, and you'll be prepared for pretty much anything.