Camping lovers around the world are addicted to the memorable experiences they get when they venture out. Of course, all camping needs the proper gear. Without the right equipment, your next camping trip could be uncomfortable.
What’s worse, forgetting certain gear can prove to be fatal. Outdoor stores carry everything you need, but that doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Sure you can spend a pretty penny on fancy new equipment, but don’t rule out how great DIY camping gear can be for your next trip.
The biggest problem with buying official gear for outdoor trips is that most of that fancy equipment will either get dirty or lost. That’s literally throwing money away. When you use life-saving hacks to outfit your camping trips however, you’re saving on money and equipment.
DIY camping gear is a great strategy for learning more survival skills and establishing your autonomy in the wild. Stop relying on store bought items to do all the work for you and start becoming a savvy, independent camper with your own amazing, homemade equipment.
Make your Own Restaurant in the Outdoors
Bring eggs that won’t break
If you want to eat eggs on your trip, but you don’t want to stress about handling them delicately, remember that eggs travel well in bottles. Before you leave, crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk them together, and funnel them into a plastic bottle. Now you know you have eggs ready to eat! Store the bottle in your cooler and you’re ready to make campfire omelets!
Turn an empty can into a stove
This small but mighty DIY cook set will provide you with everything you need for a stand-alone barbecue in the outdoors.
You will need the following materials:
- Thick work gloves
- A sharp cutting tool
- 1 large, empty can
- Aluminum foil
Here’s how to make it:
- Put on some thick construction gloves for safety.
- Place the can on a flat, stable surface with the open side up.
- Make several even and vertical cuts in the can. Start at the open top and cut down the side of the can. Stop cutting about 2 inches from the bottom. Continue until the entire can is cut evenly around the circumference.
- Carefully bend the strips backward until they are fanned out like a flower.
- Place 2-3 layers of aluminum foil and shape it like a bowl so it will rest in the open can strips.
- Place charcoal onto the fire to create a small barbecue pit, and light your fire. Place a portable griddle or cooktop over the coals so you have a cooking surface if you have one. If not, you can use sticks to hold the food over the charcoal fire.
Keep your food cold with drinking water
Stop lugging around those blue plastic ice packs. They melt quickly and then you’re stuck with heavy, liquid filled plastic pieces for the rest of the trip. Instead of ice packs, keep your coolers chilled with frozen water jugs. The jugs of water contain drinking water, so you can consume them once they melt. Now your food can stay cold and your group will never go thirsty. The best part is, you will be carrying much lighter equipment on the way home!
Make the Outdoors Homey with These Tricks
Give yourself the gift of air conditioning
Yes, it’s true. You can have air conditioning in your tent in hot weather.
All you need is the following:
- Ice (in blocks or cubes)
- 1 large plastic storage container with lid
- A battery or solar operated fan
- A knife or sharp cutting tool
- Duct tape
Here’s how to make it:
- Cut one hole in the lid of the container. This hole should be the exact size of the fan cage you are using.
- Cut a second hole at the top of one side of the container. This hole should be roughly 4 inches in diameter.
- Secure the fan to the container by taping the edges to the lid. Remember not to block the back of the fan with tape since this is where the fan gets its air to blow.
- Place ice in the container and close the lid. Turn the fan on and enjoy the cold air that comes out the hole in the side.
Create wonderful mood lighting with a solar light
Hardware stores carry tons of solar lights nowadays. The only problem is that all of them have stakes on the bottom, requiring that they be placed in a soft surface like dirt. Use these lights around your campsite for an environmentally friendly lighting source.
You can also use them on your tables to help you see while you eat dinner. To adapt the light for use on a hard surface, simply drill a hole in the bottom of a medium clay pot. The hole should be large enough to fit the light’s stake and will hold the light upright wherever you need it. When you’re done with dinner, take these lamps to your tent with you for a wonderful hang out retreat inside.
Build a hand washing station
Cooking while camping can get messy. We don’t realize how many times we rinse our hands in the sink until we don’t have one nearby. Make this hand washing station for your next camping trip and watch as everyone crowds around it due to its pure awesome convenience!
You can keep your hands clean, as well as your cookware, so they can be used again and again. You will need these materials:
- 1 large bucket (A plastic 5-gallon bucket is recommended)
- 1 large jug with a pour spout
- 1 plastic paper towel holder
- 1 pack of paper towels
- Bungee cords or duct tape
- Environmentally-friendly soap
Here’s how to make it:
- Fill the jug with water and place it on an even surface.
- Place the paper towel dispenser on top of the jug and use a fastener to secure the holder in place. Put the paper towels into the holder.
- Put the bucket underneath the waterspout so that it catches all of the water and keeps your campsite dry.
- Keep the soap nearby so everyone can easily reach it. Don’t forget to empty the wastewater bucket every once in a while.
Please use soap that will not harm the environment when you dump it out. It’s always best to empty the water in a bathroom if your campsite has one.
Stay warm with a handmade heater
It would be nice to have a safe and small heater inside your tent on cold nights, right? Well now you can enjoy the warmth of a heater by using mostly elements from your campsite. To make this heater you need rocks and a large, long-burning candle.
Bricks from your home are the most stable, but you can also use flat rocks you find around your camp. Place the large candle a safe distance from the side of the tent. Around the candle, make a circle of rocks or a stack of bricks.
Light the candle and balance another rock or brick over the flame. Soon after, the small flame of the candle will heat the rocks up and create a stronger heater for your tent. Remember to blow the candle out before you fall asleep. The heated rocks will keep you warm long after you blow the candle out.
Building a comfortable camping toilet
Going to the bathroom in the woods is a wonderfully liberating experience, but the squatting position isn’t always the most comfortable when we need to go. Now you don’t have to worry about squatting down with this cheap and simple outdoor toilet.
There’s no need for a plumbing hookup and the plastic lining makes cleaning as easy as taking out the trash.
To make it, you will need the following materials:
- 1 large, sturdy bucket with metal handle (a 5-gallon bucket is the most comfortable.)
- 1 pool noodle
- A shark knife or other cutting tool
- Sawdust (optional)
- A roll of toilet paper
Here’s how to make it:
- Take the lid off of the bucket and measure the circumference.
- Cut the pool noodle to the same length as the circumference of the bucket.
- Place a heavy duty trash bag into the bucket just like you would any other trash bin. Secure the bag in place by placing the pool noodle on top. Use the ridge in the noodle to fit into place on the lip of the bucket. If there’s no ridge, you can cut down the length of the pool noodle to make one.
- Detach one side of the handle. Put the handle through the roll of toilet paper and close the handle back in place.
- If you want to make a less smelly composting toilet, add about 2 mason jars worth of sawdust to the bottom of the bucket. Feel free to bring the sawdust with you and add it when you get to your campsite to avoid any possible messy spills on the way there.
- Now you’re ready to use your outdoor toilet. The pool noodle makes the seat nice and cozy to sit on. When you want to clean it, simply remove the noodle and tie up your bag. You should take these home if there are no garbage receptacles near your campsite.
Keep everything organized, dry, and off the ground
We’ve all seen those closet organizers that attach on a pole but hang vertically for more clothing storage. They’re usually made of durable nylon and they fold down to nothing when they’re not in use. Buy an extra one to take with you while you camp.
Use the Velcro straps on top to wrap around the bar of your tent or onto a nearby tree, so you can keep your belongings dry and organized such as canned goods, shoes, and toilet paper.
You can also use a makeup organizer or shoe holder that’s designed to fit on the back of a door.
Go glamping with drink holders that keep your beverages off the ground
Most camping trips are interrupted by someone accidentally tripping on a drink that’s sitting on the ground. Now you can elevate your drinks off the ground, making it easier to see them and to avoid spills. Ready to try this simple solution? Here’s what you will need:
- 1 large, empty can that’s big enough to hold a glass/drinking container
- A drill or a thick nail and hammer
- A 3 ft piece of threaded rod roughly ¼ – ½ inch in diameter
- 2 bolts that fit your rod
- 2 washers that fit your bolts
Here’s how to make it:
- Remove any label from the can. If you prefer, you can paint, label, or decorate the can to your liking. Feel free to write the names of people or to paint them special colors so that everyone can keep track of their drinks.
- Drill or nail a hole in the bottom of your can. Be sure it’s roughly the same size as the threaded rod you will be using.
- Twist a bolt 3-4 inches down from the top of the rod. Then, place a washer on top of the bolt.
- Gently place the can on the rod by putting the rod through the hole in the can.
- Place a washer on the rod so that it is resting on the inside bottom of the can.
- Twist the second bolt down on top of the bar. This bolt should be even with the top of the bar. This is where you drink will sit, so you want an even surface.
- Pull the can tightly upward so that it touches the second bolt you just put in place.
- Twist the first bolt and washer upward to make a very tight seal on the can. The end result is your holder. Be sure that the inside of the can is even and has a minimal bump sticking up from the bolt.
- Take the holder with you and stake the bar into the ground for an easy drink holder. When you’re ready to leave, simply pull up on the bar and take your drink holder with you.
Never Get Lost with your Own Navigation Tools
Although this is an article about making your own equipment, it’s important to note that something as important as a navigation tool is not something you should make on your own. A do-it-yourself compass should only be made as a controlled experiment in a safe environment or in an emergency survival situation.
Always buy a good quality, reliable compass before venturing out. For tips on how to adjust compass declination, see our must-read article.
The needle & leaf method
Place a needle on top of a leaf and gently set them on top of a motionless pool of water. Don’t touch the leaf. Wait for the leaf to stop turning. It will find the north/south line and you can follow that.
Stay Safe with DIY Medical Equipment Kits
Make your own large kit for permanent use
Don’t waste your money on one of those generic First Aid kits. Most people buy the kit and throw it in the back of their cars without actually inspecting what’s inside. When you make your own First Aid kit, however, you’ll know exactly what’s in there.
Plus, you can add things you know your group uses more. Someone’s prone to blisters? Add large, extra thick bandages. Do people in your group get bad allergies? Add some extra pills. Making your own first aid kit means you have a customized box that will help you every time.
The only thing you need is a reliable container that seals. Preferably, you want to use a container that’s waterproof, locks in place, and has organizers. Try to avoid shoeboxes since the material they’re made of crumbles very easily. Think fishing tackle boxes, SCUBA mask containers, or toolboxes. You can even recycle an old store bought first aid box as long as you add your own things. Here are some basic things to consider adding to your kit.
- Good quality, waterproof bandages of all sizes
- Gauze pads
- Gauze roll
- Spray adhesive bandage
- Wet wipes/alcohol wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Antibiotic ointment
- 2 Ace bandages
- Instant cold packs
- Cortizone- 10
- Allergy medication
- 1-2 pills of prescription medication if necessary
- Medical tape
- 1 + rubber gloves
- Bug spray
- Waterproof, sport sunscreen
- Aloe Vera ointment
Organization is key to success. Take the time to create a list of the items you’ll need in your medical emergency kit. Write it on a piece of paper and then tape it to the inside of the container.
If you do have an accident, you can scan the list to check what you have available. Be sure to update your box frequently. Each time you use a bandage, wipe, or pill, replace it so that you’ll always have what you need.
Create a mini first aid kit to take with you
Old Altoid tins are the absolute best option, but an old pill bottle works too. Be sure to include only the basics, which means you’ll need to pick and choose what you include based on the environment you’re going to and the activities you will be doing. You’d be amazed to learn just how many things you can fit into a small container when you have an important purpose behind it.
Consider including some of the following:
- a few Bandi-Aids
- a small piece of pre-cut medical tape
- safety pins
- Alcohol swabs
- Neosporin straws
- dental floss
- cotton balls
Creative Methods for Fire Starters
Having a tinder maker on hand
All you need to do is bring a good pencil sharpener.
When you want to build a fire, grab a thin stick and shred it in the pencil sharpener for a fast and easy pile of tinder that’s sure to get your fire started right away.
Recycle and egg carton into a single-use fire starter kit
Those small basket-shaped containers in the carton make endless possibilities for second use. Here’s what you will need to make these amazing little fire starters at home before your trip:
- An empty egg carton
- A decent amount of dryer lint
- Candle wax
- Double boiler (or 1 large bowl that fits on top of a small pot)
Here’s how to make it:
- Fill each empty egg holder in the carton about ¾ full with dryer lint.
- Melt whatever candles you’re using in a double boiler
- Pour the melted wax into each egg holder, soaking the lint with the melted wax.
- Wait for the wax to cool.
- Depending on the length of your trip, take the entire carton and rip it apart as you need to make a fire. Alternatively, you can cut it apart before leaving on your trip and take what you need.
- To light the fire, light the paper carton first. The flame will be strong enough to catch on the lint and use the wax to burn more slowly.
A pill bottle mini fire starter
Wash both the inside and the outside of the bottle, being sure to completely remove the label.
You will also need the following materials:
- Cotton balls
- Petroleum jelly
- Sealable sandwich bag
Here’s how to make it:
- Place about two spoonfuls of the petroleum jelly into a sandwich baggie.
- Lightly shred some cotton balls by pulling them apart.
- Put the cotton into the bag of petroleum jelly. Seal the bag and knead everything together. Be sure that all of the cotton has plenty of petroleum jelly on it.
- Remove the soaked cotton balls from the baggie and place into the empty pill bottle. Close the bottle and label it as a fire starter.
Feel free to tape matches to the outside of the bottle, but remember that they are not waterproof!
A waterproof container for matches
To truly make this a fire starter kit, you will need to include the fire starting material. Place the matches into an old pill bottle and close the lid. Here’s how to make it:
- Remove the striking strip from a box of matches.
- Glue the striking strip to the inside of the lid.
- Place the matches inside and close the lid.
Whether you’re the type of camper who enjoys meeting others and swapping tales of phenomenal campsites or you prefer solitude, making much of your own camping gear is the best way you can equip yourself when heading out. For an easy tutorial on how to waterproof your own matches, see our article on this topic.
It saves you money, provides you with the items you need, and increases your survival skills. Don’t be shy about making your own items. You might even find that you prefer your DIY gear over the things you can buy.
Check out our piece on basic hiking essentials to guide you on your next trip -definitely an article to be read by everyone.