DIY camping gear projects are a very good way of saving money when preparing for your camping trip, but also so much more than that, allowing you to take pride in things you created with your own hands, to decompress and to have fun, to spend time with your children doing something they will definitely consider cool and amazing.
There are many projects you could try, from simple, basic ones that even the least-experienced camper can accomplish to others that might require some skills. From food products you can pack with you while camping to survival kits that could get you out of a risky situation, here are some of the best camping gear items you can do yourself.
Cooking and Food Projects for Camping
Food is an important part of any camping trip. Cooking and eating outdoors is fun, and we all love to do it as often as we can. Nothing tastes better than a dinner cooked outside, on an wood fire, after a long day of hiking. Also, eating properly is essential, because you need your energy during camping trips.
Do your own trail mix
Trail mix is an amazing snack for camping trips because it’s easy to carry, you can eat it on the go, it fills you up and gives you that boost of energy you need. Pre-packaged trail mixes are quite expensive and might not contain all your favorite nuts and dried fruits. Making your own mixes will save you a lot of money and you’ll also enjoy it more, as it contains all your favorite items.
It’s also recommendable to make your own trail mix if you or someone else in your group has a food allergy. Even if you buy trail mixes that don’t contain the allergen, there is always the risk of contamination during the fabrication process. The last thing you need when camping is a health emergency, so avoid one by buying individual ingredients and preparing your own trail mix.
Pack the trail mix in single serving portions, in small Ziploc bags, which makes it easier for everyone to enjoy the snack anytime and anywhere. See our tips on how to choose the best trail mix for snacks-on-the-go.
Prepare your own energy bars
Energy bars are another snack you definitely need to bring with you when camping. Store-bought energy bars usually contain too much sugar, preservatives, and artificial flavors, not to mention they are also quite expensive. Making your own is pretty easy and you only need a few ingredients.
Here is a basic recipe for delicious and nutritious granola energy bars:
- 3 cups rolled oats;
- ½ cup almonds;
- ½ cup mixed dried fruits, chopped;
- ¼ cup unsalted butter;
- ¼ cup brown sugar;
- ¼ cup honey;
- two tablespoons of protein powder;
- Line an oven pan with some parchment paper. Put the rolled oats and the almonds in the pan and put the pan in the hot oven for 6-8 minutes, until lightly roasted;
- Put the butter, honey and the sugar in a saucepan, on the stove, and cook until the butter is melted and all the ingredients are well mixed.
- In a large bowl, combine the butter mixture, the roasted oats and almonds, the dried fruits and the protein powder. Mix well and let it rest for half an hour.
- Put the mixture in a pan and refrigerate it for 12 hours;
- Cut the chilled composition in one-serving sized bars and pack each bar in parchment paper.
Make your own camping stove
This DIY camping stove is very simple, yet very effective. All you need is a No. 10 tin, a cutting tool and a can opener.
- Remove the can’s bottom and cut a small, square gap next to the lower margin of the can. Turn the can upside down and drop the detached bottom inside of the can.
- Punch some smoke holes around the top rim of the container with a can opener, making sure that the can-opener tabs keep the detached bottom in place. The two bottoms will become a durable stove top when you turn it back up.
- Attach a small piece of stiff wire above the square door you cut before, using two bolts and nuts.
- Take the tin square you removed from the can and bend the top of it over the stiff wire. It will act as a door, allowing you to open and close your stove as needed.
Because the stove is very small, you only need a little bit of fuel to boil water, heat up canned foods or even cook simple stuff: you can totally fry eggs and bacon in a pan on this stove. It works great with coal because coal gives more heat, but you can also use a little bit of wood.
For more options on choosing the best energy bars, see our previous article on this topic.
Safety and Survival Projects
It’s great because you can carry it in your pocket, you can lit it within seconds, it lasts a few hours and you can use it to start your wood fire or your camping stove.
Items you need:
- An Altoids tin;
- A metallic container for melting the wax;
- Cut the cardboard to match the depth of the tin. Place the cardboard inside the tin, packing it tight, but also making sure there is also some space for the melted wax.
- Put the wax in a metallic container. An old coffee can, for example, is ideal. Put a saucepan with some water in it on the stove. When the water starts boiling, put the metallic container with the wax in the water. Reduce the heat and wait until the wax is completely melted.
- Pour the melted wax into the cracks of the cardboard slowly, making sure that no air bubbles remain. It basically is a very slow-burning candle and makes a great sterno alternative.
Pocket-sized fire starter
Being able to light a fire anytime, anywhere, even if it rains, it’s essential when backpacking. Carrying flammable fluids or gels on you, on the other hand, it’s not a very good idea, because of the spilling or accidental fire risks
That’s why you should make this simple, cheap and very efficient fire starter kit.
It’s a very ingenious project because it recycles something that you normally have absolutely no use for dryer lint.
Items you need:
- Dryer lint;
- An empty egg carton;
- Dental floss;
- Put the wax in a metallic container and place the container in boiling water to melt the wax.
- Fill each compartment of the egg carton with dryer lint;
- Cut each compartment and fold its ends on top of the lint;
- Tie each fire starter with dental floss, leaving a few inches of extra string;
- Dip each fire starter into the container with the melted wax, holding it by the extra string. Make sure you fully submerge each one;
- Let them dry completely on a parchment paper sheet or on a paper towel.
- Pack them in a plastic bag or inside an old metallic coffee can. It only takes one to light your campfire in no time.
Altoids tin survival kit
An Altoids tin is the perfect recipient for your emergency survival kit: it’s small, it fits perfectly in your pocket, it closes very well and it’s waterproof.
Here are the most important items you should store in your emergency survival kit:
- A small wire saw that will allow you to cut tree branches in order to improvise a shelter or to start a fire;
- Some nylon cordage or fishing line, that you can use to tie branches together when improvising a shelter or to tie your food up in a tree;
- A fishing hook that, together with the fishing line, can help you get some food if you end up stranded in the woods;
- A lighter;
- A match striker glued to the lid of the tin, on the inside, and a few matches, in case that something happens to the lighter and you can’t use it;
- A box-cutter blade;
- A small led flashlight and an extra-battery;
- A few Band-Aids and some duct tape;
- A piece of aluminum foil that you can use as a cooking container;
- A small Swiss army knife;
- An emergency Mylar blanket. It won’t fit inside the tin, but you can wrap it around the tin and secure it with a few rings of rubber cut from an old bicycle inner tube – it’s the most durable type of rubber you can find out there.
Paracord is extremely useful when camping – you can use it when improvising a shelter, to tie your food up in a tree, to lift yourself, someone else, or anything heavy, to create a stretcher or to secure items in your backpack. Get some paracord and weave it to make it easier to carry – you can weave and carry it as a bracelet, for example. For useful tips on how to make your DIY paracord survival belt, check our our must-read article on this.
DIY Shelter Projects
Keeping dry and warm while camping really makes the difference. Beside buying good-quality tents and sleeping bags, you can also take some extra-precautions and prepare for the worst.
If you’re camping in the woods or in the mountains, nights can get pretty cold and wet even in the summer. What can you do?
- Pack a couple of emergency blankets (also known as space blankets). These items are made of heat-reflective plastic and you can line them on the ground, underneath your tent. They will act as an insulating layer between the ground and your body, protecting you from dampness and cold.
- Create a small tent heater. There are different types of DIY tent heaters, but the safest and easiest are based on tea candles. You need some candles, a metallic can with a lid, and some sand or dirt. Fill a third of the container with sand or dirt, put three or four candles inside, light the candles and put the lid on top, but don’t close it completely.
The candles need oxygen to burn, so make sure that some air gets in – not too much, though. The goal is to have the candles burning with a low flame, to last as long as possible. As the candles are burning, they are heating up the sand and the metal container, transforming the container into a little stove. Make sure you place it away from flammable items and on a strait, hard surface.
- Make a sleeping bag liner, to improve your sleeping bag’s thermal capabilities. Fleece is silk are the best fabrics, because they are lightweight and warm. Buy at least two yards of fabric. Open your sleeping bag and lay it on the floor. Put the fabric on top of it and cut the fabric to match the shape of the sleeping bag. The fabric needs to be about an inch larger than the bag on all the sides. Start sewing the fabric to the inside of the sleeping bag. Be careful: you shouldn’t pierce the outside layer of the sleeping bag.
- Waterproof your items: backpack, tent, shoes. Most camping gear items are waterproof, at least in theory. However, as we all know, there is a limit to that waterproofing, and it’s a good idea to apply a new layer of waterproofing before each camping trip.
Get a waterproofing spray and apply a generous coating on all the items mentioned above. The items need to be clean and dry, and you should apply the spray outside or in a well-ventilated room. Let the items dry for a few hours before packing them. You can also get a waterproofing spray that’s designed especially for clothing, and use it on jackets, socks and on your sleeping bag.
- If you don’t want to carry a tent with you, you can make your own hammock-tent. All you need is a hammock and some tarp.
Get a piece of tarp that’s a little bit bigger than the surface of the hammock (you need some space to squeeze you and your sleeping bag inside). Install snap fasteners of the edges of the hammock and of the tarp that will allow you to secure the tarp “roof” to the hammock.
Use a different piece of tarp to protect the head area, like a hood. It’s a lightweight shelter, but a very efficient one. Your body loses less heat if you are sleeping above the ground. Also, you are a little bit safer from animal attacks.
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