By Thomas Ray
Camping doesn’t have to be expensive. Add some fun into your camping trips and save money with these eight simple hacks!
Camping in a tarp tent is budget-friendly, easy, lightweight, and fun. A poly tarp can be had for as little as $10. If it’s bug season, you can drape mosquito netting across the door. You will need at least an 8-by-10-foot tarp. You can use one of your trekking poles or a hiking staff to support the door. If you use a larger tarp, it will allow for flaps at the front so that the tent can be closed off in inclement weather.
A plastic bottle doesn’t cost anything and is awesome to use when camping. Use a sports drink bottle, as it is made of a heavier plastic than most. The wider mouth is smoother and also makes for easy filling and drinking. When you finish your camping trip it can be recycled, saving storage space at home. Powerade bottles work well for this.
Keeping matches in a plastic bag sounds like a good idea, but plastic bags are fragile and don’t always work to keep matches dry when the chips are down. A great waterproof match container can be improvised from a medicine bottle or plastic jar. Choose one with a good, watertight seal. Load it with waterproof matches and test it in a bucket of water before relying on it. A disposable lighter and tinder can also be kept in the same type of container. Be sure to store strikers so that they are protected from moisture, but not in contact with the matches inside.
A large tomato can makes a nice container in which to boil water or cook food. Make sure to choose one that is not lined with plastic or other material. Add a bail by boring two holes, one on each side near the top of the can. You can fashion the bail from coat hanger wire. Choose a can with a comparatively large diameter so that the water in it will boil quickly. Check out this video to get you started.
A good stove for cooking that runs on alcohol can be made from a large energy drink or beer can. Many tutorials are available via the Internet. Choose one you like, make a stove, and experiment with it at home before taking it camping. Check out this very good video tutorial.
A simple military-style magnesium bar fire starter or even a ferrocerium rod is cheap insurance in case your matches or lighters fail. It does require you learn how to use it with appropriate tinder, but this will only add to your outdoor skill arsenal. Attach a section of hacksaw blade to the chain as a striker. If you are concerned about finding the right tinder while on your trip, make homemade tinder with cotton balls and petroleum jelly and store them in a plastic container. When you are ready to use it, first gather your kindling and firewood. Then pull apart one of the cotton balls, exposing some of the dry cotton inside. Scrape the striker so that a shower of sparks is directed into the petroleum jelly-laced cotton ball. Once the cotton ball is ignited, you can build a fire as large as you wish.
If you are camping with a large group, get some chemical-based light sticks and hang them around the outer perimeter of your camp on strings. The light sticks will function as nightlights. Just bend each one to activate it as night falls. Keep an unbroken one in your tent as a back-up to your flashlight, in case you have to get up during the night. Check out Cyalume’s website to grab one.
It was once said that a good pack is a bag of bags. Bagging the small items in your pack will make it easier to find things, keep your pack organized, and prevent loss. Bags can be made at home from old shirts and pants. If you don’t have any old clothing, it can be purchased cheaply at any thrift store. Just cut the material to the desired size and sew into a bag. Pants legs become bags with just one seam! Rather than installing a drawstring, poke a hole with an awl or icepick on one edge of the bag about three inches from the top. Insert a piece of string about 18 inches long so an equal amount of string is on each side of the hole, then tie an overhand knot to secure it to the bag. The bag can now be twisted closed and tied shut with the string, making a tighter closure than is possible with a drawstring bag. If you are concerned about weight, they can be made from lightweight nylon or you could just use plastic bags.
Enjoy the outdoors with these eight fun and simple hacks!