Yes, we review some of the most expensive, advanced camping gear on the market here at Outside. But we also believe that camping doesn't have to be high-tech to be fun.
Here are seven low-tech DIY camping gear hacks that take advantage of equipment you likely already have in your garage. After all, you shouldn’t have to break the bank to get outside.
Replace Your Tarp with Tyvek
Tyvek—the stuff contractors use in walls to make houses waterproof—will also protect you from the elements when you’re camping. The material is remarkably light, durable, and inexpensive. Find a store that sells it by the yard and then consider what type of camping you’re going to do. I would go with an 8 x 10 feet piece for backpacking and a 10 x 20 foot piece for car camping.
Go with Trash Compactor Bags
If you read this column often, you probably know I’m crazy about using trash compactor bags while camping. It’s an easy way to waterproof your gear inside your pack. And they’re sturdy enough to hold all of your food if you need to tie it up in to a tree while car camping. Remember: compactor bags, even though they’re a bit more expensive, are much more durable and will serve you better in the backcountry than regular trash bags.
Freeze Drinking Water in Two-Liter Bottles
Save any two-liter plastic bottles that have a threaded twist top. Then fill them with water and freeze the contents to supplement the ice in your cooler when you’re car camping. This will save space in the cooler, save you money, and you’ll have ice-cold, potable water when it melts. Just make sure you don't fill the water bottles completely, or the expanding ice will make them burst.
Replace Your Stove with a Soda Can
All you need are two aluminum cans, a knife to cut the cans in half and to poke holes in them, and tape that won't melt in the heat. And there you have it: an alcohol-burning stove that weighs very little, but still has plenty of chops to boil water for your coffee in the morning. For more details, check out this step-by-step guide to building a soda-can stove.
Grab a Grate for Grilling
Any old metal grate lying around your garage will do, although ideally you want it to be about one to two feet long. At camp, set up a row of rocks on either side of the fire. You’ll want them to be level so the meat cooks evenly. Then lay out the meat you’re grilling, or set your pot right on top (so long as you don’t mind some charring on the bottom).
Make a Lantern from a Water Bottle and Headlamp
If you have a transparent water bottle and a headlamp, there’s no need to buy a $20 lantern to create ambient lighting for your camp table. Just wrap the headlamp around your full water bottle, with the bulb facing in, and you have a makeshift lantern.
Bring a Level
If you plan to sleep in the back of a truck, bringing a small level will help you make the perfect bed. No matter how plush your mobile sleeping set up is, it will be miserable if you’re rolling around all night. If you’re camping with a companion, have her use the level to call out micro-adjustments as you park so you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep.