70+ DIY Camping Hacks for Every Budget
June 16, 2020
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There are tons of camping hacks that can make your experience more pleasant — and there’s no reason you have to figure out those hacks on your own. The internet has provided a place for millions of people to share their favorite tips and tricks for every type of camper, from the budget-conscious DIY enthusiasts to eco-friendly glampers and everything in between.
Below is a roundup of some of the most effective time- and money-saving hacks for your next camping trip. Whether you’re going solo or bringing the family, saving or splurging, feeling low-key or luxe, you’ll find the tips you need below.
Essential Hacks for Any Kind of Camper
These tips and tricks are astoundingly simple, but the time and energy they can save you are not to be underestimated. An unexpected run-in with a puddle or an accidentally cracked egg may not be more than an inconvenience at home, but for campers, these little missteps can be trip-ruiners. Avoid mishaps and make your trip even more fun with these camping hacks.
- Use corn chips as kindling. Don’t waste time hunting down dry brush — just use Doritos!
- Repel ants with grits. Dust your campground with some when you arrive to keep any creepy crawlers away!
- Pre-crack up to eight eggs to store in one water bottle. Crack your eggs ahead of time and funnel them into a recycled container to make mess-free breakfast later.
- Cook hotdogs in bulk with a clean rake over the campfire. A grill is the easier way to go here, but if you don’t have one, a rake is a good alternative!
- Dry dishes in mesh laundry bags. Instead of assigning someone to towel-dry, just throw your dishes in a mesh bag and hang them to dry on their own.
- Use solar stake lights around your campsite. They don’t require any wires or electricity, and adding them along safe walking paths can make midnight bathroom runs far less perilous.
- Wrap glow sticks around tent ties at night. You never know when you’ll need to venture off the lit path, so even if you’re using lights to guide you, throw some glow sticks around your tent ties to make sure trip hazards are well-marked.
- Line your backpack with a trash bag. In case it rains or your bag falls into a body of water, your clothes and other supplies will remain dry.
- Store matches in a plastic container. Avoid the tragedy of accidentally getting your matchbox damp. Just glue sandpaper to the container to strike against.
- Keep your toilet paper safe in a dry coffee can. Just drop the roll into a plastic Folgers-style container and reseal, then cut a vertical slit in the side to run the end of the paper through.
- Store your next day’s clothes in your sleeping bag overnight. They’ll be warm (or body-temperature) when it comes time to change in the morning.
- Make a DIY camping washing machine. Most people opt to wait until returning home to run a wash, but if you’re in it for the long haul, here’s a simple hack: cut a hole in the top of an empty five-gallon bucket, then stick a clean toilet plunger inside. Add your clothes, water and detergent, then churn!
- Consider using a windbreak for additional campsite privacy. While these shelters aren’t adequate for sleeping, they can provide some separation from other campsites.
- Buy a double sleeping bag. Sleeping bags retain body heat, and two warm bodies are better than one!
- Lay a blanket down underneath your air mattress. A layer of insulation can keep the air inside the mattress from getting too cold, which in turn will keep you warmer in bed.
- Use trick birthday candles as weatherproof fire starters. They’re annoying when you’re trying to blow them out on a cake, but when they’re up against the wind, they can be lifesavers.
- Attach a cork to anything you’re afraid might get dropped in the water. An eye hook screwed into a wine cork can be attached to keys, a wallet, or any other small items to keep them afloat.
- Bring a shoe organizer to keep your things sorted and off the ground. Utensils, hand towels, hygiene item, and other tools can all be kept clean and organized in plastic shoe pockets.
- Use a garden flag frame to hold paper towels. Drive the flag frame stake into the ground near your eating area for easy access.
- Ward off mosquitoes by burning sage. Mosquito repellent is sticky, smelly and filled with chemicals, but throwing some natural sage into the campfire will keep the suckers away all night. (Plus, it smells nice!)
- Use a lint roller after a hike to remove any ticks. Any ticks on your clothes that haven’t attached to your skin will come away easily.
- Remove any burrowed ticks with liquid soap on a cotton ball. Hold the soap-soaked cotton to the tick for 20–30 seconds — it will release its grip and come away naturally.
- Put dirty laundry in your shoes overnight to dry them out. Remove the insoles first, and in the morning, hang the damp clothing or lay it out by the fire to dry.
- Store metal camp equipment with silica gel packets. Grab the packets out of your next product purchase (silica gel is used to soak up moisture in a variety of packages, from vitamins and dog treats to clothes) and throw them in with your camp gear to prevent rust.
- Dry your sleeping bag with tennis balls to keep it fluffy. This is a trick you can use for down comforters and down pillows, too.
- Use foam floor tiles in place of a bedroll. You can find them at most toy or department stores, and they’re cheaper than the camping equivalent.
- Store spices in old Tic-Tac boxes. Camping supply stores sell mini spice sets, but you can easily pack small amounts of your own in recycled containers for free.
- Assemble travel coffee bags using coffee filters and dental floss. Instant coffee isn’t a big expense, but there’s no need to buy something you can make at home.
- Create a DIY charcoal grill out of an empty egg carton. Just put a single piece of charcoal where each egg would go, then light the carton on fire.
- Make a DIY lantern with a headlamp or flashlight shone into a jug of water. There’s no reason to buy lamps and flashlights with an all-purpose alternative.
- Replace commercial fire starters with a lint-filled toilet paper roll. Nothing says “budget” like recycled garbage.
- Assemble DIY tiki torches for a fraction of the cost. Just fill an empty tin (like an Altoids tin) with cardboard, and then sprinkle it with wax.
- Make your own calamine lotion. Combine ¼ cup of fresh water, 4 teaspoons of bentonite clay, 4 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of sea salt and 10–15 drops of essential oils (tea tree, lavender, chamomile or similar) to make a cost-effective itch-relief cream you can store in a mason jar. (Find more cost-friendly DIYs below in our section dedicated to green camping hacks.)
- Cut up straws and fill them with antibiotic ointment or toothpaste to create single-use packets. Pinch the ends and heat with a lighter to melt the plastic and reseal the straws.
- Assemble your own first aid kit. Commercial first aid kits are marked up significantly, and you can make one in a Tupperware for much less.
- Use bread tags in place of clothespins. There’s no reason to buy something that comes with your groceries for free.
- Avoid camping on holidays. If you prefer to camp at paid sites, camp on off days to take advantage of low rates.
- Camp during the off season. Similarly, camping during off months will cost less in fees than the peak season.
- Hit up free camping sites. You may be used to camping at paid sites, but keep in mind that there are lots of free camping sites that are just as fun.
- Stay close to home. You may feel like the perfect campsite is eight hours away, but there are lots of great local spots that will cost a lot less in gas to get to.
- Gas up before you go. If you’re headed to a remote location, gas will cost more closer to your location than it does at home.
- Make a DIY tin can grill. Instead of buying an expensive camp barbecue or wasting money on disposable grills, make your own by cutting the sides of a tin can into inch-thick strips from the top to about two inches from the bottom. Spread the strips wide and cover with tin foil, then fill the resulting bowl shape with charcoal. Add a rack over the top — you can use the rack from your toaster oven at home — and grill away!
- Learn to sharpen your own tools. Avoid paying someone to maintain your knives and other sharp objects by learning to sharpen them yourself.
You’ve likely seen glamor shots of super-luxe campsites that cost an arm and a leg to reserve, but the reality is that glamping is an attainable goal for any camper that desires a little extra luxury in their life. With a little forethought and some extra packing space, you can plan a super-comfortable getaway all on your own. Even glampers can’t carry every household luxury out into the woods, so utilize these hacks to make sure your comfort is convenient, too.
- Upgrade your bed with a fold-up frame or a double height air mattress. Something about being a little further off the ground just upgrades the whole sleep experience.
- Use normal bed linens, not sleeping bags. The freedom to shift around as you sleep, stick a leg out if you want to, and layer your linens to your comfort is all part of the glamping experience.
- Use portable tables as nightstands. Give your tent lamp and solar-powered phone charger someplace to live and elevate your tent style, all with one small purchase.
- Bring a rug. Both fashionable and functional, bringing along an indoor rug for your tent will upgrade the quality of the interior while helping keep your little slice of paradise dirt-free.
- Pack scented candles. That outdoor campfire smell is intoxicating for about a day. After then, you’ll likely welcome a little whiff of home whenever you step inside your tent. (Just remember to put them out when you’re not nearby!)
- Bring a chair inside your tent. Most people remember to bring camp chairs for outside, but having a chair inside your tent is a little luxury that’s almost too easy to incorporate. Inflatable chairs offer a bit of extra comfort, too; add a throw blanket and a side table and you’ve got the perfect sun-shaded lounge. Also, check out these Amazon coupons for additional savings.
- Meal prep fancy meals. Meal prep is the way to go for convenient camp dining, so why not go upscale? Most camp meals consist of meat and roasted vegetables over the fire — there’s no reason your version can’t be a steak dinner.
- Use real plates and a linen tablecloth. Making your meals feel more homey is one of the simplest ways to upgrade your camping experience. Plus, reusable flatware and linens are more eco-friendly than disposables!
- Bring your favorite cocktail ingredients. Pre-mix your simple syrup, set aside some rim salt, bring a cutting board and your preferred garnishes, then simply add your liquor of choice to the packing list. A gin and tonic is incredibly easy to mix by the fireside, but oh-so-glamorous compared to the standard red solo cup fare.
- Try some make-ahead sangria. Mason jars are a safe vehicle to transport sangria, and making it ahead of time gives the wine, fruit and vodka more time to steep. (Always drink responsibly.)
- Mason jars make practical and aesthetic beverage glasses. Even if you’re not filling them with vodka, mason jars are a great alternative to fragile glasses or unglamorous plastic cups. (Always obey all drinking laws.)
- Make French press coffee. There’s no reason to resign yourself to instant coffee when French presses and stovetop espresso makers are so portable.
- Bring an outdoor rug. The more rugs you have at your campsite, the more comfortable you’ll be. Outdoor rugs allow you to walk around without putting shoes on every time you need to move, which is the ultimate campsite luxury.
- Create a lounge space. Most campsites have two main locations: the tent and the campfire. Create a third location just for lounging, and add an outdoor rug, chairs, hammocks, cushions and whatever else you may need to get comfy. It’s a simple upgrade, but makes a world of difference!
- Make an outdoor seating area using an inflatable kiddie pool. Lay blankets and cushions on the bottom and add pillows around the perimeter for your own cozy haven. Or, go all-out on an inflatable couch.
Green Camping Hacks
No matter what your budget, every camper should prioritize being kind to nature. You should always follow a carry in, carry out rule, and stick to marked trails and campgrounds to avoid interfering with natural growth. But beyond simply being unobtrusive to local flora and fauna, these easy camping hacks can help you be more sustainable, decrease your carbon footprint and be a better steward of the environment you love to visit.
- Invest in a campfire barbecue. Disposable grills generate unnecessary trash, and by the time you buy three or four of them, they’re just as expensive as simply buying a portable grill.
- Carpool to your campsite. Whenever you’re camping in a group, make an effort to meet locally and drive together to conserve gas.
- Do routine maintenance on your car and stay local. Before departing, check your fluid levels and top off gas and air in your tires to minimize driving pollution, and camp locally if possible.
- Ditch the disposable water bottle habit. It’s a common camping routine to grab a pallet of water bottles before heading out, but disposable water bottles and their casings are unnecessary waste. Switch to reusable, BPA-free bottles instead.
- Bring a recycling box or bin. If your campsite provides a trash receptacle, don’t count on there being recycling as well. If you’re packing out your trash, make sure you separate your recyclables first.
- Buy ingredients in bulk to reduce packaging. Instead of buying snack-sized bags of chips, buy a family-sized bag and separate them into reusable, resealable bags. When planning meals, measure out the necessary ingredients and bring only what you need.
- Make your own protein and energy bars. Protein bars are essential for hiking, but their individual wrapping is wasteful. Choose a favorite recipe and make your own instead.
- Bring biodegradable trail tape. Ideally you’ll pack out everything you bring, but trail markers can be easy to lose track of, so use a biodegradable version to make sure you’re not littering on your hike.
- Make natural candles from any citrus fruit and kitchen oil. Cut the fruit in half and hollow out the peel, leaving the center stem as a wick. Pour any standard kitchen oil and voila — instant camp candle.
- Make your own natural tick deterrent. With one part tea tree oil and two parts water, you can make an effective tick spray that’s both environmentally friendly and cost-effective.
- Make your own natural all-purpose bug spray. Combine 30 drops of geranium essential oil, 30 drops of citronella essential oil, 20 drops of lemon eucalyptus essential oil, 20 drops of lavender essential oil, 10 drops of rosemary essential oil, 1 tablespoon of vodka or rubbing alcohol, ½ cup of natural witch hazel, and ½ cup of water or white vinegar to make a natural, eco-friendly bug repellent. If you don’t want to DIY, opt for eco-friendly brands.
- Make your own eco-friendly body wash. If you’re planning to bathe in a lake, river or other natural body of water, be sure you’re using eco-friendly soap. Make your own by combining ⅔ cup of liquid castile soap, ¼ cup of raw, unfiltered honey, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of vitamin E oil, and 50–60 drops of your favorite essential oils, or buy a biodegradable soap of your choosing.
- Choose a green sunscreen. Anything you put on your body before swimming in a natural water feature needs to be environmentally friendly. Choose a sunscreen that’s “reef safe” to avoid leaving contaminants in the water.
- When it comes to equipment, buy used or rent and repair everything you can. Buying used or renting equipment cuts down on material waste, and repairing items extends equipment’s lifespan which is more sustainable than replacing.
Free Printable Camping Checklist
Whether you decide to save, splurge or make all of your supplies from scratch, you’ll need to make sure you have these bases covered. Print this list and double and triple check before you go!
Free Printable Camping Meal Planner
The best strategy to save, stay eco-friendly and maximize your convenience is the same: plan ahead! Use this printable planner to map out your camp meals. Then, grab the grocery list and head out to buy as much in bulk as possible to cut down on costs and unnecessary packaging.
No matter what sort of camper you are, you’ll improve your entire experience by thinking ahead and incorporating these helpful hacks into your plans.
You’ll also save plenty by taking advantage of coupons from places like The North Face and REI where you can find just about any piece of camping gear you can think of. Just a little bit of extra planning and ingenuity can add up to a lot of time and energy saved!
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