No one says ‘no’ to a few days of unwinding in nature, right? However, hauling the camping equipment all the way up to the mountains isn’t the greatest thing ever – many would rather skip that part! Read on to learn how to make your own DIY backpacking gear that won’t come too heavy on your back while helping you save money at the same time!
No matter your experience when it comes to crafting things, most of the DIY projects listed here are very easy to make and require only the most basic of knowledge. You should be able to find all of the materials in your local hardware store or around the house.
Why make your own?
Homemade camping gear has a few benefits over the one that’s store bought. One great thing is that homemade things are usually a bit cheaper. Top-notch gear may sometimes come with a hefty price tag, thus putting many enthusiasts off of doing the investment.
Nevertheless, if you decide to make your own, you’ll usually save more than a few dollars while not compromising on the quality.
On top of that, making your own equipment means you get to customize it so it fits your needs the best. You can take whatever you liked from one product and combine it with whatever else you liked from another on, getting the best out of both worlds.
DIY Alcohol Stove
Alcohol stoves may be a bit pricey but that doesn’t mean you should skip the warm meals on the trail and eat only sandwiches. Here’s one of the simplest – and most popular! – ways to create your own alcohol stove that can be reused multiple times.
- 2 soda cans, though get at least 3 if you’re doing this for the first time
- High-temperature tape, that won’t burn or melt
- Scratch awl
- X-Acto Knife
Do the burner holes
Get the scratch awl and poke holes along the bottom edge on one of the cans. Don’t make your holes too big nor too small – opt to get a rather normal-sized hole for an alcohol stove.
One of the most important things you’ll want to pay attention here is the way the holes go around the rim – make sure they spread out in an even line, not too close but not too far from one another. Go on and do 16 holes in total on the bottom edge of the can.
You can start off by poking two holes on two opposite sides and then poke two more hallway between the first two. Then, for easier guidance, continue doing holes between already existing ones, while keeping the symmetry.
Cut the main opening
Once you’re done with the holes, you need to cut out the bottom around which you’ve already made the holes. Use the X-Acto knife to do this though the bottom may be a bit thicker on some cans. If that’s the case with your can, use a heavy-duty blade but be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp edges of the can.
Cut out the stove top
Measure ¾ of an inch from the bottom where you’ve just made the holes and cut out what will be the stove top. To make sure you get an even cut, mark where the ¾ of an inch is at and mark it with a Sharpie. Then, keep the Sharpie steady in your hand and slowly turn the can around it, thus creating a cutting line for yourself.
When you proceed with the cutting, you could also do a rough cut a bit above the line and then trim it finely with the scissors in the end.
Do the tabs on the stove top
Since the top of the stove needs to fit into the bottom of the stove, you’ll need to do little tabs like these for a better fit. All you need to do is snip the edges of the stove top in an evenly-spaced way. Do 6 or 8 tabs.
Cut out the stove bottom
Get the second can and measure 1 inch from the bottom. Then, just cut it out without poking holes or doing anything to it.
Do the inner wall
Take the remains from one of the cans and cut out an inner wall. Cut a strip that’s 1 inch and 1/3 wide.
Size the inner wall
Next, you’ll need to size the inner wall into the stove bottom. To do this, cut halfway through the strip on each end, thus creating a sort of a locking mechanism. Make sure that both ends fit in nicely and are tucked inside the loop.
Do the notches on the inner wall
Cut three small notches around one side of the strip. They should all be at an equal distance around themselves. This is done in a manner like this so the fuel can flow from the inner to the outer wall.
Put everything together
Assemble the three pieces together. Place the inner wall into the stove bottom, with the notched ends down. Go on and fit the top of the stove on; tuck in the tabs you did earlier inside the stove bottom.
Be careful when doing this, because there are many sharp edges involved – you may end up cutting yourself.
To make sure you’re getting a good fit, curve the tabs inward (but only slightly!) before you start. You can also use a knife to make sure everything fits together nicely.
Taping the stove
Considering you did everything right, the stove should stay together in one piece. However, it’s not recommended to use it without securing it with tape first. Use only high-temperature tape and tape all of the pieces by wrapping the tape around the stove.
Now your alcohol stove is ready – don’t forget to use it together with some pot support, because it may not work properly without one.
DIY Pot Support
In order to use the DIY alcohol stove, you’ll need to make yourself a pot support which is super simple and easy!
- The pot, that you’ll use as a pot support
- Hardware cloth
- Flexible wire, any type, you can even use twisty ties
- Wire cutters
Cut a strip out of the hardware cloth
You need to focus on the width of the cloth here – the length will be discussed further on. Use a wire cutter of some sort and carefully cut out a strip out of the hardware cloth. You’ll want this strip to be 3 inches wide.
Since the pot support will need to fit inside your pot, you need to make sure that the width of your strip is no wider than the height of your pot.
Shorten the strip to the circumference of the pot support
Measure the diameter of the pot you’re going to use – your pot support needs to be an inch smaller than the diameter of the pot. There’s even a formula you can use if you want to be extremely precise – the circumference of your pot support is equal to the pot support’s diameter times pi.
It wouldn’t be a mistake even if you add an inch or two that will just overlap later on.
Loop the strip and make ends connect
You can do this in step in a very simple way – do a loop of the hardware cloth and just compare it to the diameter of the pot instead of measuring everything up all over again. The hardware cloth strip should overlap by a few inches.
Then, run a wire through the overlap and twist it so the strip holds into place. You can even use twisty ties on four places that you’ll get to burn later on.
Fold over the rim
Since you cut out a strip wide 3 inches, and most often the put support is only 2.5 inches wide, you can use that half of an inch and fold it inwards. By doing this, all of the sharp edges will be facing inwards and the pot support will have more balance.
Burn the wire (optional)
If you used twisty ties – or any other wire that has an outer covering that burns – you can burn them now. Just light the pot support and let the outer coverings melt. If not your wire didn’t have any outer layering that melts or burns, you don’t have to do this step!
DIY Survival Kit
Even though there are many survival kits on the market you can just buy in the stores, making your own survival kit might work best for some – everything you put inside will fit your needs the most!
This survival kit is ideal for shorter camping trips – you don’t have to fill all of the backpack with survival items, leave room for other things as well – and you could easily put away all of the survival items in a clean zip-lock bag.
If you’re worried about the size and the weight of your survival kit, you could take things down a notch and downsize to a fanny pack, taking only the utmost necessities with you. Take note to always plan accordingly to the weather conditions you’ll be camping in, as you may need to adapt and change a few things.
- A backpack/a fanny pack
- Zip-lock bags (optional)
- Water pouches and/or a filter
- Dehydrated food
- First aid kit
- Miscellaneous survival items (listed additionally)
Get the backpack
Make sure you get a sturdier backpack that also won’t weigh a lot by itself. Check the backpack and see if it has any rips or anything – you wouldn’t want to use anything that will fall apart halfway through.
Check the straps and make sure they fit you nicely and don’t cut into your skin, as you’ll probably do a lot of walking with it on your back.
Cover the water reserves
Human bodies can survive for a few weeks without food, however, not without water. Water filters and water pouches should be the number one thing you put in your survival kit.
The water pouches are light and can be taken everywhere with you – most of them weigh only four ounces. Grab enough water pouches to last you a few days and cover the rest of it with the use of various water filters.
If you want to go DIY all the way, use iodine drops as a water disinfectant – five drops per a quart should work well enough.
Cover the food
Food is another important item and when it comes to putting foods in your survival kit, opt for something light but high in calorie at the same time. Dehydrated food is a genius solution, as it’s packed with calories but very easy to carry around.
Get yourself enough food to last you a few days. Go for dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate bars.
Go over your first-aid kit
Your first-aid kit should contain these basic items:
- Sterile pads and gauze
- Disinfectant pads for wound cleaning
- First-aid tape
- Aspirin & antibiotic cream
- Anti-diarrheal tablets
- Enough supplies on any meds you take for any condition you might have.
Put in the survival items
Now you can put random items that will help you survive in the wild! Don’t shy away on including anything else that worked for you well in the past.
- Dental floss, it’s tough and can be used for a variety of things;
- Strike-anywhere matches or regular ones, though get some striking paper if your matches are regular;
- Fire starters in the form of cotton balls and Vaseline – they’re cheap, light, and easy to make;
- Duct tape
- A knife, preferably a multi-purpose one;
- Magnifying glass, that doubles its use for signaling and fire starting;
- A whistle
- A compass;
DIY Walking Stick
This walking stick is practical and eco-friendly and it will definitely make you stand out among your backpacking crew.
- A straight branch, but not too thick (2-4 inches at the most)
- A pocketknife
- Wood stain
- Urethane varnish
- Cord, for the loops
Find a branch
It should look good, without any signs of cracks or knotholes and reach your armpit.
Remove any twigs
You’ll want to make the branch as smooth as possible. After you’ve removed any twigs, use the sandpaper to smoothen the surface of the branch.
Drill a hole on the top
The hole will be used to fit the loop cord. Grip the branch a couple of times to determine where the best grip is for you and then make a hole into the branch.
Decorate your stick (optional)
You can choose to do some carvings to your stick as to personalize it further more. Use a knife to carve through the wood but be careful whilst doing it.
Apply two coats of wood stain
After your stick is ready, apply a coat of wood stain and leave it to dry overnight. Repeat the procedure with the second coat.
Apply three coats of urethane varnish
This is done to prevent the wood from rotting. Let each coat dry overnight before applying the next. Optionally, you can sand the stick between layers with some fine sandpaper if you feel there’s a need for that.
Do the loop
Cut about 2 feet of whatever type of cord you’ve decided to use and fit it through the loop at the end. Tie a big knot at the end. Your stick is ready! For more tips on how to make a DIY walking stick, read our earlier article on this useful topic.
DIY Table Lantern
This works wonders if you’re camping with family or larger groups!
- Empty translucent plastic bottle, like a gallon-size milk jug
- Water, to fill the jug later on
Clean the plastic bottle
You need to thoroughly clean and rinse whatever remains the plastic bottle may have inside. Any other way and your lamp might have a few smudged spots here and there. Fill it out with water
Place your headlamp around the jug
You’ll want to use the head wrap and wrap the headlamp that way around the jug. Point the light to the inside of the water bottle. The light will spread out through the water and give you a pleasant, ambient lighting.
You can also see our article review of the top gas lanterns to give you more options for camping.
DIY your way into fun!
Hopefully by now, you’ve learned how to do a project or two that will help you enjoy your camping trips even more – and besides, nothing gets you more proud of yourself rather than using something you’ve made, right?
In fact, you can even get your whole family participating in some of the projects – younger family members will be excited knowing they somehow contributed to the trip! However, don’t forget to be careful with sharp objects and knives at all times.
Even though most of the projects are very easy to make, don’t get disappointed if you don’t get them right the first try. Since most of the materials are cheap, you can experiment until you are satisfied with the final result – and that will be sooner than you think!
Before you head out, check our article on backpacking and camping 101 for more information to guide you.