You can easily spend hundreds, or even thousands, on the best backpacking gear (and there’s a lot of amazing equipment for sale), but sometimes it’s good to remember that camping used to require just basic survival skills and a little ingenuity. While upscale tents with running water and plush sleeping bags can make a night under the stars pretty special, a lot of basic tools can be fashioned out of low-cost materials. A stove made from a tuna can? Check. An ultralight tarp sewn from silpoly? Sure! Even a survival kit that fits in an Altoids can. Watch the videos below to see the ways you can make any camping trip a DIY adventure.
Tuna Can Stove
With just a hole punch and an empty can you can create a stove to cook on. It isn’t the most elegant culinary tool, but does the trick in a pinch. Remember not to punch your holes near the top of the can or it won’t hold the fuel. You’ll also need to be careful when balancing a pot on top of the stove since tipping it over could cause quite a nasty fire.
Ultralight Silpoly Tarp
For long-distance hikers, any added weight can be a big burden. Nature Calls Backpacking explains how to create a silpoly tarp that can be used for coverage in tumultuous weather. One of the nice things about sewing your own tape is customizing it to the size of the backpacker. That means the coverage should be comfortable and keep you dry.
The ‘Minimist’ Backpack
Northwest Backpacker begins designing his Ultralight backpack by drawing a pattern on two paper supermarket bags. Doesn’t get much more DIY than that. The machine sewing required to make the bag is all straight lines, so even a novice can still probably assemble the bag. For detailed measurements, Northwest Backpacker includes the measurements and materials on his website.
For campers who prefer using natural fuel such as wood over liquid chemicals, Black Owl Outdoors explains how to make a wood-burning stove by nesting one can inside of the other. A series of holes needs to be cut at the top of each can to direct airflow and create an efficient burn. The design is quite clever given that it utilizes recycling fodder to make a natural stove.
DIY Tent Lamp
Drinkers rejoice! You can turn those empty airplane liquor bottles and beer cans into tent lamps. Sound too good to be true? Watch how Silvio De Leonardo uses the tiny liquor bottle to hold the fuel, turns the can into a base and then uses a small glass jar to contain the flame. Be sure to be sober when putting one of these together.
If you have a stove or a campfire you may want to carry a lightweight firestarter that isn’t filled with chemicals. Birch bark and dryer lint both work well. But if what you combine them and cover the mixture with wax? Moral River Films plays with fire to help keep the campsite warm.