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15 Brilliant Handy Hints for Camping

Make your next camping trip a breeze with these clever tips and tricks. These fun camping hacks will take your outdoor adventures to the next level.

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HH pouring wax into waterproof fire startersFamily Handyman

DIY Fire Starters

To properly build a fire, you need tinder. Fortunately, we all have a readily available supply: dryer lint!

How to make these waterproof fire starters:

Stuff each well of an egg carton with dryer lint. Then pour melted wax into each well and let them cool. The wax waterproofs the dryer lint and carton and helps the starter burn longer.

Ready to make a fire pit a part of your backyard entertainment scene? Here’s what you need to know before you start.

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Portable Spice Rack HHFamily Handyman

Portable Spice Rack

Turn a simple pill case into a compact and handy portable spice rack for your camper or RV. This is perfect for weekend trips or slightly luxurious camping. Write the spice names on the case with permanent marker for reference. Store in a plastic baggy and pack it into your camping gear for the upcoming trip.

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camping tipsFamily Handyman

Spring Sledding

A plastic snow sled is useful in the off-season, too. We’ve used ours to haul yard debris, bags of concrete and plants. The sled slides over grass, sand and gravel with ease. We’ve even used it to haul camping gear from our car to our campsite. It works great!

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HH Handy Hint Wine Cork Fire starterFamily Handyman

Wine Cork Fire Starters

Fill a Mason jar with wine corks and rubbing alcohol and let the corks soak. The corks will burn OK in a couple of days, but for best results soak them for a week. Be sure the corks are natural, not synthetic.

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HH DIY Ice Pack Sponge home cookFamily Handyman

How to Make A DIY Ice Pack

This make-your-own-ice-pack hack is reusable, so it’s good for the environment as well. First, purchase an inexpensive pack of sponges or just find some old ones around the house. These sponges will not be cleaning anything, so just find a big sponge that’s cheap.

Next, grab a big bowl of water, immerse the sponges and let them soak up as much water as possible. Put each sponge in a small sandwich bag with a zip close. Then freeze the wet and bagged sponges overnight.

These bags serve two purposes. First, as the ice melts, the bag contains the water so it doesn’t make a mess in your lunch bag. Second, keeping the water contained allows the sponge to reabsorb the water so it’s ready to refreeze for the next day. Once you get home from your camping trip or your kids get home from school, just toss the “make your own ice pack” back into the freezer for next time.

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FH10JUN_TINKER_01Family Handyman

Swiss Army Tinker

I have a multi-tool that I love, and a gorgeous super-sharp folding knife. They go camping and fishing with me. But the knife that stays in my pocket every other day of the year is the classic Swiss Army Tinker.

It’s affordable for most campers, so losing it isn’t traumatic. It’s light and compact, and I find myself using the Phillips-head screwdriver about a thousand times every weekend. It’s not perfect (I wish the knife would take a sharper edge), but it’s “the one that gets used” in my DIY life. — Ken Collier.

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HH Handy Hint Frisbee Tic Tac ToeFamily Handyman

Make Frisbee Tic-Tac-Toe For Super Cheap!

For a simple and cheap way to enjoy the warm camping weather, make a giant tic-tac-toe grid on a shower curtain or tarp using duct tape. Secure the corners with rocks. If you’re using a tarp, stake it down through the grommet holes. It works best if you have two colors of Frisbees. Set up a throw line and let the play begin.

How to play:

  1. Divide the players into teams, or play one-on-one. Each team has its own color of Frisbee.
  2. Teams take turns throwing a single Frisbee toward the board. The Frisbee only counts for a point if it is not touching any of the grid lines.
  3. The game is over when one team has landed three of their frisbees in a row onto the board (up-and-down, across, or diagonally).

Check out these 7 Outdoor Games You Can Make With Stuff You Already Have.

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HH flexible ice pack

Flexible Ice Pack

These ice packs are great because they’re flexible, perfect for conforming to an injured ankle or other body parts.

To make this ice pack, mix one part rubbing alcohol with three parts water in a plastic zipper bag. After filling the bag, get out as much air as possible and seal it. Place the filled bags on a flat surface in the freezer for several hours. When you take the ice pack out of the freezer, after about three to four minutes at room temperature, it will become flexible.

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HH lint log fire starterFamily Handyman

Lint Fire-Starter Log

To properly build a fire, you need to have tinder (easy-lighting material), kindling (finger-size sticks) and fuel (logs). We all have a readily available supply of tinder: dryer lint! To make fire starters, I stuff empty toilet paper tubes with dryer lint. My dryer lint “logs” light quickly and easily burn long enough to light up the kindling. And I don’t have to resort to lighter fluid. — Reese Felton.

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FH13JUN_REPAIR_01Family Handyman

Backwoods Repair Gear

I spend a lot of time outdoors: canoeing, backpacking, fishing, camping, you name it. And as a DIYer, I feel compelled to carry a repair kit wherever I go. Of course, the kit varies depending on the trip, but here are a few items I often carry.

Some are pretty obvious, like duct tape, paracord, zip ties and a multi-tool. But the others aren’t: A piece of aluminum tube that can slide over a broken tent pole can be a trip saver. A lightweight magnifier will actually allow you to see what you’re doing when you make small repairs.

And thin wire is one of the most useful items you can carry. Wrap it, twist it, “sew” with it …. It’s strong, heatproof and doesn’t stretch. I’ve used it dozens of times, for fixing everything from my boot to a canoe. — Ken Collier.

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HH icy drinks water bottle frozen

Reusable Icy Drinks

The next time you go camping or do yard work on a sweltering hot day, make the day a little more bearable by having icy water bottles at the ready.

Fill your water bottles a quarter of the way so that when they are on their sides the water settles just below the bottle’s neck. Then stick them in the freezer. An ice block on the side of the bottle puts more liquid in contact with the ice, cooling it faster.

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HH cereal container car trash canFamily Handyman

Keep Your Space Clean!

Keeping your camping area clean can be difficult. There are dirt roads, messy trees, pet hair, food crumbs and wrappers. And not to mention, there’s likely trash on your car’s floor too.

Toss out any wrappers, bottles and other objects in this sturdy mobile trash can! Line a plastic cereal container with a grocery bag and use it as an in-car trash can. This tip is perfect for camping too because all of your garbage will be sealed away.

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FH08FEB_KNOTFR_01Family Handyman

Knot-Free Tie-Downs

Securing a load of lumber, a kayak, camping gear and other stuff on your vehicle with rope can be a pain, whether or not you’ve been a Boy or Girl Scout. It’s even more of a pain when it’s time to untie the knots.

The Figure 9 by Nite Ize makes the tasks fast and easy. Wrap the rope around the aluminum bracket (instructions are engraved right on the device), and the rope is held securely in place. Figure 9 also works great on rope used for pitching tents and holding down tarps. The small tie secures 50-lb. loads. The large tie secures 150 lbs.

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HH emergency candle lit butter

DIY Emergency Candle

Every home usually has a stick of butter and extra toilet paper lying around. In an emergency, you can make a candle with just those two materials.

First, cut stick of butter in half; each half should burn for about four hours. (You may have to relight it a couple of times.) Next, cut a toilet paper square into four squares. Now fold one square diagonally and twist.

Make a hole in the stick of butter to the base with a toothpick and place the toilet paper wick inside. Rub the top of the wick in the butter for starter fuel. Now light. You can also wrap the wick around a toothpick so it does not fold over as the emergency candle burns.

OK, so maybe this isn’t the most practical way to add light to your home in the case of an emergency. But it will work in a pinch and it’s a fun science experiment or party trick!

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Hair Tie Carabiner

Hair Tie Carabiner

I always have trouble keeping my hair ties together. Somehow they are always missing when I want them but are all over the place when I don’t. The solution to this mess was to attach them to a carabiner. It keeps them all in one place, provided I remember to use it! — Rachel Douglas.