Share Your Best Camping "Hacks"

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cjr
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#1

Post by cjr »

I fell down the YouTube "Rabbit Hole" today as I searched for one thing and ended up watching things totally unrelated after who-knows-how-long.

But I did end up watching this video -- "40 Clever Camping Hacks" -- and wanted to share it here because, despite its 12-minute length, I found several great ideas ("hacks") that I plan to try later this spring.

I'd love to hear what you think about these tips/hacks, and if you have any others, please share them here.

cjr




https://youtu.be/SLq3lenJnKo
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#2

Post by Hot_Diggity »

I've used or tested many of those. Some of those are great for crafts people. Obviously a backpacker would find it easier to pack a squashed roll of TP in a Ziploc bag than a coffee can TP dispenser with a rope handle.

Lots of good fire making stuff. I have a fire in the fireplace or stove almost every night, and went from fancy dressed up matches and dryer lint wax balls to hunks of rock, scorched t-shirt and an old file. They all work, but my little half-size yellow Bic lighter always works.

I did see somebody using a reflective windshield sun screen as a sleeping mat. I use a rolled up one as an ultra low creeper at work. Not much I can't slide under on one, and cold or hot, it's always comfortable. Mylar space blankets are part of all my kits. I even have one with weights on the corners that I throw over me on cold nights. The weights, taped to the corners with clear packing tape keep it from sliding off in the night.

Rocket stoves are nice, but they're sharp edged, bulky and dirty. Not something you want in an ultralight pack built like a plastic grocery bag. I've also run into too many times when a wood fire was unwise, due to wind, wet, or national forest fire restrictions. After making every configuration of beer can stove I could find, I've settled on an alcohol Super Cat Stove, designed by Jim Woods in 2004. One small (Fancy Feast) aluminum cat food can with a double row of holes around the top and a piece of insulation in the bottom. Small, simple, reliable, and light. I have a wind screen made of heavy aluminum foil and carry my denatured alcohol fuel in relabeled 5 hour energy bottles (never had a leak) or the original yellow Heet gas treatment bottles.

I liked the ice cream cone smores. That was pretty sneaky.

Nice thread. I enjoyed it. Thanks

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#3

Post by cjr »

Thanks for the replies and sharing your tips. While 12 minutes is a watch-commitment, I also found several "hacks" worthwhile that I intend to try this camping season.

Some of them, like that hanging TP/sanitizer dispenser, were clever but, frankly, impractical because (as Hot D. notes), backpackers needing to haul their own TP will also need to minimize weight.

Others, like making egg-carton fire-starters from dryer lint and wax, made me slap my head and say "Doh!" Long ago, I lost my macho, he-man, "Must impress woman" mentality when it comes to starting a campfire because Wisconsin's DNR insists firewood must be purchased locally, and I've wasted too much time unsuccessfully trying to start campfires. In other words, I cheat! Experience has taught me that most of those wood bundles are wet and don't want to light, so I've purchased the usual array of fire-starters but now realize how easy it is to make my own.

Several of the food "hacks" (I hate that term) also registered, such as the s'mores-cone idea or pouring raw eggs or pancake mix into plastic water bottles for quick/easy dispensing.

Hey, Milspec87, what do you use for preventing frostbite? As a boot cleaner?

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#4

Post by Newfie »

For firestarter, I always have some of these Cochlan's fire sticks handy: https://www.coghlans.com/products/fire-sticks-7940

A couple of years ago, I bought a 6-pack of fire logs at a yard sale for $5. They're basically larger versions of the fire sticks. I slice off a piece and use that as fire starter. I haven't been camping much in the last couple of years so I've still got tons left.
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#5

Post by ke4ljh »

The fire sticks you are referring to are called ferrocerium rods. I mention this so should you decide to get one you have the right name to look them up.

These are nice to have when outdoors as they work wet or dry or at minus 20 degrees F. Bic lighters get to be difficult in cold weather and when they get wet which will happen if one spends enough time outdoors.

I have several and keep one in both vehicles.

I also buy bic lighters in 5 packs and keep them with the ferro rods and with the stoves and lanterns that get used regularly.

1. Bic lighter
2. Ferro rod
3. Char Cloth for ember to build a fire.
3. 10x magnifying glass to create embers and conserve resources. (Lighters and ferro rods).
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#6

Post by Chucker »

Wader wrote: I also saw a show where the guy had put vaseline on a cotton swap to start a fire. I will have to try this method. One day last year I could not get a fire going because how damp it was. I also had no dry wood.

Just make sure the 'cotton' balls you buy are acdtually cotton. There are cotton blends out there.

Also, in doing the Vaseline on the cotton ball with Scouts we found it best to only coat 1/2 of the cotton ball. Then pack them in old pill bottles.

You can also dip about 3/4 in. of the business end of stick matches (Strike Anywhere) in dollar store clear finger nail polish to make them very water resistant. Use a piece of Styrofoam on a table and stick the dry end of the match into the Styrofoam to dry.
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#7

Post by JimL »

Wader wrote: Is this one any good? The price is right.

https://www.mec.ca/en/product/4009-458/Magnesium-Fire-Starter

It'll work, but I personally consider it a toy. Well, I've played with them, never really needed one or used one to start a fire. A butane lighter will work in the cold, provided you keep it in your pocket until you need it. If going with a lighter, get a torch lighter. Bic style lighters are too susceptible to a breeze.

Note that with the MEC one you linked to, the block is magnesium. The ferrocerium rod is pretty thin and built into or rather attached to a cutout in the side. The idea being that you scrape off the magnesium into a little pile (good luck with it not flying everywhere) and ignite it with the ferro rod. The black line you see on the right side of the block in the picture is the ferro rod.
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#8

Post by JimL »

Wader wrote: I wonder if this one is any better?

https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5036-045/FireSteel-2-0-Scout[/QUOTE]

Most likely it is. I got one of these in red, so if I ever want to play survivalist... [smile] I'm impressed with Mora knives and this was a joint venture between More and Light My Fire. The fire starter is built into the handle. I think I paid under $25, but that was USD at Amazon.

https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5028-388/Swedish-FireKnife
-Jim

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#9

Post by PetroMax »

One camping hack covered in the video that I first learned from members here was freezing water in a plastic jug to use in a cooler in place of ice. I have a small cooler and use 16oz water bottles and I find I can keep my food cold enough over 2 1/2 days with this method, never buying ice again.

I have tried all manner of commercial fire starters over the years. The one I like best is actually free ,bicycle inner tube rubber. Simply take a old inner tube and cut it into pieces, light it as tinder to get your kindling burning. It is cheap, easy and works fine for me. My fire starter in my camp tool bag is simply a plastic bag full of cut inner tube rubber pieces.
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#10

Post by JimL »

I use a Brita water filter and fill pint and quart Chinese food containers and freeze them for ice. When they melt, I have good and still cold drinking water.

An idea I've gotten on this forum in the past is putting scramble eggs and other ingredients I want, such as ham, cheese and onions into zip lock type bags. When I want breakfast, I'll drop one into boiling water to cook. You do need to shake 'em up once or twice while cooking, otherwise only the outside will cook thoroughly.
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#11

Post by AllanD »

As for fire lighting I carry a zippo it always works and is reasonable wind proof
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#12

Post by JimL »

AllanD wrote: As for fire lighting I carry a zippo it always works and is reasonable wind proof

And runs on naphtha!
-Jim

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#13

Post by ke4ljh »


I have all three of the forrocerium rods at the top of this link. They all work well.

https://www.selfrelianceoutfitters.com/collections/ferrocerium-rods

I have never tried the butane or zippo lighters. The bic lighters do need to be protected from the wind when using or they blow out.
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#14

Post by cjr »

For Christmas, I bought my brother-in-law (who smokes) one of those Atomic Lighters they were heavily advertising on TV.

I decided to get two because I wanted the "free" Atomic Flashlight (which I highly recommend), and because I was intrigued about the USB-charged lighter.

I've had to "tech-up" my camping gear in the past 5 years to keep my phones, iPads and other USB-based stuff charged in the field, so I carry a battery that I can charge via wall outlets, via my car's "cig lighter," and via a compact solar-panel charger that generates power from the otherwise wasted energy put out by ol' Sol. Keeping this lighter charged will be easy, and I'll see how it performs when we camp this spring. (Not that I really expect it to replace the long-nose butane lighters I prefer.)

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#15

Post by ke4ljh »

Stove top Pressure Cookers

I like to use a small stove top pressure cooker for making stews and cooking other things. A good stew takes three hours simmering usually. A pressure cooker achieves the same tenderness in just one hour. It's good for cooking other things as well. Chicken comes out very succulent and tender.

If you are a small game hunter, a small 2 1/2 quart pressure cooker is great for cooking game in a stew or for tenderizing first in the pressure cooker. Pressure cookers turn normally tough cuts of meat into very tender, juicy morsels.
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#16

Post by NacEd »

Easiest emergency fire starter I've used was a piece of steel wool and a 9V battery, a foil and paper chewing gum wrapper and a AA battery works too.
I have a flint and steel and the fire starter rod and all but it mainly just stays in a backpack for "emergency" purposes.
I live in an area with lots of pine trees so lighter pine, pine knot, whatever you want to call it, is easy to find and will light no matter how wet. You can practically smell the turpentine on the stuff.
I usually carry several pieces with me and restock every time I find some more.
Also I have carried a bic lighter for years, never have smoked, they have lots of uses and never have failed on me.
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#17

Post by Chucker »

Hi Ed. Around here we call that "fat wood" which is basically a pine pitch soaked pine stump cut up into fire starter pieces.

I hear they cut the pine trees down and come by in a couple weeks(?) and cut those stumps up for the fat wood. A buddy said he has even seen some at Lowe's.

We also have birch bark in places and that is wonderful stuff to start a fire, as you probably know.
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#18

Post by NacEd »

Most of the left over stumps around here are bulldozed up and burned if the place is clear cut. If the pines are just thinned they could go in and cut them up I guess, I'm not aware if that is happening around here. Most land owners are kinda anal about making the loggers cut the stumps even with or below ground level anyway.
What I find in the woods are from dead trees that have fallen and the dry outer parts have already rotted away and the knotted part is all that's left.

We have a tree here that has the peeling bark like a birch, but is very rare to find, it may be a birch, I'm not sure. I couldn't rely on finding any in an emergency.

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#19

Post by JimL »

Chuck,

Yes, Lowes has it. I bought some last year to play with. The stuff smells awesome, but has quite an amount of soot when burning. Just shave some off a stick of the stuff and you'd be amazed how easy it lights. It's probably easier to light this stuff than a Diamond strike anywhere match.

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Wood-Products-International-4-Pack-4-lb-Firestarters/1000107829
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#20

Post by Chucker »

Heyyyyy, thanks Jim for confirming my memory is only partly shot, ha.

I have used pine tar/pine pitch to start a fire when it was raining out. Just scraped some off a tree that had dried drips on the bark and set it under the usual kindling stuff. It was a privilege to pass that knowledge on to a couple of adults and Scouts that day.
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#21

Post by RNC »

My 12 year old son and I roughed it on BLM land outside of Moab, Utah last summer. My weed sprayer shower came in handy.
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#22

Post by cjr »

RNC wrote: My weed sprayer shower came in handy.

Huh? Can you share more deets or even some pictures, RNC? I can imagine it, but would love to hear more.

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#23

Post by cjr »

Chucker wrote: I have used pine tar/pine pitch to start a fire when it was raining out. Just scraped some off a tree that had dried drips on the bark...

That is a GREAT suggestion, Chucker. Thanks!

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#24

Post by Gunhippie »

5 gallon plastic bucket turned upside down, with toilet seat anchored by 3/4" screws. Cut out the base of the bucket using the toilet seat as a guide. Dig a hole, and you have an instant backwoods throne.

For fire starter, I use the waxed cardboard boxes that vegetables come to the store/restaurant in. A 4" X 6" piece is good for several fires--just tear off thin strips. Fatwood or pitchpine is also great. Look for rotting pine logs and stump--anything that is still sound wood is pitch wood. A handful of knots from a rotting pine log will burn hot and bright for hours.

I always carry an emergency space blanket. I have one in the pocket of every jacket I own--usually in a zip-lock baggie with a Bic, some waxed cardboard firestarter, and some TP.

The heavy-duty space blankets--the ones that look like hay tarps--are great for making a shade tent over your cooler. During the day, I throw my sleeping bag over the cooler, too. It airs the bag out and adds some insulation to the cooler. Keep the cooler off the ground with a Coleman High Stand. Not only does this keep the cooler cooler, but you'll never have to bend over to get a beer again.
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#25

Post by outlawmws »

ke4ljh wrote:
I have all three of the forrocerium rods at the top of this link. They all work well.

https://www.selfrelianceoutfitters.com/collections/ferrocerium-rods

I have never tried the butane or zippo lighters. The bic lighters do need to be protected from the wind when using or they blow out.

I picked up the orange one in the middle at a yard sale this past summer.. Freaking awesome sparks! No magnesium though. So buy the cheap Coghlan's for the mag block...

By the way, Many, if not most SS knives wont drag a spark off those sticks, so a good replacement is a hacksaw blade...
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#26

Post by JimL »

outlawmws wrote: <Removed>
By the way, Many, if not most SS knives wont drag a spark off those sticks, so a good replacement is a hacksaw blade...

Good tip.

I found that my Mora Companion with stainless blade couldn't make a spark on the rod, so I sharpened the spine at an angle so it would draw a spark.
-Jim

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#27

Post by ke4ljh »

The value of Charcloth.

This is no hack!

For the uninitiated. For the others, for your viewing pleasure.

During colonial days before the advent of matches, Charcloth was traditionally used in the cabin, (home) to start fires in the harth which is where the cooking was done over the fire. Charcloth is the single greatest asset one can have for starting fires in the home fireplace as was done hundreds of years ago, the wood burning stove, camp fires, camp wood stove fires etc. In the home charcloth was made from leftover cotton fabric and kept in a small tin on the fireplace mantle. Beside the fireplace was a basket with collected tinder material and birdnest material for starting the fire in the fireplace. Once understood, practiced and set up one may find there is no longer need for modern fire starters. This is just as easy.

Today, charcloth is still the most valuable source for starting fires for camp cooking or still yet, in the fireplace at home. It is simple and easy once the system is set up, understood and the materials are made available in advance to be used when they are needed. I have attached a series of videos links that show just how valuable. There are so many ways to ignite charcloth for that next fire. Once one sees how valuable charcloth is to have available once we see how it is done.

There are many other examples to view, however this one is the most comprehensive instruction I have found.


Consider watching the video links in the order presented for a good overview and explaination then pursue others.

Visualize using this method for starting fires in the harth or wood stove at home.

Chores for the kiddies to gather materials for the next days need of making charcloth and gathering tinders for fires for the home harth or wood stove. This is how we did it when I was growing up. These were the childrens chores to manage.

1 Frontier Fire Seminar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKKSLyuzRZc

2 Making Charcloth. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUtNzzGM2XU

3 The Bird Nest & Tinder Bundle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OikVtBgdtjs

4 Fire Lay Construction and Ignition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJDBxbH6qMU&index=22&list=PL5F9410AAA29F1BCD

5 Fire Lay The Proper Construction and Ignition after a Night of Rain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-W_f5WilA0

6 How To Make The Most Effective Char Cloth
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6Mo-131dsI

7 Why Carry a Candle...Lighting a Candle with Flint and Steel
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzQ8Zqwrjek

Bringing it all together. Have fun.
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#28

Post by cjr »

Watched video #06. Very cool! Thanks for sharing these...

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#29

Post by mcdugal2 »

You can also use dry rotted wood to make fire starters the same as you would char-cloth. it's just wood instead, but charred the same way and works the same way...
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#30

Post by ke4ljh »

When in the wild I think they call it "punk wood", as you said, the dry rotted wood often found in downed trees and stumps. You are correct, when in the field the natural materials found around us are utilized to make charred punk wood or the pith, inside of some smaller shrubs, and bushes to maintain a resource that enables the making of fire much more easily.
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#31

Post by Lhoffm4coleman »

A little prep goes a long way. I like to buy eggs in the cardboard cartons. After eating them i save the carton. When ever my beautiful wife buys new candles (she loves Scentsy) to replace old used ones, I melt the wax down and save it. Lastly, when opportunity arises for me to collect a bag or two of sawdust from some woodworking project of mine or even a buddy down the street, I save it too. Then on some scout activity, or by myself if the occasion permits, I will use a 425 stove to melt a pot of wax, mix in sawdust and put the mix into the egg cartons. By the time I do this, i usually have several cartons to fill. Once cooled, the individual carton squares can be cut or torn off the carton and used as fire starters. These work great for my fire place, fire pit, charcoal grill coal starters, camping wood-stove, or any other contraption/configuration where I might want to light a fire. We have lit these with matches and lighters, magnifying lenses, flint and steel (with the help of vaseline soaked cotton balls), and even polished soda cans (we polished the bottoms using chocolate candy bars and paper napkin-another great scouting activity). They last a good 15-20 minutes and a batch can stretch for a camping season, depending on how often you go.
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