A DIY Air Conditioner and 14 Other Cool Camping Hacks


Headed camping this summer? It's a great way to travel — and certainly lighter on the wallet. At the same time, camping is a lot more work than staying at a hotel. That doesn't need to be a deal breaker, though. Before you pack, check through this list of amazing camping hacks that have your health, safety, and comfort in mind.

1. Smart System

Organize your packing with this family's three-tub system and last-minute checklist. One plastic tub is for kitchen stuff, the next holds the stuff that will go inside the tent, and the last will carry all the miscellaneous camping supplies. Your last-minute checklist will vary depending on your family, time of year, and where you're going.

2. Kid Tub

Keeping your little ones clean can be tricky in the wild. If you pack some of your stuff in those big plastic containers, you can use one as a tub for bath time. The author has a solar shower that gives her family warm water. Placing the tub in a sunny spot for an hour or so should have a similar effect.

3. Clothes Organization

Don't grab your clothes out of disorganized duffle bags or — worse — the floor. Instead, bring one of those collapsible hanging sorters to corral bathing suits, sweaters, shorts, and other gear. This tip works best if your tent is tall. If not, try a smaller organizer like this three-shelf canvas sorter.

4. Clear Storage

For the rest of your stuff, keep the dirt and bugs out with clothing and bedding storage bags. You know, the kind that come with new sheets, comforters, curtains, etc. Some close with zippers and others with snaps. Either way, they're free storage that's perfect for camping.

5. Tent Cover

Planning to stay somewhere rainy? This camper shares an awesome trick from his adventures in the Pacific Northwest. Cover your tent with a canopy for extra protection from the elements. This layer will also help if it's particularly windy.

6. Solar Lights

Illuminate your space with solar lights that don't require any batteries. You'll just need to make sure they get plenty of sun during the day for optimal power. If you're stuck on how to use them, try mounting on an inverted terra cotta pot as a centerpiece.

7. Jug Light

Or use a headlamp attached to a water jug as a reading lamp. The camper who shared this tip says it's "easy on the eyes" compared to candles and plain flashlights. Just make sure the jug is full of water and you're good to go.

8. Bug Off

Skip the expensive chemical bug repellents and use Listerine instead. Pour the mouthwash into a spray bottle and spritz for protection. You'll need to reapply just like you would with other repellents. And skip the whitening varieties — they could bleach clothing.

9. Washing Station

Rig a large water container into a handwashing station with a few bungee cords and add-ons. You'll tether a paper towel holder onto the top and place another bucket to catch falling water below. Don't forget to bring soap!

10. Bag Corral

All those plastic grocery bags can come in handy when you're out in nature. Use them to collect dirty clothes, carry garbage, or hold whatever else you might need. Stuff bags in an empty baby wipes container for easy, clutter-free access. That's all there is to it.

11. Fire Starter

Here's a must if you're planning any campfire this season: DIY fire starters. Stuff your laundry lint into used toilet paper tubes. Then wrap them in newspaper for clean storage. Light up under the rest of your wood to get your fire roaring.

12. Emergency Inflate

If you brought an air mattress but forgot the pump, don't worry. You can actually inflate your bed using a garbage bag. Lay your mattress out flat and open its valve. Then wave the garbage bag to fill it with air and secure its opening over the valve. Press the air into the mattress (using your body), repeating as many times as necessary.

13. Key Saver

Many of us camp at lakes or river locations. Keep your keys safe with these cork keychains. Screw an eye bolt into the top of the cork. Attach your keys. Then enjoy the water without worry.

14. Toilet Roll

We've all got to go at one point or another. I'd rather not use leaves to, well, you know. Try making this toilet roll dispenser that will keep your paper clean and tidy. Take an empty soda bottle, cut out the middle, then core your toilet paper, pull the sheets up the spout, and put the bottle back together.

15. Air Conditioner

Those of you who are really crafty might want to make this evaporative cooler. Or, in other words, a crude AC system. It comes together for around $40 and a lot of effort, but it's worth every bit. Pick up a five-gallon bucket at your local hardware store, a water pump, cooler pad, elbow duct, a 12-volt battery, and some wire and connectors. After you assemble, pour water into the bucket and enjoy the cool breeze.

What's your favorite camping hack?

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Guest's picture

All the solar lights need batteries that are charged by the sun.
For the AC, what the heck is a cooler pad? And to enjoy the cool breeze it would seem to need a fan to make a breeze?
Just put your toilet paper in a zip lock bag. No contraption needed
Same with blowing up an air mattress. You can blow it up by mouth. Takes a little time but what else have you got to do. Your camping.

Guest's picture

Thanks for including camping packing system Ashley!

Guest's picture

We have a battery operated fan that hangs above our bed in the tent and a tarp over the whole tent all the time keeps it cool during the day then open the zippered Windows at night for cool air.we take the shelf out of oven to cook on so we can do pans as well and pack food in with bottles of ice so when they melt the kids have cold water to drink. We have a large family and have learned lots of easy cheap ways to make it easier. U can get bundles of sage cheap on Amazon, throw into the fire and keeps bugs away. There are lots of diy toilets with buckets and a piece of pool noodle sliced then on top of bucket for a seat.