Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Upcycled Camping Hacks

in Outdoor Gear

I love camping hacks! I’m always amazed at how ingenious people are when it comes to solving problems. Some of my favorites are ideas that are low cost or free and save more trash from finding its way into landfills. Instead of throwing those recyclables out why not give them a new life as a handy camping tool? Here are my six favorite upcycled camping hacks.

Toilet Paper Holder

Camping Hacks Toilet Paper Holder

There’s simply nothing harder than trying to dig a cat hole while keeping your toilet paper dry when you gotta go! To make this easy, inexpensive TP holder you need an old plastic coffee can and a knife or scissors. It turns out that coffee cans in the 24.2 oz size are the exact right size to hold one standard size roll of toilet paper. If you cut a small slit in the side of it – you can feed your roll through it – keeping the bulk of it dry while still giving you access to it while you’re out doing your business.

For ease of transporting to and from the designated potty site – I added a small handle by punching two small holes in the top and threading some paracord through them. The plastic of this can is fairly easy to work with since it’s pretty soft. Best handy dandy TP holder ever!

Hand Washing Station

Hand Washing Station

Looking for a convenient way to wash hands that you can keep by your campsite? This hack makes use of an old laundry soap container. Once the laundry soap is all gone – wash and dry the container. Then before your next camping trip – fill it up with water for washing hands. At your campsite use a bungee cord to strap a paper towel holder on the side of it. Then add paper towels, a container of hand soap, and a 5 gallon utility bucket from your local big box home improvement center to catch your gray water.

It creates a close and easy place to wash hands quickly before food prep, bedtime, or just when you’re really grubby. It’s ideal for kiddos too because there’s no more trekking them down to the nearest water source to do a “good” wash.

Tent Nightlight

Lantern Jug

This tent nightlight creates a soft, ambient light in your tent or on your picnic table. It’s perfect for stashing in tents when you’re changing clothes or just need a little light to find your sleeping bag. Take a headlamp and strap it to a full gallon of water – with the headlamp facing inwards. That’s it. You’ll likely have both items on hand during a camping trip anyway – so no need to bring anything extra.

Match Storage


Looking for a handy way to keep matches dry? Your generic strike anywhere matches come in a cardboard box with a tiny strip of scratchy paper. We tend to go through matches so slowly that the scratchy paper eventually wears out. And I’ve been on a trip or two when rain suddenly hit and the matches got wet. No fire and rainy trip = no fun.

Use a small plastic baby food container to store your matches in. To make it even better – cut a small rectangle of sandpaper and glue it to the top of the baby food container. You’ve just made waterproof match container with a built in strike strip.

Don’t have a baby? I don’t anymore either. Just grab a two pack of baby applesauce – it’s delicious and inexpensive!

Spice Storage


My kids like Tic Tacs® – partly for the candy, but partly for the cool containers. And once the Tic Tacs® are gone – you have a handy place to keep spices for camping. They’re small and lightweight and very convenient. Just add a label or write the contents on them with a permanent marker.

They work especially well for those spices that you use more of…like salt, pepper, taco seasoning, Italian seasoning, etc. We have a multi-spice caddy that we use in combination with these. The multi-spice caddy works great for the spices we use less of (chili powder, oregano, cumin, etc).

Egg Holder


I’ve been camping for years and years, but I just caught on to this trick recently. A 16.9 oz water bottle will hold 10 eggs. To prep for your trip, just crack all 10 eggs into a bowl, scramble them up with a whisk and pour them into your water bottle with a funnel. Put the lid back on and you’ve got a scramble just waiting to happen.

And it’s a heck of a lot easier to transport one single water bottle than 10 fragile eggs in your cooler. Chop your veggies and/or prepare your meat at home – bag it in plastic and throw the whole mess into the skillet at camp the first morning. It’s such an easy way to go!

RobinGuest Post by Robin Laulainen. Robin writes about camping and other outdoorsy stuff at Trek Southwest, pets every dog she meets, and drinks more coffee than she should. She blogs about her other passion - creating - at Make It Yourself Girl.

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