A DIY guide to camping with technology

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There are so many great reasons to bring tech gadgets on a camping trip. Only your smartphone can be used for photography, lighting, entertainment and of course emergency communication. But before you start taking all your expensive gear with you, there are some important things to consider.

Below, we’ve got a host of tips and projects to help you incorporate tech into your next adventure, with a focus on some of the smartest DIY solutions you can afford.

Able

First thing to do: solve the problem of power. Bringing a power source will keep your gadgets powered throughout the trip. If you rely on your phone’s signal for emergency contact, this is an essential safety measure.

The easiest solution is to bring a power bank if you already have one, or ask to borrow one for your trip as they have become quite common. Calculate how much charge your power bank will give you and only bring devices that you can reliably power while you’re away to avoid carrying dead weight.

If you’re an avid camper looking for a dedicated power source that you can build yourself, there are several options available that use solar power, water, and heat. An amazing example of this is a small thermoelectric charger that can charge a phone using a fire source like a campfire, gas stove, or candles. This is just one of the few ingenious DIY chargers you can build as part of our awesome DIY gadget projects to beat weekend boredom.

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Waterproofing

Bringing electronics on a wilderness trip is always going to be risky, but there are things you can do to reduce the risk of damaging your gear. Phones, tablets, and cameras are all items worth getting waterproof, even if the device is already water resistant. You also won’t need to buy expensive waterproof cases.

One of the best solutions we’ve found is a DIY waterproof bag on YouTube that’s incredibly easy to make because it doesn’t require any sewing. It comes together fairly quickly using tape, cable ties and waterproof material like Tyvek which is used in construction. The finished product is similar to a wheeled bag that cyclists wear, but can be resized if you just want something small to store a phone and watch inside.

If you don’t have time to do anything and just need to throw your electronics in a bag and go, then zipper bags are the classic solution – just be sure to double them up to be very careful. If you happen to have a vacuum sealer used to store food, you can even seal small appliances this way. Leave some air inside the pouch, otherwise it will press the buttons on the device.

Heat

It’s totally possible to bring along an extra heating source when you go camping, and it’s especially handy if you’re not allowed to light a campfire. Building a DIY radiator isn’t as complicated as you might think, and it’s ideal if you need a custom solution that doesn’t cost a fortune.

In our list of creative homemade heaters that really work, there are two that stand out. The first is a 100W mini heater built with just a tin can, some clay and some coils. The second is a penny liquor stove that also uses an old drink can. Both projects are cheap and doable even without any DIY experience. Because they’re made from salvaged parts, you also won’t have to worry if you end up damaging the radiator. The payoff, however, is the ability to make your camping experience more luxurious.

Lighting

The new wave of camping videos on YouTube suggests that you really need a full range of lights and lanterns to create the perfect, comfortable camping experience. It’s an expensive option, however, that can take some time to complete. An alternative is to explore the world of LEDs, which gives you the opportunity to make all kinds of homemade lights.

For a little fun, you can create cute origami lights with your kids, or for something extra, you can try building a USB rechargeable flashlight. You can find these projects and more in our list of great DIY LED projects. String lights or a set of old Christmas lights that connect via USB are also easy options for lighting up the night. It’s about creating the atmosphere of a camping trip you won’t forget.

Entertainment

Once you start thinking about what technology you can bring on a camping trip, there’s no limit to your comfort in nature. Download a few movies to your iPad and quickly make a DIY cardboard tablet, and you’ll be set for a cozy night inside your tent.

There are also creative ways to use technology outdoors, like setting up a time-lapse Twitter camera or setting up a remote birding station. You can find out how to build them in our brilliant projects using a Raspberry Pi and a camera.

In case of emergency

For seasoned hikers and intrepid adventurers, a GPS system is technology that offers incredible benefits. Main uses include planning a trip, browsing and recording your trip data, and all without using the internet. If you’ve ever dabbled in electronics, there are plenty of tutorials to teach you how to build your own GPS device. And even if not, Spark Fun’s overview of the subject is excellent, with a beginner’s project to try.


Another awesome project to build is an off-grid Wikipedia computer that will have everything you might know in case you can’t connect to the internet. If you’re heading away from civilization and traveling by car, this could be the ultimate source of knowledge in an emergency.

If all of the above seems a bit much to you, then the most important thing for a simple trip is to plan well in advance. For those dependent on a phone and cellular signal, be sure to pack an adequate power supply and consider waterproof storage to protect your device from damage. Most importantly, always make sure you let someone know where you are going and for how long, in case you need rescue.

The ultimate camping experience

Now you know how to pack your tech the next time you go camping. With a portable power supply, you can build a fantastic base camp lit by LED lights and warmed by DIY heaters. Don’t forget to keep a waterproof solution on hand for your devices if they get wet, and never forget to plan for an emergency. There are affordable home tech solutions for every situation, so don’t be afraid to camp in style!



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