DIY FILE: Camp Do-it-yourself


Not everyone is a fan of camping. Some hardened urbanites see the lack of electrical outlets, flushable toilets, and walls as absolute deal-breakers in terms of a weekend away. And it's true, relieving oneself outside with whatever is left of the communal toilet paper isn't how they do it on Real Housewives, but roughing it is just a small part of the greater whole that is camping.

You may have to put up with cooking over a campfire, damp sleeping quarters and a 5 a.m. wake-up call from the local wildlife -but there's also smore-building, clean-water swimming, air-mattress floating, skinny dipping, beer drinking, late-night bonding and bragging-rights poker games.

Thanks to the lack of consistent weather, the Vancouverite often feels shortchanged in the summer, like they never really got to enjoy the weather, like summer didn't really happen -but a camping trip, no matter how late you are to the party, is a sure-fire way to make you feel otherwise.

And to make the most of a weekend in the wild, here are some low-tech, do-it-yourself camping enhancements to help you cook the dogs, light the night and keep the biting bugs at bay.

Put the scent in essentials

The chemical-musk stench of mosquito repellent is awful, but to avoid the itchy red welts and chance of West Nile, what is the alternative? Thankfully, Escents Aromatherapy offers something with their potent, DEET-less recipe of essential oils that repel the mosquitoes, but not the people around you.

This bug-off recipe - consisting of citronella ($8), tea tree oil ($9), lavender ($9) and peppermint ($10) - is something you can mix with witch hazel ($5) or your own moisturizing lotion. Mixing the perfect smelling cocktail takes a bit of trial and error. My first mix was equal parts of each and that was far too much citronella for my nose. I also recommend mixing outside (this smell is no good to you saturated in the table where you eat).

You can also treat pesky bites with 25 drops of clove, 40 drops of lavender and 25 drops of peppermint added directly to bites. Ants as well as mosquitoes hate tea tree oil and peppermint, so you can also put some drops on cotton swabs and then place them in the corners of your tent for extra bug protection. To go the extra mile, put 25 drops of the oils on firewood, let it dry and then burn the wood, releasing the repellent into the air.

Mosquito repellent how-to

- Clean off a used spray bottle - I highly recommend WD-40 which will take off any and all sticky crap.

- For 100 ml of spray you will need 45-60 drops of essential oil. I tapped 12 drops or so of each into the empty spray bottle.

- Add 100 ml or so of witch hazel for the base, (water won't mix with oils) to make a spray. You can also add oils to moisturizing lotions, but avoid citrus-scented creams whose ingredients can negate the oils' repelling power.

- Lastly, make an anti-mosquito label if you're in the mood for it. Obviously, I was.

Sticks are for kids

Roasting meat on sticks is half the fun of camping, and as demonstrated by Mel Designs (, personalizing your hot dog and marshmallow swords is a great family-friendly project for the younger generation of campers. Simply get wood dowels about one inch in diameter and cut them into pieces about 10-inches long. Then drill a hole in the centre and glue a straightened wire hanger in the hole. The family friendly part comes when you let the kids loose on decorating to paint, draw and colour their little hot-dog-loving hearts out.

Glow-to-go lantern

Camping or not, this bright idea from the blog is a crafty way to shed some light on your evening funtivities. Find yourself a clear container and pick up some non-toxic neon glow sticks from the local dollar store and you've got everything you need. Lil Blue Boo cut off the ends of red, white and blue neon glow sticks and shook the contents inside a closed mason jar so it coated the sides. Lil Blue Boo also recommends adding water to the jar to keep the glow going longer.

Call for submissions

Every week, Julia Dilworth's DIY File features do-it-yourself projects, big and small. To submit a project or send photos of your DIY attempts, email julia.dilworth[at]

You can also find her on Twitter at @JuliaDilworth