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Camp Crafty

How to make your own plant press, firestarters and the all-time classic: soap-on-a-rope.

By Bernadette Noll

No need to abandon your crafty side when heading to the great outdoors. Here are five things for your campsite you can make before you go.

There was a time when soap-on-a-rope could be found in any self-respecting department store. Nowadays, if you want it, you'll have to make it yourself. That's way more fun anyway.

You'll need:

  • a bar of biodegradable soap
  • a drill with a small bit
  • a piece of heavy string or a shoelace

Drill a hole through the soap. Thread your string through the hole. Tie the ends together and ta-da, soap on a rope! Hang it on the water spigot in your campsite or on a nearby tree branch for easy access.

A bug jar can be any old jar with a few holes punched in the top. You can produce a more stylish bug jar with minimal expense and with a lot less effort.

You'll need:

  • a mason jar of your preferred size with metal two-piece screw-on top
  • a marker or pen
  • a small piece of screen or cheesecloth or other gauzy cloth

On the screen, trace the outside rim of the metal top with the marker. Cut on the drawn line. Remove the metal insert part of the two-piece top. Insert the screen into the screw-on top and screw it onto the jar. If using cloth, cut the cloth a couple inches larger than the top. Screw the top on over the stretched-out cloth.

Firestarters are not only fun to make but also very practical on-site. It makes you feel so old school to create these at home for yourself, and there is no better time to feel old school than when camping.

You'll need:

  • melted wax (this can be candle stubs melted in a can in a pot half-full of water.)
  • a cardboard egg carton
  • string or wick
  • sawdust or wood chips

Cut the lid off the egg carton. Place a 3-inch piece of string in each cup with the end hanging over the side. Fill the cups with sawdust or wood chips. Pour the melted wax into the cup and let cool. Tear or cut the cups apart, or bring the whole thing and cut the firestarters apart as needed.

Plant presses are simple to make and allow you to savor a little bit of nature.

You'll need:

  • two pieces of heavy cardboard
  • newspaper
  • waxed paper
  • an old belt

Cut the pieces of cardboard, newspaper and waxed paper into same-sized squares to suit your needs (6 inches by 6 inches is a good traveling size). Lay a piece of cardboard on the bottom and layer it with one sheet of newspaper, two pieces of wax paper and another sheet of newspaper. Continue this pattern until you have used all of the sheets. Put the other piece of cardboard on top. Wrap the belt tightly around the middle. When you find a leaf, plant or flower you want to preserve, put it in the press between two sheets of waxed paper. Buckle snugly after each addition. Keep pressed for approximately one week.

Luminarias can light a campsite trail and are beautiful as well.

You'll need:

  • small flat-bottomed brown paper bags
  • votive candles
  • sand

Open the bags so that they stand on their own. Pour a couple of inches of sand into the bottom of the bag. Place the candle in the sand. Line the luminarias along the trail from the fire to your tent or from the fire to the picnic table or on any other path that people will be walking after dark. Have a ceremonial lighting of the luminarias at dusk and blow them out one by one as you head to your tent at night.

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