Cheap DIY thrills

By: Michael Borg, Photography by: Matt Fehlberg and Camper Trailer Australia


Keep the whole squad happy and entertained with our pick of the best DIY riverside hacks, gadgets and family-friendly games on the planet.

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Remember the good old days when kids made their own fun? When it wasn’t all about having the latest and greatest equipment available and you weren’t afraid to get a little creative on a shoestring budget? Well, that’s what this little yarn is all about. Yep, nothing says riverside camping like a bit of home-grown fun, and we reckon there’s enough amusement here to keep the whole tribe happy for years.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not about to go and reinvent the wheel here. In fact, we’re doing quite the opposite! Yep, it’s time to get back to basics and really make the most out of your next camping experience by the water. So ladies and gentlemen hold onto your hats – things are about to get a little bit more imaginative and a whole lot more fun!

A GOLDEN OLDIE – THE ROPE SWING

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Who can resist a good rope swing? There’s no shortage of them getting around the place, but not all are created equal. There are a few little tricks of the trade that can make your rope swinging efforts a little less strenuous and a whole lot more graceful.

The first is to tie plenty of knots along the rope so it’s nice and easy to hang on as you glide through the air. But to go one step further, you can add a bit of solid wood for a nice and sturdy grab handle – use a slip-knot so it tightens up as you put your weight on it. Another idea is to add a platform to stand on as you swing. Once again, make sure it’s nice and stable, and capable of taking your weight. Slide the rope through a hole in the centre of it and tie a nice big, strong knot so it can’t come off. One thing’s for sure; get this one right and you’ll be swinging like Tarzan – when he finally got it right that is!

MAKESHIFT FISHING LURES

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Forgot your fishing gear? No worries! You can turn just about anything into a lure these days. Bottle tops works a charm, as do those old shiny teaspoons. Heck, a bit of bloody rope with a hook threaded through the guts of it has caught many-a-fish over the years. We’ve even seen a decent sized Barramundi caught off an improvised lure using aluminium foil!

MAKESHIFT FISH TRAP

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For a bit of fun for the kids, you just can’t go past a cheap and easy bait trap. An old plastic bottle or two and a pair of scissors or razor blade are all you need to get the job done. Just cut the top off a large soft drink bottle, and insert it backwards into the bottom half of the bottle. Either duct tape it in place, or poke a few holes and use a bit of string as lashing to stitch it up. Tie a retrieval rope to it, then simply add a bit of bait into the bigger half and submerge it in water. The idea is the improvised end will funnel or guide the fish in as they go for the bait, and makes it very hard to escape once they’re done due to the small exit hole. 

SPONGEWORTHY

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Bring two buckets and a sponge and you can keep the kids occupied for hours! The idea is simple, quarter fill one bucket of water up and let the kids battle it out as they rush to transfer the water to the other bucket using only the sponge provided. The winner goes on to defend his prestigious winner’s crown! Make the stakes high enough and you’ll find kids practicing on their own against the clock!

TYRE TUBES

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Possibly the handiest bit of kit to carry in your offroad arsenal are a couple of spare tyres tubes. Not only are they good for those "just in case" emergency tyres repairs, but they come in mighty useful when you stumble across a beaut spot by the river too. You’ll need an air compressor to inflate them with air, and carry a valve remover tool for quick and easy deflation. If you’ve got a few tubes handy and some light rapids available, a cool idea is to link the tubes together and creating a floating train effect! While you’re at it, get the kids to split into teams and have each train-team paddle it out in the ultimate riverside race!

TOY BOAT RACES

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Now this one can be fun for everyone – the kids can build rafts, and the adults can gamble, responsibly! All you need is a bit of moving water and plenty of imagination to create the ultimate toy boat race! The best part is you can pretty much turn anything that floats into a lean, mean, racing machine! An old thong, a few bits of wood (old paddle pop sticks work great), kitchen sponges, bottles and cans – you name it! You can make things super interesting by adding a slide in entry ramp using a few lengths of PVC pipe too.

PLASTIC PIPE – YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND

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You would be astounded at just how much cool stuff you can make using a few bits of PVC and a little cognitive function – but the best part is it costs bugger-all!

Fishing rod holder: Okay, so we’re not here to tell you how to run your life, but if you haven’t jimmied up a home-made fishing rod holder, complete with a beer can bracket and a bait box, you’re missing out! There are a bunch of different designs out there, so let your imagination run wild!

Underwater viewing scope: Grab yourself a length of fairly wide diameter PVC pipe, cover one end with a clear waterproof seal, like cling wrap or plastic and watch the kids enjoy premium underwater viewing for hours and hours on end.

PVC raft: PVC pipes float like absolute champions, which have made them a popular option for DIY water rafts, kayaks and the like. A few bits of PVC pipe tied to an old pallet or plastic chair for rigidity can be a great source of budget fun. In fact, we’ve seen these sorts of home-made rafts help anglers catch some incredible fish over the years.

HAPPY DAYS

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Well, all that’s left now is to get out there and have a little riverside fun of your own. Remember, it’s not about how much money you spend, or having the latest and greatest equipment. A riverside escape is the perfect opportunity to break free of the hustle and bustle and really get back to the more primitive side of things, and let’s face it – isn’t that what draws us to give up four brick walls and a TV for a few sheets of canvas and a campfire?

Check out the full feature in issue #114 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.