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DIY Boat Wars

Everything you need to know on how to compete


DIY Boat Wars is a chance your chance to test the laws of buoyancy atop a pile of recyclables, but also an opportunity to launch a piece of personality onto the reservoir. You can build a boat that's creative and imaginative, and/or one that's sleek and slim for racing. No engines or motors of any kind are allowed. Propulsion power or any other kind of stored energy is also prohibited. All race boats can only be powered by means of oars or paddles (human power only). All boats must be made of only recyclable materials; i.e.milk cartons, milk jugs, aluminum cans, wood, durable cardboard that will not disintegrate in the water, but NO GLASS. Binding elements like tape, screws, and glue are allowed but no other non-recyclable materials are to be used in constructing the boat. The final DIY boat must have at least 50% of the cartons exposed to water.
New to Campout 2019 we want everyone to get involved in this giant arts and crafts project that will allow you to float off onto the water.


The race itself is split into two categories, speed and style.

Speed: The first boat to make it across the reservoir will win the most points for their color team, second and third will also collect descending points accordingly.

Style: The Bird’s Choice is given to a boat that is the crowd favorite, design wise. Our campers love to get creative so i’m sure we’ll see some wacky and fun boats out there!

Whether you’re looking for the chance to learn a new skill, a game to play with your friends or an opportunity to make a few new ones, you’re sure to find a daytime game or activity that will take your Campout experience to the next level!

creating the design

  • Begin by sketching the design of your boat (including dimensions)
  • Make a list of supplies you will need (including weight)
  • NOTE: each ½ gallon carton/jug floats 4 pounds
Racing boats are usually lightweight - long and narrow - like a kayak. You should begin by sketching a design of your boat, noting the dimensions. Next, you’ll make a list of the items needed to complete the vessel, as well as their weight. Frame, decor, and person(s) operating the boat should all be accounted for. Then you will calculate the number of milk jugs/cartons you will need (the Dirtybird Team recommends using mostly milk cartons or jugs as they float the most weight (4 lbs per carton vs. 8 lbs per jug) . The weight of the vessel and your crew must be fully supported by the buoyancy of the boat you’ve created.

Frames can be built of wood (this is the only exception to non- recycled materials), plastic or aluminum. Above the waterline, you may decorate your boat however you choose. Be creative! You may use glue, nails, tape or other construction materials to bind your boat. You must, however, make sure that all parts are securely fastened. Milk cartons/jugs are the most important materials for the boat. It's easy to collect cartons/jugs if you save until Campout. If you haven't started a collection, you can ask your friends, family, and neighbors to help. You can also find milk cartons/jugs at coffee stands, restaurants, hospitals, cafeterias, etc.

Gathering supplies

  • Frames can be built of wood, plastic or aluminum
  • You can use glue, nails tape or other construction materials
  • The most important supply: milk cartons or gallon jugs (start collecting now!)
  • No other materials should be utilized other than those listed above

Constructing the Boat

Here is an example of how to build a milk carton boat. You may choose to build your boat differently, and that's okay. These general instructions will get you started. Frames should be joined together with wood screws, using wooden 2x4s for the main structure. You can follow these instructions to make a basic frame and/or visit this website HERE to help guide you in the right direction.


Cut one board into 4 equal lengths. Place two 8' boards parallel to each other, approximately 20" apart. Using the 4 short pieces, attach one board at either end with wood screws, keeping the 8' boards 20" apart. Attach one short board, mid-length as the seat and the short final board 14-18" in front of seat board. Finished frame will loosely resemble a rectangular ladder. Keep milk cartons water-tight by hot-gluing and stapling the mouths shut. Use hot-glue to keep lids on milk jugs. Then hot glue the cartons/jugs together in bundles or wrap the cartons in duct tape. Use duct tape or hot glue to connect the cartons to the frame. Prevent cartons from breaking loose by using chicken wire or mesh on the bottom of the boat. DO NOT enclose the cartons completely within the frame, as they must be visible. If not, it will result in a disqualification when inspected. You can make your boat as a single unit or pieces that can be put together at Campout. Bring all of your supplies and allow adequate time for construction on race day. Do a Trial Run! Don't forget to test your boat with a trial run. Look for flooding in milk cartons, breaks, cracks, stability in water, and how the boat handles in the water. Plan a trial run with enough time to fix anything before race day. You can make your boat as a single unit or pieces that can be put together at Campout.



  • DO decorate your boat with pizzazz and flair but…DON’T use any paint or other easily deteoriable decor as the reservoir acts as a clean water source for the surrounding area! We need to keep litter and debris far from the water, so please securely fasten your decorum to your boat.


  • DON’T enclose the cartons completely within the frame, as they must be visible. If not, it will result in a disqualification when inspected.
  • DON’T forget to test your boat before the final race, DO a trial run! Look for flooding in milk cartons, breaks, cracks, stability in water, and how the boat handles in the water.

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Dirtybird Campout

22647 Ventura Blvd #1004
Woodland Hills CA 91364

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