Frugal Camping Tips

Camping can be an inexpensive and fun way to travel and spend time with family and friends. Here are some ways to minimize the costs and make it more enjoyable for all. This is a guide about frugal camping tips.

Girls roasting marshmallows over a campfire while camping.
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Article: Scout Camping on a Shoestring Budget

When my son was younger, I was the Cubmaster for his pack. Most of the scouts had single moms. The whole family goes camping in Cubscouts, but money was an issue.

When we didn't have money, the boys slept in my backyard in the tents. For breakfast, they cooked for their family on stove inside, usually pancakes for a $1. The older scouts helped younger ones (6 years and up) to cook. They watched not to burn it, since this was mom's breakfast and their siblings would tease them if it burnt, especially sisters.

At the State Parks, you can stay for a dollar a night in primitive. Other campgrounds, such as K.O.A., charged $5 a night per scout. Some campgrounds offered free camping when scouts helped clean up the campground. Scouts collected and sold cans for camping fee money or odd jobs.

Each scout made a cup when starting Scouts, which was brought everywhere with them as their official cup. Each scout had a mesh dish bag (made from mesh fruit bag with drawstring on top) in which stored his mess kit or made their own, consisting of fork, spoon, knife, dish, pan, and pot. Each scout washed his dishes or didn't have clean ones to use at next meal. Bathroom and dishtowels were used instead of paper napkins, washing and line drying them. Sand was used to clean up the burnt pots. I saved old foam meat containers that I washed in the dishwasher to use as paper plates for the moms.

For drinks, we had Sun tea and Kool-aid. The Dutch oven was used for the big oven. The scouts made solar ovens by covering pizza boxes with aluminum foil or by folding a silver sun visor into an oven. The visors could also be used as a mat to sleep and sit on. Metal coffee cans were used as Hobo stoves. We would burn wood collected on garbage night for firewood. Metal knife and flint were used to start fire.

For sleeping, we lined the bottom of tent with newspaper if cold, and a pillow made by stuffing clothes in a pillowcase. We used sleeping bags or quilts to stay warm in winter and slept on mats in summer.

I am proud of all my little men and they still talk about those cheep fun camping trips their Cubmaster took them on.

By Southernbelleklb from Jefferson, LA

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Tip: Solar Lights for Camping

By tootic 2 19

I discovered this by chance last year while packing for camping. I took my 2 outdoor solar lights to use in my tent. These have a flat bottom because they hang from small shepard hooks. I put them outside the tent door in sunlight to recharge during the day and brought them inside at night. Worked great and were fireproof.

By Tootic from Plainville, CT

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Tip: Take a Solar Yard Light Camping

By Marsha Fleenor 8 2

If you are a camper, you have probably at one time or another experienced having a very dark campsite. I have a simple and inexpensive solution for you. Pack one of the solar yard lights to take with you camping.

You can purchase them for less than $4 and they give just enough light to make your campsite safe and easy to walk around after dark. If you have tent stakes and you are concerned about your family tripping over the tent ropes after dark, the solar lights are very safe to use as there are no electrical wires or extension cords to deal with.

Solar lights are weatherproof and using a couple around your campsite usually are not too invasive to your camping neighbors. They are very handy if you have small children who have to be taken to the restroom during the night in the campground. The solar lights give just enough light to take away the scare of coming and going from the campsite.

By Marsha from Greenville, NC

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Article: Camping Advice for Cooking, Set-Up and More

Debra Frick

A large tent for campingI look forward to camping each year. Although I now camp in a Pop-up camper, when my children were little, my husband and I would take them Tent camping. Cooking over a campfire can be one of the most challenging things you will ever do. I almost always knocked one meal or the other in the fire. (My husband was always better at this than I was) Good thing I always had things wrapped in tinfoil so they were easy to get out of the coals. So first off the bat are some cooking tips and then here are a few of the tips, my husband and I came up with that just might help make your next trip easier.

Cooking Tips

  • Bring lots of tin foil: it is good for covering grills that are greasy, can be wrapped around dirty utensils until you get home if you have to leave unexpectedly, and can be used to line pans.
  • Channel lock pliers make good pot holders.
  • Canning rings can be use to cook your eggs in for egg sandwiches. This is a great tip as it makes eggs just the right size for English muffins or hamburger buns.
  • We always use plastic butter tubs for storage containers for our camp kitchen. Those new coffee containers that have the handles built right in are great for carrying food that you just want to re-heat at the campsite. They hold a lot.
  • Always carry a couple of milk jugs of water just in case. Keep one for drinking and one for emergency use only, like cleaning cuts. A couple of empty ones to fill while you are there to keep by the fire is a good idea too.
  • Use a cookie tin as a Dutch oven; this came in real handy when I forgot one.
  • Bring your own: Grills from old ovens can be used for fire grills. Refrigerator shelves cannot be used as they will release toxic gasses when heated. Good tip when every fire pit in the campground's grill has gone missing or when cooking for a crowd and you need a second one.
  • Save your wooden kitchen matches after you use them, they can be used as tinder for your next fire.
  • Soak charcoal briquettes in paraffin to make fire starters.
  • Do the handles get hot on those old cooking pots you take camping? Buy a couple of dollar store pot holders fold in half and sew down the side and across the top so you now have something you can slide over the handles.
  • Use zip-lock bags for mixing foods: be sure it is closed tight and the top is held shut before shaking or kneading.
  • I also now use a wide mouth juice bottle like you get from "Simply Orange" orange juice and pre-measure pancake mix into it. I also buy the complete kind so all I have to do is add water and shake away until completely mixed. Almost Instant Pancakes!
  • Line your cooler with foil and then add your ice. Cover with another sheet of foil it will help your ice last even longer.
  • If you camp a lot, you might want to consider building your self a camp kitchen box. Build a three foot by four foot box with a back to it. Now with L brackets put in some dividers where you can store your spices and can goods and box mixes. With a piano hinge, add a lid. Now when you get to camp and have un-packed it, stand it on end and you have a cabinet that can be set next to the cooking area with everything neatly in it's place.
  • A Frisbee will add support to paper plates when the plate is place inside the Frisbee.

Tent and Gear Tips

  • Use a large zip lock plastic bag, filled with air, as a pillow.
  • An old closed cell foam exercise pad or egg crate bed mattress will make a passable sleeping pad. It can be made even better by padding it with an old torn blanket and sewing a nylon cover over it.
  • If you have inherited one of those mammoth old canvas cabin tents and still want to use it, it can be made waterproof again by spraying it with Thompson's water seal for decks. Cheap and it does make them waterproof again.
  • This is a great tip for young boys (toddler age) that you don't want to take to the bathroom in the middle of the night; a plastic bottle makes a good latrine. (You don't have to 'go' very far from your sleeping bag). Keep it just outside the tent flap.
  • Old shower curtains make great ground cloths.
  • A length of chain and a piece of coat hanger bent into an S-shape will allow you to hang your lantern from a tree limb. Shepard's hooks also work well for this and for a hanging shower.
  • A small automotive water hose clamp can be used as a stop for your dining fly's upright poles.
  • Make a camp washing machine from a five gallon bucket and a toilet plunger. With a hole saw, cut a hole in the lid and slide the plunger down. Add water and some soap and have the kids take turns plunging their dirty clothes. They will think this is great and, especially with a baby or toddler, you will have clean extra clothes for them. Hang out to dry.
  • Making a slit in a trash bag large enough to let your head through will make an emergency poncho.
  • Laundry lint makes good tinder.
  • Cutting slivers off scrap lumber and heating in the oven to dry out the wood will produce some very dry tinder. Tuck into a square laundry box and you will have a fire going in no time.
  • To prevent night accidents in camp, use phosphorescent paint to mark the the top of corner pegs of tents, etc. Use glow in the dark rope for clothes lines or for hanging anything in trees that you might need to find in the dark.
  • Keep a dry bar of herbal soap in your sleeping bag to combat musty odors which develop during damp-season camping. It will also keep some bugs away.
  • Keep your toilet roll dry by packing it in a coffee tin with a snap-on lid.
  • Old worn out nylon tents can be recycled as stuff bags, tent bags, bear bags, etc., with a seam across the bottom and up the side to form a bag. If you want a draw string, just sew the top over on itself and thread a thin nylon rope through the hole.

Miscellaneous Tips

  • Make sure that each kid on your trip wears a whistle and is told not to blow it unless they are lost. Teach them that when they figure out they are lost and can't find their way back to sit down and don't move and blow their whistle.
  • Take a digital camera and take pictures, instead of picking wildflowers. If you must pick, be sure to pick only the blooms, not the whole plant. Some wildflowers are also endangered species so take along a nature guide before you pick anything.
  • If you are not familiar with poison oak, sumac or ivy, make sure you make yourself a little chart off your computer so you can have it handy in case you need it. One with poisonous snakes and spiders or other creatures is helpful too.
  • Ice cubes are handy when you have to remove a splinter from a hand or foot. Use the ice to numb the area around the splinter before operating.
  • When handling evergreens or pine cones, you can remove the sticky sap from their hands easily if you use baking soda instead of soap to wash.
  • To prevent batteries from wearing down if a flashlight is accidentally nudged on while you're traveling, put the flashlight batteries in backwards.
  • Kitchen foil can add extra warmth to your boots. Trace each foot on a piece of foil and add a 1 inch border. Place the foil inside your boots, shiny side up so you benefit from radiant heat.
  • For those long hikes, here is a life saver: Wear nylon footies next to your feet to help prevent blisters.
  • To keep mosquitoes away, rub the inside of an orange peel on face, arms, and legs.
  • Wrap fishing gear in foil to keep line from tangling and hooks from rusting. By lining the compartments of a tackle box with foil, you can prevent rust damage to plugs and other equipment.
  • To remove musty smell from a canteen, put three teaspoons of baking soda into the canteen with a bit of water. Swish it around and let sit for an hour, and then rinse out the canteen. This also goes for musty coolers or water jugs.
  • Cut a rubber glove, when discarded, into thin strips to create varied rubber bands. Store with your camping gear for quick repairs of tarps to poles or tarps to tents or anything else.
  • Slit a piece of old garden hose lengthwise to use as a sheath for your saw or axe.
  • Carry some sanitary napkins in your first aid kit. They are inexpensive, sterile, and very absorbent. Use them as compresses to stop bleeding. Small squirt bottles from drinks also make handy containers for your first aid kit to hold rubbing alcohol or peroxide.
  • Duct tape can be used to repair most everything on a trip. Use it to patch tents, mend poles, patch torn shoes, hold poles for mosquito nets to cots, etc.

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Tip: Tips For A Great Camping Adventure

By Sherry 72 83

  • Build a good fire at night, it keeps the bugs away.
  • Take all the ingredients for s'mores, a must have for camping. And don't forget the marshmallow sticks.
  • If you like to read, take good lanterns and battery operated lamps.
  • Remember to sit back and look at the stars. You never get to see them like that with all the lights in town.
  • Be prepared for any kind of weather. Take rain gear, warm clothes and shorts and tanks. I made that mistake once, thought it would be cold and it was 90 degrees.
  • A wonderful camping food if you have it is wrapping fresh fish, lemon, garlic and butter in foil and putting them in the coals in the fire. I've never tasted anything better. Works great for potatoes too, especially the small red ones.
  • Have a wonderful time!
  • By Mythi from Silverdale, WA

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    Tip: Single Use Salve Packs for Camping

    By coville123 326 89

    Single use salve made from strawsIf you are camping and going to be hiking or even just traveling, these will come in handy. Place a straw over the opening of the ointment and squeeze a small amount of it, about one quarter of an inch. Hold the end of your straw with your pliers, be sure a small part of the straw is sticking out. Take a lighter and melt the end and quickly pinch the melted end with the pliers to seal it shut .Then turn the straw around and find the point where the oinment went up in the straw. Pinch past that with the pliers and cut off excess. Leave a small piece of straw sticking out to seal off with your lighter.

    You can also put toothpaste, aloe gel and sanitizers in them. I thought this was a great idea. So I tried a few and they are really durable.

    Source: Some hiking site.

    By coville123 from Brockville, Ontario

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    Tip: Solar Shower from Milk Jug

    By averycrow 1

    When you are camping where there are no shower facilities, try this. Spray paint gallon milk jugs flat black. Set it in the sun and, wah lah, shower water.
    Wet down. Soap up. Rinse off. A gallon is plenty of water for a make-shift shower.

    Just be sure to check the water temperature. It can get pretty hot in the summertime. You can also use hot water for washing dishes or clothes or whatever else you need it for. Next morning, refill and do it all again! 1 gallon per person per day is good.

      CommentWas this helpful? Yes

      Question: Camping Tips

      By Pat Wilson 4 26

      I would love to hear other people's camping hints. Here are some of mine:

      • I save plastic bowls (margarine, cottage cheese, etc.) to use when camping. I keep plastic baggies to use, also great for leftovers.
      • I save foil pie pans to cover with foil to keep food hot.
      • I purchase cookware at yard sales and keep those items in a large tote to carry out to the picnic table.
      • I keep most of my condiments in a baggy so I usually have a variety of stuff.
      • I put clothing in a gallon size baggy with underwear, a shirt, and shorts. I then seal the bag as airtight as possible which saves space keeps clothes dry. It's also great for smaller kids going on vacation to fix a bag for each day (maybe two).

      Hope these suggestions help others and maybe someone has thought up some more.

      Have fun camping!

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      Most Recent Answer

      By Julia 147 1,074 Flag

      March 8, 2010

      When you plan to go camping, be sure you take the entire meal for the first night already cooked and prepackaged in foil packets, double-wrapped. It takes a lot of time just setting up camp, and if you have your meal already cooked and ready to warm up on the grill, you can devote all your time to the setting up and placement of the things you'll be using the next morning getting breakfast.

      Bake a roast of beef or maybe a couple of chickens with carrots, celery, potatoes and onions, and when it's done, make individual packets of double-wrapped foil with some of everything already cut into bite-sized pieces. Keep them on ice, and when you're ready to eat, place them on the top rack of the grill, and allow them to warm, then fold back the foil and set it on a pie tin and supper is ready. Easy supper and easy clean-up as well. Many times, I'd butter an entire loaf of bread...and many times, it was eaten before we retired for the night. Camping makes everyone hungry, I think.

      Plain pound cake is a staple of our camping expeditions. It's good with almost any kind of canned fruit, and will make a good breakfast snack any morning while you're waiting for eggs and grits to cook. If you like raisins, make the pound cake in loaf pans, adding raisins for a nice quick breakfast bread. Easy enough to slice and warm on foil too.

      Someone else mentioned using fleece throws for bedding, and I second that and add that they are about the best thing we've found for wrapping around you when you come out of swimming as well. They dry much faster than towels do and are warmer, and they keep you from getting chilled.

      Just one little safety tip I'd like to offer and that is to do a good survey of your campsite for anything like broken glass or things stuck into the ground which might trip you in the dark. Experience has been a great teacher.

      This is also a safety tip, but actually, I used it to protect my sanity more than anything. I bought tank caps in white and painted a big Red X (using bright red nail polish) on the top of each of my 3 daughters' swimming caps. Anytime I couldn't count three caps, I stopped what I was doing right then until I knew they were safe.

      Be sure to take along some card and board games for the rainy days which are sure to come if you're ever camping.

      Instead of soda pop, I'd take cases of the small bottles of water, and a large canister of Crystal Lite Lemonade. The kids get a lot less sugar, and drink more water which is really what we want them to do anyway. You can even open a bottle of that water, save a bit of it, and add good dry milk to the bottle, shake it really well, and you have milk for their cereal and for drinking. If they insist on Chocolate milk, add some Nestle's Quick, and it comes in strawberry as well. There are few things as much fun as camping if you are prepared to do some resting along with the fun.

      Instead of paper plates, I bought a dozen of the less expensive aluminum pie tins, and we ate from those same pans for years. Nothing tastes as good as hot baked beans eaten from a metal pan with a spoon while sitting around a fire. Kids love to "play" cowboys for most of their lives, believe it or not, and most men enjoy things which are simple too.

      Save and take with you as many of the old wire clothes hangers as you can get. I can't tell you how many good uses you'll find for them. You can bend them into loops to hang from tree branches to hold towels, or grocery bags of food, or dirty clothes. They make great "clothes lines" for drying clothes too.

      When we go camping, even the grandchildren love to pretend we are pioneers, and we all try to do as many things as we can without a lot of fuss or griping. The "Little House On the Prairie" books have been our source of pioneer information, and they are wonderful.

      Our children are all grown now and the grandchildren are quickly getting there, but camping has always been the most pleasurable family experiences we've shared and have provided all of us with the happiest memories.

      Go camping. Be safe and make sweet memories.

      Julia in Boca Raton, FL

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      Tip: Use Evaporation to Keep Food Cool

      By Verity Pink 43 17

      If you need to keep milk or cheese cool when camping or picnicking, wrap them in wet cloths and place in a bucket. As the water evaporates, it keeps the food cool. Remember to dampen cloths again when they dry out.

        Source: My woodwork teacher at secondary school - he used to keep milk cool in the classroom in this way, and said he learnt to do so in the desert.

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        Article: Tips For Car-Camping Or Backpacking

        By Paul Ziegenfuss 9 21

        If you're like me, you're going camping/hiking with friends/family this summer (or wishing that you'd be able to). Here's a few tips for your summer car-camping and backpacking trips:

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        Tip: Use Wet Wipes Instead Of Toilet Paper When Camping

        By ann 36 40

        We go camping in our travel trailer almost every weekend during the summer at a place where it is parked in a remote area with no water hook-ups. Since the holding tanks hold a limited amount of clean water that we carry up each weekend, we are unable to shower without running out before the weekend is over. :( We either wash in the lake if it is warm enough or have sponge baths if it is too cold. We also don't have a shower at our cottage, so when it the water is too cold to wash in the lake, we have sponge baths.

        For that extra clean feeling after wiping with TP, we started using the cheapest brand of baby's wet wipes. We use one or two of them after "going" and tie them up into a small bag for the burnable garbage for the campfire (or woodstove at the cottage). This practice made me realize that it was cutting way down on our toilet paper use, so we started doing the same at home.

        A handy tip for disposal: I buy produce at the grocery store, where they provide those small bags for your produce. After getting home and emptying the bags, I put them in a drawer beside the toilet. Then we place the used wet wipes into one, tie it up tight to eliminate odors, and toss it into the regular garbage pail.

        By ann from northern Ontario, Canada

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        Tip: Disposable Camping Toothpaste

        By Cyinda 214 1,287

        When I go backpacking and don't have one of those tiny travel tubes of toothpaste, I'll make my own so I don't have to cart the large tube of toothpaste with me. I simply take a piece of Aluminum Foil and fold it so it's doubled then squirt a line of toothpaste on it, then I fold the aluminum foil up and seal the edges by folding and pinching them, then I fold over each end several times then put this in a zip-loc baggie. When I want to brush my teeth, I just unfold one end and press on the bottom.

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        Article: Frugal Camping Tips

        A lot of these tips are for tent camping. They are inspired by some hints from an old Boy Scout site.

        1. Channel lock pliers make good pot holders for cooling on a camp stove or over a fire.

        2. Canning rings can be use to cook your eggs in for egg sandwiches. (Works well for English Muffins or Hamburger buns).

        3. Plastic butter tubs make good storage containers for your camp kitchen.

        4. A plastic bottle makes a good latrine for cold weather camping. Keep it just outside the tent flap.

        5. Old shower curtains and old plastic covered tablecloths make great ground cloths.

        6. Waterproof matches by dipping in melted paraffin, nail polish or shellac.

        7. Make fire starters by filling paper condiment cups with saw dust and pouring paraffin into the cup.

        8. Put matches in corrugated cardboard strips (about every other hole) and dip into paraffin for fire starters. Cut off what you need to start a fire.

        9. Make a double boiler for melting paraffin from a 1 lb. coffee can and a 2 lb. coffee can. Pour some water in the 2 lb. can and put the paraffin in the 1 lb. can. Bend a coat hanger so it will support the 1 lb. coffee can off the bottom of the 2 lb. can.

        10. A length of chain and a piece of coat hanger bent into an S-shape will allow you to hang your lantern from a tree limb.

        11. Keep batteries in an appropriate size prescription bottle to insure that they cannot run themselves down by accident. Bring a nail file or emery board to clean the connections. This can extend battery life.

        12. Prescription bottles make good match safes.

        13. Prescription bottles or 35mm file containers make good storage places for small items.

        14. Grills from old ovens or barbecues can be used for fire grills. Don't use refrigerator shelves as they will release toxic gasses when heated.

        15. A frisbee will add support to paper plates when the plate is place inside the frisbee.

        16. Make a camp washing machine from a five gallon bucket and a toilet plunger.

        17. Cutting slivers off scrap lumber and heating in the oven to dry out the wood will produce some very dry tinder. Remember to store in plastic bags for your next trip. Save candle stubs for fire starters or to use as paraffin to make other fire starters.

        18. Insulate your backpacking stove from the ground in cold weather with a 6" X 6" piece of plywood.

        19. Cover the ice in a picnic cooler with foil to help it last longer. Keep water in your canteen cooler by wrapping the canteen in foil.

        20. When handling evergreens or pine cones, they can remove the sticky sap from their hands easily if they use baking soda instead of soap to wash.

        21. To prevent batteries from wearing down if a flashlight is accidently nudged on while you're traveling, put the flashlight batteries in backwards.

        22. An empty plastic soda bottle, cut off to a convenient height, will work as a camp bowl. You may want to sandpaper the cut to smooth the edge.

        23. To conserve rope, mark each length of rope with a distinctive color and make a rule that the rope is never cut.

        24. Wrap a wet washcloth in a foil package and put it into your pack. You'll have a handy 'wet-wipe' for cleaning hands and face after a satisfying camp meal.

        25. Foil provides good packaging material for a campers personal toilet articles.

        Source: The original file for these low-cost equipment/ideas/fixes for Scouting and camping in general was originally found on a F-Net Scouting board and was reposted on Fidonet on Nov 11/92 by Steve Simmons. The file evidently originated with BSA Troop 886 in the USA.

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        Tip: Camp Clothes Washing Machine

        Make a camp washing machine with a five gallon bucket and a toilet plunger. The plunger does a good job of agitating the water.

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        Tip: Campground Shower Mat

        By Diane Shoens 1 1

        I save cereal boxes and use them to stand on after showering to get dry and dressed. Shower stalls are usually full of dirt off people shoes so I open boxes up where they are glued and keep a stack of them in the camper.

        CommentWas this helpful? Yes

        Tip: Use Raft as Air Mattress

        By wishy 11

        Use a blow up air raft, the kind used to float in a pool, as a bed when camping. The air raft carries flat and, when folded, it makes a small package. It is lightweight and it can be used as a float near the campsite if you are camping near water.

        CommentWas this helpful? Yes

        Tip: Plastic Plates For Camping

        By Lisa 6 2

        To save money and the environment, I purchased "picnic" plates from the Dollar Tree. They are made of thin plastic, making them easy/light to pack.

        CommentWas this helpful? Yes

        Tip: Bringing Electronic Devices When Camping

        If you are bringing electronic devices or flashlights, remove the batteries before packing and store them in a ziplock bag. That way if something accidentally gets flipped on, you won't run down your batteries.

        CommentWas this helpful? Yes

        Tip: Camping As A Frugal Vacation

        For a very cheap vacation when you've just married and young, why don't you go camping in your own state. Buy a tent when the season is over and borrow fishing poles or buy them at flea markets.

        CommentWas this helpful? Yes

        Tip: Tips For Forgotten Camping Items

        By Eileen M. 56 240

        If you forgot the filters for your coffee pot, tear off a piece of paper towel or use a paper napkin in the bottom of the basket. Add the grounds, and water and go ahead with your normal coffee routine.

        CommentWas this helpful? Yes

        Tip: A Flag or Marker For Your Tent

        When you are camping all the tents look alike to a kid. So that they always know where their tent is, attach a flag type identifier on the tent as high as you can.

        CommentWas this helpful? Yes

        Travel and Recreation Recreation Camping TipsOctober 11, 2011
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