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.
Read and rate the best solutions below by giving them a "thumbs up".
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
Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here: http://www.thriftyfun.com/post_myfrugallife.ldml
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
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
If 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
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.
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.
By Verity 
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
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. Then when I leave the shower room, I dispose of them in the trash.
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, so it is double duty. A large bath towel placed on top of the air mattress will keep silky type sleeping bags from slipping off the top of it.
You will be thankful you toted along that air raft when you lie down to sleep. The inflated air raft will be way more comfortable than the hard ground, and it's cheap. Some stores sell air rafts for $1.00!
By wishy from Clinton, TN
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.
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:
That's all I can think of off the top of my head. Stay safe, and enjoy your time off work, folks! By PMZ from Houghton, NY
By Mythi from Silverdale, WA
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.
If you forgot (or didn't want to buy) the lid lifter for the Dutch oven, use your regular hardware-store hammer. The claw goes under the loop, the head of the hammer presses on the lid, and you can turn or lift the lid without getting burned!
"G.I. forgot" Box. Put in a few of whatever often gets forgotten: sanitary napkins, tampons, toothbrushes, sample size deodorant, pocket pack Kleenex, and anything else your family or group tends to walk off without.
Source: Other Girl Scout leaders and parents!
By Eileen from Elk Grove, CA
Editor's Note: Do you have any substitutions or helpful tips for often forgotten or missing camping essentials? Please post them in the feedback below.
I 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.
By Debra Frick
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. This is much cheaper than using foam or paper. I also purchased two plastic dish pans to be used to wash them at the campsite. Just heat a little of water, use one for washing and the other to rinse. When packing, these fit nicely in the bottom of a tote and the dishes can then be stacked inside.
By Lisa from Clarksburg, WV
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.
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.
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.
By Linda J.
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.
There are lots of things to do free at beautiful state parks. Buy yourself a cheap cooler and take your own foods. Save ketchup packs and such from restaurants. Use paper towels that are sturdy to bath with instead of wash cloths. Tie grocery store bags to a tree to use as a temporary clothes line. You can also use old strips of cloth. Save samples of soaps and such to take to bathe with.
Through the year, put pennies in a jar or whatever you can afford. You've got your gas money to go. I wish I would've thought of it years ago. Yeah, I'm creative now!
Give a "thumbs up" to the solution that worked the best! Do you have a better solution? Click here to share it!
Here are questions related to Frugal Camping Tips.
I would love to hear other people's camping hints. Here are some of mine:
Hope these suggestions help others and maybe someone has thought up some more.
Have fun camping!
By Julia 03/08/2010
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