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Frugal Camping Tips

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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.
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By 18 found this helpful
May 22, 2012

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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By 15 found this helpful
October 11, 2011

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.

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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 Fleenor from Greenville, NC

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January 3, 20128 found this helpful

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.

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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.

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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 Kathy Bourg from Jefferson, LA

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July 18, 2012

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.

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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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By 9 found this helpful
March 10, 2014

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.

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March 27, 2014

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.

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Debra Frick0 found this helpful
February 22, 2008

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.

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July 4, 2007

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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By 1 found this helpful
June 12, 2007

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.

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October 10, 20052 found this helpful

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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By 1 found this helpful
June 4, 2008

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.

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By 3 found this helpful
February 9, 2012

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.

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By 2 found this helpful
August 5, 2013

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.

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By 2 found this helpful
August 12, 2011

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.

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June 30, 20060 found this helpful

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

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By 0 found this helpful
June 22, 2007

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.

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June 30, 20060 found this helpful

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.

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June 25, 20040 found this helpful

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.

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May 30, 20170 found this helpful

If you camping in a primitive space, a bucket can easily be used as a toilet. This is a guide about using a covered bucket as a camping toilet.

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By 0 found this helpful
May 21, 2012

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.

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September 28, 20050 found this helpful

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.

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
June 28, 2006

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!

Answers

June 29, 20060 found this helpful

Here's some I could think of that we do:

*save your paper towel cardboard rolls and stuff them full of plastic grocery bags for later use

*buy one of those cheap drying racks at your supermarket to dry wet towels or swimsuits on (found mine for about $8 in the laundry section with the ironing boards, etc)

*use clear containers or baggies to make things easily visible

*We have found that fleece materials for bedding stay dry better, and don't hold that damp feeling

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By Cheryl from Missouri (Guest Post)
June 29, 20060 found this helpful

This tip is more for canoe trips. We save our old tennis shoes to wear on the river. At the end of the day we put them in the trash. Old shoes get one more wearing and no stinky, wet shoes to bring home.

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By Michele (Guest Post)
June 29, 20060 found this helpful

Learned this trick from Girl Scouts...soap the bottom of your cook pots and they won't turn black over the fire. You have to coat them from the rim down the sides.
Break your eggs in a plastic baggie so you don't have breakables like that riding along.

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Anonymous
July 24, 20070 found this helpful

MARK YOUR METAL ITEMS WITH AN ELECTRIC PENCIL:
-"WRITE" YOUR NAME, CITY/STATE ON YOUR CHILDREN'S BICYCLES, YOUR CAMPSTOVE, AND ANY ITEM THAT COULD BE STOLEN FROM YOUR CAMPSITE. THE ELECTRIC PENCILS WILL WRITE ON PLASTIC ITEMS ALSO. ALL CAMPS HAVE A RECORD OF THE CAMPERS AND CAN BE LOCATED IF ITEMS ARE RETRIEVED FROM THEFT OR LOSS UNLESS YOU CAMP IN A PRIMITIVE AREA WHERE NO WRITTEN RECORDS ARE KEPT OF YOUR VISIT TO THAT AREA.

WE MARKED OUR CHILDREN'S BICYCLES WITH OUR NAME/CITY/STATE SEVERAL YEARS AGO; THE BICYCLES WERE STOLEN FROM THE CAMPSITE; THEY WERE RETRIEVED BECAUSE OF THE ENGRAVING ON THE BICYCLES.

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May 24, 20090 found this helpful

The one item that I find makes our camping trips more enjoyable that I wouldn't have thought of unless someone suggested it to me is a doormat. I put a large doormat outside our tent to reduce the grit and dirt that gets tracked in. Seems pretty obvious, but I took our first couple of trips before someone suggested it to us. Much better now.

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March 8, 20100 found this helpful

Pack your food in clear totes, one for breakfast, one for lunch, one for dinner. Most of the time keeps you from having to dig in all to find what you need.

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March 8, 20100 found this helpful

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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