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4 Tips for Saving Money on Camping

Guest post by Beverly Bennett from Busy Mom’s Tips and Ideas

Want to go camping but don’t have a large budget to buy all the supplies you need? Here are some suggestions for buying camping gear on a budget:

Borrow from Family or Friends

See if any of your family members or friends will let you borrow some of their camping gear. Some people are very particular about this and may not be comfortable about letting you borrow, but you never know until you ask.

Join Freecycle

Join your local freecycle group and watch the everyday ads. Post a request for camping gear and see if anyone has any they’d like to get rid of.

Buy from eBay

You can often find items new or used for great prices on eBay. We recently picked up a great tent for a bargain price off eBay. Just be really cautious of shipping fees, if you aren’t careful you can pay more than you would at the store new because shipping fees can be so expensive.

Use Leftover Firewood

We bring firewood with us when we go camping, however, while camping we make it our goal to not purchase any more campfire wood. We usually arrive at the campgrounds on Sundays soon after most of the weekend campers have left. We immediately go and look at the empty camp sites for firewood left behind. By doing this, we usually have enough firewood to last most of the week.

What ways have you found to save money on camping gear?

Beverly Bennett is a mom who enjoys writing. She enjoys sharing her journeys, tips, and passions on her blog, Busy Mom’s Tips and Ideas. She is blessed to have a hard-working husband and three beautiful girls.

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  • Steve says:

    Most campsites are discouraging if not prohibiting you from bringing your own wood because of a problem they are seeing with pests (insects) that are hurting the native trees. please check your local campground to see if you are allowed to bring firewood with you before you bring it

  • Stephanie says:

    Just a quick note for anyone camping in the Northeast, you are not allowed to bring in out of state wood due to invasive species that may be living in the wood. Any campsite we’ve gone to has been very strict about that in NH and ME.

    • WilliamB says:

      I believe the worst of the invasive species, moving from the US south northward, is the Ash Borer beetle. States, counties, and campsites are correct in banning out-of-area firewood.

  • Brandi says:

    Indiana will not let you bring in wood from other states

  • Elizabeth says:

    Iowa also won’t let people bring out-of-state firewood in. And the state parks are asking people to verify where they got their wood from. The emerald ash borer is making its way across the country.

    Leftover firewood left behind in campsites is a good idea, though. It’s already in the park We’ve left our wood behind for other people before.

  • Jessi says:

    Garage sales!! I had actually planned on blogging about it his week 🙂

  • Denise says:

    Great post! Do you have any help on saving on food costs? That’s where we usually have troubles 🙂 Altho, planning on baking potatoes on the fire every night at supper has helped.

    • Lynn says:

      Denise, I did a post below about my camping experiences and a bit about food. One thing that I didn’t mention that you might be interested in if you are having trouble on the food thing with camping is…the CROCK POT. Especially, if you tent camp (I have a camper and still crock pot quite a bit) and don’t have access to a kitchen. As you probably know you can make just about anything in the crock pot and then you won’t feel like you are eating hot dogs all the time!! That and if you are camping without a formal kitchen, sometimes cooking dinner over a fire can take a while, so the crock pot helps so your dinner is ready when you are!

      • Carrie says:

        I’m confused about the crockpot. Don’t they need electricity? Where do you plug in? Are you talking about a camper site with hookups? Or do you put your tent at the sites with hookups? I’ve never stayed at a tent site that had a place to plug in. (But, admittedly, we like the simple experience and prefer backcountry when we can.) It’s camping – cooking over the fire is part of the experience!:)

        • Rebecca says:

          We go tent camping, but still pay for a site with electricity. Usually cost $3-$5 more per day than the “rustic” sites in the areas we camp in (usually MI).

        • Lynn says:

          They do need electricity, ha! Like Rebecca, most of the parks we have stayed in have tent sites with electric. It made it a bit easier, although we do like cooking over the fire (you can find a way to make pretty much anything over a fire if you can make it in an oven!) as well. I always say it takes special people to enjoy tent camping, so the crock pot can help ease the process!

          • Sue says:

            One thing you might want to be careful of with the crock pot is before you start see if there are any warnings at you camp site.. Last year in New England they were having trouble with bears breaking into tents and such for food.. The camp officials were warning everyone of keeping food out.. I guess the bears were having trouble finding food and went into the sites..

            Sue in NJ

        • Raun says:

          Coleman now makes a propane powered crock pot. It’s kinda pricey, but might be worth it in the long run. It’s a neat idea and you can pass on the extra few bucks for electric hookups.

          Just a thought.

      • Rebecca says:

        Love this!

    • Diane, GJ says:

      Try foil dinners. You will meat (we have used pork loin chops, hamburger patties, chicken breast), vegetables (any in season or frozen, baby carrots are awesome), can of cream of mushroom soup, salt, and pepper. Layer the potatoes, meat, vegetables, then add about a 1/4 can of soup and salt and pepper. Fold the foil down on top and then the sides. Place on coals for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on meat). These are great and use what is normally found in the house. Hope this helps!

    • Carrie says:

      Mountain pies! We make pizza ones for dinner and pie ones for dessert. Yum!

    • karla says:

      We cook our meals ahead that are easy to freeze(chili, bbq pulled pork, stew..etc) We put them in plastic containers and freeze. When we are ready to go, we just put the meals in the cooler with ice and they actually stay frozen for a couple days. We just reheat it in a pot over a propane camp stove. Quick and easy!

      • Laura says:

        Great idea!!

      • Pamela says:

        That’s exactly what I do! So easy and it makes for “no thought dinners”…….For the pizza lovers…..try the flatouts breads topped with your favorite pasta sauce, cheese, etc…..cooks up nice over a campstove.Those ingredients are very easy to keep fresh and so easy to assemble.

      • Amber says:

        Us too! Just got back from a 4 day trip and used this method for most of our meals. Chili, Spaghetti, Nachos with taco meat, bbq chicken sandwiches, Chicken noodle soup. All made ahead at home and frozen 🙂 Helps keep the ice longer too.

  • Kristy says:
    We’re doing a travel segment and our camping post will come out soon. We always mix our vacations with camping, hotels and staying with friends. It relieves the vacation budget and adds a little extra spice.

  • Diane, GJ says:

    Look in your local thrift stores for good deals on camping equipment. In the fall, look on clearance racks and your local classified ads. I think the most important money saver on camping is that we don’t need all of the camping equipment we see in ads. In the summer, folded heavy blankets work as well as a sleeping bag (you are sleeping on the ground, it’s hard), if you can’t find an old stovetop coffee pot and can’t do instant, place a coffee filter on a small strainer, VOILA brewed coffee without the special coffee pot. Also, national parks are typically nice and maintained and tend to be way cheaper than state parks! Hope this helps!

  • AnneJisca says:

    Great tips! I think I might need to write up a post on ways to eat healthy but cheaply when camping!! We live in camping country, after all. 🙂

  • Lynn says:

    We camp quite often – although we have graduated to a travel trailer. I have gotten too old for tents! Ha! We too have found that most state parks have restrictions on transporting firewood, but that is typically listed on the State Parks page and on your reservation page. Here are some of my tips…

    If you are military you can actually rent campers (from pop ups to 35ft) from MWR in many of the larger installation locations. They are quite reasonable and can certainly be a better deal than buying if you are only going to camp, say once a year. Other RV dealers also have some rental programs but can be a bit more expensive. Obviously a pull behind is much cheaper than an actual RV you drive.

    Also, in my opinion, planning is key when it comes to food. I always make a menu plan for camping just like I do when we are home. It depends on how you are camping, will you have access to a kitchen or just a fire pit or a BBQ? I have made everything from veggies to pizza on a grill! If you are only going to camp once or twice, check with a friend to see if you can borrow a camp stove (then between the grill/fire and the stove you can make pretty much anything) or if you think you will camp often try like Beverly says to buy a good used condition one.

    Camping can be a huge investment in time and money and the idea of camping is sometimes much better than the actual camping trip. We love it and had some wonderful experiences camping, but I suggest you borrow as much as you can and try it out a few times first. You don’t want to buy a bunch of expensive equipment to sit in a box except for once/twice a year. We even rented campers before we bought one so we could work out what floorplans, etc we would like – what we really wanted in a camper. To be honest, it does get easier with every trip because you refine your process of loading/unloading/setting up, etc. You also find recipes that really work for you and it then you start being able to relax more on your trips.

    • Sue says:

      We bought a used popup a couple of years ago.. and the wonderful people who sold it to us gave us most of the stuff they had in side..
      I did pick up a few things..sheets and blankets on sale that were for the “camper only”. But once you go.. it gets better cause you are out there and are like.. Yea I need to get one of those.. But glad I did not buy that cause we would never use it.

  • Jamie says:

    Same in many parts of Ohio, no moving firewood. 🙁 Otherwise, those are great suggestions.

  • Laura says:

    Just a note that you should not, and in most places are not allowed to, bring your own firewood with you when you go camping. It can introduce new species of bugs and parasites to the area in which you’re camping and wreak havoc on the entire ecosystem! Saving a few bucks is not worth the damage to the environment you and your family will be enjoying.

    • Sarah says:

      Agree with Laura’s post. Bringing firewood to a campsite is unheard of when a species of insect exists which is destroying forests of trees.

  • Emily says:

    Craigslist is a good resource for bargain camping equipment. Also if you live near a REI store, they often have garage sales at their store for returned merchandise. It can be a good way to get quality outdoor gear for at a great discount.

  • Kerri says:

    Crockpots would be a great idea…if we camped near electricity.
    We have been very inventive in the past with Mountain Pie makers…even breakfast. Planning menus is key though because you only have what you bring. We prepare some food ahead of time so it only needs reheated…like pancakes and waffles.

  • Mar says:

    When we camp – not too often now, but when my daughter was younger – we are at a campground with electricity, so we take an electric kettle to make hot water for tea and hot chocolate and an old griddle that my parents gave me and use it to make eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc., in the morning.

    We use an old charcoal grill rack for cooking over the fire and place the items directly on the grill or in an appropriate pan, usually cast iron. Baked beans can be cooked in a can if you buy them that way, potatoes and corn can go directly in the fire, pulled pork can be cooked at home and just heated over the fire, etc. LOTS of fresh fruit and raw veggies will supplement anything you make and can be served first to keep the hunger pains at bay.

    Finally, fix EASY stuff so you can enjoy the trip, too.

  • chris says:

    I think quality camping gear is definitely worth the expense. I see people camping all the time with cheap junk and then getting all wet. Quality stuff goes up easier in the dark or rain too. My 9 year old can put all three of the tents we have up by himself. Good camping gear has gone down in the last 15-20 year. The beloved tent that DH bought for $350 in 1996 would cost way less today. We have one not super high quality tent and it does drive me nuts. The cords in the poles are too stretchy and cheaply made. The start up costs to owning better stuff (backpacker quality stuff) can be pretty high, but getting to camp in isolated spots that hardly anyone gets to see is worth it IMO . I’d start with a quality tent and work from there.

    I also see people bring way to much stuff in general. I think it is so much less hassle to travel lighter

    • Amber says:

      I agree with quality stuff! On our recent trip we got rain for HOURS 3 nights in a row. My family in 2 seperate tents stayed dry and comfortably warm the campers next to us got really wet and had tarps on top of thier tent. On sunday one of our neighbors told me that thier sleeping bags never got to fully dry out during the day. That would be SO miserable!

  • Nina says:

    I would recommend investing in a stove. Growing up, we went camping all the time. Our camping experience evolved over the years. We started out with just a pop up camper and used the grills and picnic benches provided. My parents expanded to buying a hibachi grill and camp stove and a foldable picnic table and two awnings and packed 2 coolers. My dad did all of the cooking when we went camping. He would cook breakfast (eggs, bacon, coffee) on the camp stove. We would have sandwiches for lunch. At night we would grill (steaks, hamburgers, chicken, etc). We would go out to eat usually the last night of the trip. My mom planned the menu ahead of time and worked hard to freeze the items and pack the coolers and a seperate dry food box. We were able to go on at least 3 trips a year by camping and cooking our own meals instead of staying in motels.

  • Sam says:

    One big budget buster for us in camping is food costs!

    The way we solve that is to plan every meal out in advance. We were able to pick up a couple of cast iron skillets at garages sales and these work wonders in cooking. Because when you’re camping, you don’t want to have to eat hamburgers and hotdogs every night.

    With a cast iron skillet and a campfire, you can make just about any meal you’d make at home. Our fave is tacos – because I can usually find all the items needed for super cheap. We also do a ton of foil cooking – our fave it to throw in a hamburger patty, put up potatoes and carrots in with french onion soup mix – this is very yummy!

    But I agree with a poster above that sometimes the thought of camping it much better then the actual camping. We found a great deal on a pop-up camper last year for $800 so made the investment. We found tent camping to be too cold too.

    Camping can be alot of fun with the right planning!! We did a week in Branson this year and saved ourselves over $500 over staying in a hotel.

    A few last tips:

    -Don’t over-pack! You have to have a place to store all that stuff while you’re sleeping!
    -Bring a can opener, a knife, a small ax and TP!
    -Start small – find a camp spot in your town before veturing too far from home!

  • amy says:

    It may seem counterintuitive, but I have found that sometimes buying less camping stuff, and spending more on a good tent (3 season, so when it rains you don’t get wet and head to a hotel) and a thermarest mat to sleep on, is important. With a good nights sleep I’m more creative, and able to come up with frugal and fun solutions to the challenges of camping with a family. Plus, I personally am able to enjoy the adventure much more.

  • Becky says:

    We go on a week-long camping trip every summer, and we know we will be going on the trip, so I try to stock up on “camping food” when I see it on sale throughout the year. We generally take several foods we wouldn’t normally eat at home (shells & cheese, canned pasta, pop tarts, pancake mix, snack packs of pudding, etc.) — they are very convenient on the trip (we’re at a music festival, so we aren’t just hanging out at the campsite) but are obviously neither healthy nor particularly budget-friendly … especially if I have to buy them all the week before our trip. When I see coupons for those items, I clip them and watch for sales just like I do for any other items, it’s just taken some getting used to because, again, they aren’t foods I’d normally buy, and I’m not thinking about our June camping trip in January.

    That’s a long babble just to say — planning ahead and stocking up is one way we save money camping! 🙂

  • Julie says:

    I just want to add to the chorus of folks warning against bringing firewood from home. I do some volunteer work for the Girl Scouts teaching leaders how to take girls camping. In Minnesota you are allowed to bring firewood only if you are staying pretty close to home (50 miles).

    A better strategy for saving money on firewood is to make fires that are only as big as you need (no big bon fires for a few marshmallows). Also plan ahead to get the most usage out of your fire (dinner, washing water, s’mores. etc),

  • Diane says:

    Since you are out and about anyway you might add the adventure of Geocaching to your camping trip. From the website:
    “Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online.” Families can enjoy geocaching while camping without any added expenses. Some campgrounds/state parks have several caches each. Many of the larger caches contain small items which if you bring something of equal or greater value you can exchange one item for another. There is a log book in each cache for you to sign. Some also include a tracker which if you agree to the conditions you can take. The tracker has a destination and if you take it you have to promise to put the tracker in a cache closer to its destination. Check out the website and videos and HAVE FUN!

    • Carrie says:

      I’ve always wanted to try this. Sounds fun. You need a GPS though, right??

      • Diane says:

        Yes, Carrie, you need GPS but if you have a smart phone you can use GPS on it. Caches can be found in rural areas – like parks and campsites BUT they can also be found in urban areas as well. Camping is not necessary. I imagine your hometown would have caches or your children might enjoy creating one?

      • Lori says:

        Yes, you need a handheld GPS, (not the one in your car!!), but several phones now have an app that you can just use your phone, too. My kids love to treasure hunt on our trips!

  • Pam says:

    As far as cooking, freeze all you meat before you go. If you have freezer space at home, you can pre cook your meat put it in a zip lock bags seal them and place into a large square container filling it with water around the bag. You will have to place something on top of it to keep the bag from floating. Keeps you meat frozen for 2 to 3 days, makes for quick meals, and cuts down on ice needed.
    I have cooked hamburger before we left for tacos, goulash, pizza’s, or stuffed zucchini. I would pre season all of it with onions peppers and what ever spices that would go into the dish.
    As far as chicken goes if you not going to eat it right away I would buy it where ever you happen to be camping. I have had chicken go bad and it was not pleasant.

    We camped in tents for 3 or 4 night stays and rented travel trailers, yurts, or primitive camping cottages for week long stays.

    Our basic list is the tent, inflatable mattresses, camp stove with a side burner, lantern, cooler, chairs or beach chairs are nice if you have the room. When our kids were little they slept on those floatable mattresses for a pool that I bought at a junk store.

    Everything else I brought from around the house including sheets and blankets. We did not own sleeping bags. My large plastic salad bowl or my stock pot did double duty as a dish pan. Like others have said make a camping list and think about what you will need.

    When we started camping we camped in the tent and our best vehicle was a Dodge Neon. I bought a soft sided carrier for the top and off the four of us would go.
    I hope you enjoy camping some of our best memories are of camping with the kids.

    P.S. Lynn,
    My kids are grown and we have the cruise bug at the moment. But last year I turned 50 and went tent camping for 4 days and loved it!

  • Sara says:

    My family went camping every summer as our vacation. We would camp 7-10 days in a tent. We would plan food for most of the week and then hit up the small local grocery store and see what they had on sale towards the end of the week. We never had electricity at our campsite, so all cooking had to be done on the fire. We always joked that we ate better when camping than we did normally. Our menu included: Ham steak w/ pineapple, baked potatoes, brats, hamburgers, chicken, pork chops, grilled veggies, lunchmeat, quesadillas, omelets, pancakes, cereal, oatmeal. Any food you cook on a stove top can be cooked over the fire if you can get your fire to the right size.

    One tip for cooking: put a coat of dish soap on the bottom and outside of your pans before you put them on the fire. When you go to wash them, all of the residue from the smoke will wash off easily.

    We would choose one thing each year to add to our camping equipment. After a 3-4 years, we had everything we needed. Everything after that was just “luxury” camping items.

    My dad always had us kids gather sticks and twigs in the area to help get the fires started (with permission from the campsite). This would cut back on how much firewood we would use.

  • Terri says:

    For camping recipes look online on Boy or Girl Scout website or Scout Shop. They carry equipment and cookbooks. Their websites have some good ideas to. My son is a Boy Scout and his favorite meal is the Hobo dinners(Foil packs) and for dessert take a banana in peel and split with a knife but not all the way through. Squeeze open just enough to put chocolate chips and mini marshmallows in and wrap with aluminum foil and put in the fire long enough to melt the chocolate and marshmallows.

  • Sarah says:

    Food ideas:
    1- just-add-water pancake mix in ziploc baggies. Add water, squish it around to mix, toss bag when done.
    2- what everybody else has mentioned- hobos in foil. So good!
    3- Banana Boats- cut a triangle wedge out lengthwise (like how Subway used to cut their bread), eat the triangle part. Stuff with marshmallows and chocolate chunks, cover with wedge of peel, wrap in foil, heat on fire, scoop out with graham cracker chunks. YUM!! A great twist on the old s’more standby.
    4- Freeze meat before packing cooler. Keeps the rest cold.
    5- Bring several dozen eggs. Great for any meal. Great with a leftover hobo thrown in there too.
    6- Easy lunches like cheese, summer sausage, and crackers.
    7- Make a big batch of trail mix before you go. Great for snacking and “meals” on the go.

    Other ideas:
    – a stove and propane tanks are really convenient. When you just want to toss something together quickly- esp. for lunch- and be out doing things again.
    -Bring an environmentally safe/biodegradable dish soap so you’re not tossing who-knows-what out into the woods beyond.
    -If you’re planning on buying a tent, get one bigger than you think you’ll need. If it says it sleeps 4, it will, but nothing else will fit in there. If it rains, you want to be able to bring stuff in, too.
    -If you are bringing canned food, don’t forget the can opener! Experience talking here.

  • Rebecca says:

    Love all the great ideas this is perfect timing for us, thinking of planning some camping trips when the heat breaks in our area. 🙂 Thanks!

  • Michelle says:

    WI does not allow campfire wood to be transported more then 50 miles due to emerald ash borer bug infestation. It’s a huge fine, several hundred dollars. Just something to keep in mind if you aren’t camping close to home.

  • Lisa says:

    We camp a couple times a summer – they have been our best family “vacations” – lots of memories! We We started accumulating camping stuff slowly over a couple years – it helped to offset the cost a lot to shop sales, clearance and garage sales. We bring a small grill and a 2 burner propane stove and are able to cook pretty much anything easily. I freeze all my meat before going and it slowly thaws in the cooler as well as keeps things cold without having to add too much ice. We tent camp and besides the tent, we bring air mattress to sleep on, sleeping bags, folding chairs, and our bikes. I put all the kitchen stuff in a rubber maid container and store it in our garage during the year. (pots, pans, utensils and anything else I need for cooking) I bought all the kitchen stuff for super cheap at garage sales and since I have a bin just for camping kitchen stuff, I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything for the kitchen. (just grab it out of the garage before leaving) We also bring a rubber maid bin of food, as well as a couple coolers. We usually camp for 5 days, so that’s a lot of meals to plan for, but we figure if we’re going to all the work of packing and setting up, we might as well as have a few days to relax and enjoy God’s beautiful creation!

  • Camille says:

    We just started camping as a family this summer. We did borrow gear from very generous friends! But I was pleased to discover that REI will rent gear as well. I”m not sure what it costs, but it may be worth looking in to just to try things out. My aunt in CO suggested this as most of the outdoorsy stores in her area in Denver rent gear.

  • Samantha D says:

    Dutch ovens are great for camp cooking! We have 2 good sized ones that we make a big dinner in. We usually get it nice and hot and sear 2 pot roast / venison roasts. Then add a beef broth. Let that cook down for a few hours. Then when it gets close to dinner (about an hour away) we add potatos, carrots, etc.. to the mix to cook (or we precook them, or take the meat out to make room for all the veggies) this feeds a lot of people, and great leftovers. The second pot we use to cook some porkchops and chicken at the same time. Then add some bbq sauce, that way we had something for everyone. The recipes for the dutch oven are endless. Long as you take care of it and season it right they last forever! Downsides are that it takes constant attention (especially getting the coal, ready and making sure you keep rotating them to the needed areas on the pot) So only do it if your around camp most of the day.

  • Beth says:

    I don’t agree with you about taking fire wood from other empty sites. I think that is stealing. The camper that left it, left it for the next camper not you. I would suggest buying your own instead of stealing other peoples. Remember it wasn’t left for you! We just returned from camping and as we pulled up to our site someone was taking the leftover fire wood. We asked her to put it back.

  • Amber says:

    We have a camping box with my “kitchen” type stuff in it. Pots & pans, utensils, plates, bowls, cups, coffe cups, coffee pot, foil, garbage bags, dish towels, pot holders, dish soap, containers of seasonings, packets of salt peper sugar, small mason jar with veg oil, ziploc bags, paper towels, can opener, cork screw. We just grab it when we are ready to go. Over the years the contents of my box has grown. have fun!

  • Deb says:

    I kinda agree with Beth..although I dont consider it stealing, I do think it is inconsiderate to go around to all the empty campsites and get the leftover wood. When we camp in AZ it seems to be an unspoken rule…to leave some firewood for the next people using that particular site. There is always some sitting there waiting for us when we arrive. It does not seem fair that others go without so that one group can be well stocked for the week.

  • Jenny says:

    We just got back from camping and left some wood at our site, we didn’t care who took it. We had found it ourselves! It is the Emerald Ash Borer that is the issue, so really only ash wood is dangerous, but the ban is on all wood. If we’re nearby, we’ll bring it as my husband chopped our wood himself and knows what kin it is, plus it’s only 20 miles or so.

  • Courtney says:

    VA has quarantined many counties and has restrictions on bringing wood into an area because of the Emerald Ash Borer problem. This is a non-native invasive species that is decimating Ash trees across the country. If you buy wood to burn, burn it all or leave it behind to prevent the spread of EAB.

  • Rachel says:

    We LOVE to camp- its such a great way to take a much needed vacation for very cheap. I know this might sound odd, but I would rather sleep in my tent than in a substandard hotel!

    I agree with what others have said about investing in a good tent. We did not skimp on our REI 4-person backpacking tent and have not regretted the decision to splurge. It keeps the rain out completely-on a recent camping trip we found ourselves stuck in a puddle during a downpour, yet everything inside the tent remained dry. It is so easy to set up, light and compact for packing, and has plenty of room for what we need it for. Another thing that i s good to have that you don’t necessarily need to buy used is a basic single burner camp stove. I think we got ours from walmart for like $25 and it works great. Fuel for little stoves such as this is cheap and abundant. Campfires are wonderful to enjoy, but if you cook all your meals over it, it can get expensive with the price of firewood (around here it can get as high as $10 a bundle), and it is not as reliable if the weather turns sour or the firewood gets wet ect. Also make sure to get some kind of a tarp to create a shaded/dry spot for cooking and serving meals. This is invaluable on hot days at a sunny site or during unexpected rain showers. With the tarp and stove, you can continue cooking even in the rain.

    Also, a word on blow-up mattresses: do not use them if you plan on camping in cooler weather. Most do not insulate properly and you will feel the air inside the mattress getting cold, creating an uncomfortable undercurrent throughout the night. Instead, try to get a Thermarest type of pad that insulates while still providing cushion. I personally find these much more comfortable anyway!

  • Courtney says:

    For people who want to try camping without purchasing all the gear first, Texas has a program calls Texas Outdoor Families. The cost is $65 for up to 6 family members; they provide the equipment and a list of supplies you need to bring. There are workshops at parks all over the state during the fall and spring. It is something that I’ve been wanting to try.

  • Cathe says:

    Unless you want meals to be a major part of the camping “experience,” I recommend cold cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and hot dogs or something that can be made in advance for dinner. Bring some fruit and veggies and maybe some cheese. We were more interested in the hiking, swimming and other activities than in spending time preparing and cleaning up after meals. It’s supposed to be a vacation!! I often felt like camping was a lot more work than staying home.

  • Cynthia heber says:

    I love all the ideas. I make macaroni salad with spinach and bacon ranch dressing, every labor day is our anniversary. we have a shoprite right near allayer state park. We always have lobster one night. We preorder the lobsters ahead of time. They steam it for you. We save alot of money that way instead spending it at at the restaurant which can be so expensive. One nights meal. Seafood dinner. Many times of the year they have lobster on sale. This labor day I am going to make meatballs and cover them with BBQ sauce, steak one day, chicken another day, we just bought three cots because it was a pain to inflate the airbeds. Then it was uncomfortable sleeping on the floor.

  • Christen says:

    I take my daughter (single mom) camping a few times a year, and am just getting into long distance backpacking. My advice is to focus the 3 main things: tent, food prep, & bedding. If you’re planning on going a lot, spending a little extra on these things (even if it’s still a great deal on eBay or rei sale) is going to save you a lot in the long run. Also, especially if you have kids you really don’t need fancy sleeping bags etc, grab a bunch of blankets & make a bed in the tent. Don’t overthink the food. I have an awesome little butane stove we got at a yard sale & kids will eat pretty much anything if they get to put it on a stick and cook it themselves! I can go on forever about camping stuff…

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