Our guide to low-cost, frugal camping.
1. Buy used gear.
Buying used gear on either ebay or craigslist is a great way to find deals on even name brand equipment. Make sure you thoroughly inspect anything before buying it, and we would avoid buying things like used sleeping bags.
2. Stay in a national forest or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) owned land.
Many of these campgrounds are free or have a small fee. The national forest campsites will not have electricity, but usually have running water. If you plan on staying at BLM owned land, make sure to bring your own water.
3. Borrow gear from friends or relatives.
One of my favorite tips that I just used. If you have any friends or family that love the outdoors, ask them if they have any items that you could use. Afterward, you can take them out for coffee or lunch to thank them.
4. Plan your meals ahead of time.
Especially if you’re going with more than 4 people. Call or use email to start a pot luck (eg. one person brings hot dogs, the other brings buns, etc). Write up lists of whose bringing what so everyone doesn’t end up bringing the same food item.
5. Freeze jugs of water and use them as ice in your cooler.
This works on two levels. You have free ice and when or if it melts down you have drinking water. This is a very inexpensive alternative to buying bags of ice that would go to waste.
6. Bring your own dishes from home.
Obviously you don’t want to bring your fine china out to the campsite, but any standard re-usable plates and utensils you have will save you from buying disposable cookware. Just make sure you set up a system for cleaning your dishes.
7. Used plastic food containers make for great storage.
Old coffee cans, Cool Whip containers, empty water jugs, etc. Use these to store any of your favorite foods. It recycles and saves you money.
8. Sleep in your car.
This may take the fun out of camping for some people, but if your car is big enough, sleep in it! This saves you from having to buy a tent, and for some will be more enjoyable.
9. Bring exercise mats to sleep on.
If you have any exercise mats (yoga mats, etc) or know someone who does, bring them. These work as little portable pads, which means you don’t have to go out and buy specialized outdoor sleeping pads.
10. Make a temporary shower.
Fill a black garbage bag with water and hang it from a tree. If you let it hang on a sunny day, by the evening you’ll have a nice warm shower you can use to freshen up with. Simply poke a hole in the bag and enjoy!
Please leave some of your favorite tips or experiences you’ve had while camping in the comment box below.