Guide to Frugal Camping -- how to get started cheap, find free or cheap campgrounds and have a great time with very little money

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  • Guide to Frugal Camping

    Each year our family looks forward to some sort of vacation, whether its an overnight trip to a far-away water park or amusement park or even a weekend getaway. However, like many families, with the soaring gas prices and the overall rise in the cost of living this past year, our family is looking for some vacation fun closer to home.

    Our favorite and least expensive vacation is camping. Depending on your state and area you should be able to find a decent county park, state park or national forest near you for less than $12 per night.

    This past year we discovered a gorgeous County park that
    runs alongside a beautiful winding river that allows for free camping for up to 14 days at a time.

    In almost all cases, campsites at State and National parks offer picnic tables, fire pits, charcoal grills and plenty of recreational trails for bike riding, hiking and more.

    The Basics

    Initially, you'll need to come up with a few basics to get started. We recommend checking yard sales, garage sales, and rummage sales for items such as tents, sleeping bags, etc.

    Also, if you're willing to make an investment, you can often purchase large 8-12 person tent sets complete with folding chairs, sleeping bags, flashlights, and a propane grill for about $100. on Amazon. We found several such family deals last season.

    Ozark Trail 22 piece camping set with tent, chairs, grill and more
    You might find that it's worth a couple dollars to purchase an inflatable raft (such as those in the pool section of a department store for about $4 each) to use as a sleeping
    pad under your sleeping bag. If you plan on doing a lot of camping, it's worth it to invest in a self-inflating waterproof mattress pad.

    If you don't already have a camping cooler, you will need to invest in one to prevent food from spoiling.

    Other items that are handy to have are cups, silverware, plates, a pan that you can set directly into a fire, and tin foil. Most of these items you probably already have available in your kitchen cupboards. Of course, you could always go with paper plates too.

    A medium size rubbermaid storage container works wonders for holding all your "camp Kitchen" items while keeping out nosey critters looking for snacks.

    One thing that our family loves about camping is all the great, easy, inexpensive recipes that go along with it. The kids look forward to shoving chunks of veggies and hot dogs, etc on sticks to roast in the fire, hobo dinners, campfire potatoes and more.

    25 Favorite Tried and True Camping Recipes that will ensure your next camping trip ROCKS!

    Be sure to bring a camera, you might be surprised at the
    amazing photo opportunities that come your way.
    Once the initial purchase for basics has been made, your family can camp over and over again for just a few dollars.

    Repurpose a Nylon stocking to keep soap off the ground and handy while camping

    Things to Do:

    Generally speaking there is usually a wide variety of things to do for fun as most parks offer marked hiking trails, have access to water for fishing, swimming or seeking out small critters (frogs, crayfish). Oftentimes they also offer playgrounds with swingsets, or an area to play ball, frisbee or badminton.

    Use trick candles to light a campfire

    Other Help & Cheap Tips-n-Tricks

    We'd love to hear your camping tips below!

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    Comments 4 Comments
    1. CoolCat's Avatar
      CoolCat -
      Thanks for the ideas, and OMG I love the photos in your album! I can't believe some of those shots- especially the 2 headed turtle?!
    1. sparkofsunshine's Avatar
      sparkofsunshine -
      This is something my husband and I were doing even in our dating years. We have a cabin in our area where we go. It's about a half hour drive out of town and then an hour's hike into the woods. Great location, and great view. Can't wait to take our little ones out there!
    1. FreebieQueen's Avatar
      FreebieQueen -
      Quote Originally Posted by sparkofsunshine View Post
      This is something my husband and I were doing even in our dating years. We have a cabin in our area where we go. It's about a half hour drive out of town and then an hour's hike into the woods. Great location, and great view. Can't wait to take our little ones out there!
      Hi Sunshine! I think that's the most fun- taking the kids and seeing their reactions to something that you really love to do, having a chance to hike and walk through the woods and watching all the birds and critters with them.
    1. Sally Gordin's Avatar
      Sally Gordin -
      We take the family camping every year. It's great to see the next generation enjoying what I've done over the years. Now we also own a cabin so snow trips in the winter make great memories too. Sledding is so fun, then coming in to hot cocoa and some cookies. ummmm
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