Each year our family looks forward to some sort of vacation, whether it’s an overnight trip to a far-away water park or amusement park or even a weekend getaway. However, like many families, with the quarantine issues and overall rise in the cost of living this past year, our family is looking for some vacation fun a little closer to home.
Guide to Frugal Camping
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.
Frugal Camping 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 Amazon. We found several such family deals last season.
You might find that it’s worth a couple of 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.
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.
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 swing sets, or an area to play ball, frisbee, or badminton.
A great way to check out an area is to go geocaching. This sport is pretty cheap given the fact that these days, nearly everyone has a smart phone with a GPS built-in.
Other Frugal Camping Tips-n-Tricks
- Find Free Campgrounds in your Area– or campsites that cost less than $10
- Join your Local Freecycle – you may be able to get various camping gear for free, all you need do is ask.
- Repurpose old shower curtains as ground tarps for use under the tent. This helps keep the tent dry inside.
- Waterproof matches by dipping them into melted paraffin wax (old Scentsy tarts work well too)
- A 5-gallon bucket with a pool noodle makes a handy travel potty
- Make your own Waterproof campfire starters, or save lint from your dryer in a Ziploc bag and use it to start the campfire; It burns VERY well!
- For a little added fun that intrigues the kids, here’s how to add color to your campfire
- Use straws to store various seasoning mixes
- For a cheap lantern that offers lots of light, strap a headlamp onto a gallon of water.
We’d love to hear your camping tips below!