Camping isn’t exactly a hobby you take up on a whim. It requires a lot of advance preparation and inevitably a lot of gear. But the casual camper probably doesn’t want to invest a thousand dollars for a weekend trip. Here are some tips for saving on these 9 camping essentials.
Tent prices range dramatically from $50 to $500 or more. Most people will be fine purchasing what’s called a “three-season tent.” You may also be better off with a dome tent, which are easy to put up and typically provide more overhead space.
Tent size is listed by the number of people it holds, but unless you want to be packed in like sardines, always add a person or two to your headcount.
2. Sleeping bag
Down-filled bags are lightweight and cozy but they’re typically more expensive. For most casual campers, cheaper alternatives will do just fine. Many sleeping bags are graded by degree. Even if it’s hot during the day, some places can get very cold at night so be sure to get a good idea of the low temps at your destination and buy a bag with at least a 10 degree cushion.
3. Sleeping pad
If you want to get a decent night’s sleep, then invest in some type of padding under your sleeping bag. The casual camper will probably be most content with an air mattress. They’re extremely comfortable, easy to inflate with a portable pump, and can double as a guest bed in the future. They’re a bit bulkier than other options, but that’s okay as long as you aren’t backpacking to your camping spot.
It’s going to get really dark at night, so make sure you have a way to light up your surroundings. Headlamps are a convenient option but if you’re looking for something with a little more power consider a rechargeable spotlight.
5. First aid kit
Don’t head to the woods without it. Put together your own first aid kit with supplies around the house or buy a pre-packed kit. Check out the Red Cross website for a recommended list of first aid supplies.
6. Paper products
Stock up on paper plates, utensils, and cups. Don’t forget to bring garbage bags so you can easily follow the golden rule of camping and leave the campsite better than you found it. You’ll also want to bring your own toilet paper and soap. Campsite bathrooms are not always the best stocked.
7. Ice chest
Skip the bagged ice. Instead freeze water in recycled milk and juice jugs to create ice blocks. They’ll keep your ice chest cool without having to worry about melting ice soaking your food.
Avoid buying expensive camping cook gear by doing as much food prep at home. Hearty pasta and potato salads will hold up well in the ice chest. If your campsite doesn’t have a built-in BBQ, you may want to invest in a small propane camp stove. Foil packets are a great technique if you plan to cook over the campfire.
Find out in advance if there’s a safe place to refill your water bottle or if you need to trek in all the water you’ll drink. You may also need to bring jugs of water to set up an in-camp hand washing station or for cooking.