26 cheap camping tips

Backpacking and camping are awesome frugal activities. It costs nothing to take a hike. It costs a bit more to camp overnight, but even that can be done inexpensively. While browsing the web for camping stuff, I stumbled upon a great list of frugal suggestions that were originally posted to the Usenet group rec.scouting on 03 December 1994!

According to the original poster:

These low-cost equipment/ideas/fixes for Scouting and camping in general [were] originally found on a F-Net Scouting board and [were] reposted on Fidonet on Nov 11/92 by Steve Simmons. The file evidently originated with BSA Troop 886 in the USA.

This list is HUGE. Here are my favorite ideas:

  1. Channel lock pliers make good pot holders.
  2. Nylon rope can be used as shoe laces.
  3. Use a large zip lock plastic bag, filled with air, as a pillow.
  4. A plastic bottle makes a good latrine for cold weather camping. (You don't
    have to ‘go' very far from your sleeping bag). Keep it just outside the tent flap.
  5. Carry several pieces of lumber cut into two-inch squares to summer camp and
    use these to level platform, tent, and cot.
  6. Old shower curtains make great ground tarps.
  7. Waterproof matches by dipping them in nail polish.
  8. Waterproof matches by dipping in melted paraffin.
  9. Make fire starters by filling paper condiment cups with saw dust and pouring
    paraffin into the cup.
  10. A length of chain and a piece of coat hanger bent into an S-shape will allow
    you to hang your lantern from a tree limb.
  11. Keep batteries in prescription bottles.
  12. Prescription bottles also make good match safes.
  13. In fact, prescription bottles (or 35mm file containers) make good storage places for small items of all sorts.
  14. A frisbee will add support to paper plates when the plate is placed inside
    the frisbee.
  15. Laundry lint makes good tinder.
  16. Keep the water in your canteen cooler by wrapping the canteen in foil.
  17. When it comes time to pack up at the end of a camp, a wet toothbrush, face
    cloth and bar of soap wrapped in foil won't dampen the other things in your
    kit.
  18. To prevent batteries from wearing down if a flashlight is accidently nudged
    on while you're traveling, put the flashlight batteries in backwards.
  19. To protect your feet from blisters, smear soap on the inside of your inner
    sock at the heel and underneath the toes. Carry along a bar of soap and,
    when you feel your feet become tender, give it a try.
  20. To keep mosquitoes away rub the inside of an orange peel on face, arms and
    legs.
  21. Wrap fishing gear in foil to keep line from tangling and hooks from rusting.
    By lining the compartments of a tackle box with foil, you can prevent rust
    damage to plugs and other equipment.
  22. To remove musty smell from canteen, put three teaspoons of baking soda into
    the canteen with a bit of water. Swish it around and let sit for an hour,
    then rinse out the canteen.
  23. An empty plastic soda bottle, cut off to a convenient height, will work as a
    camp bowl. You may want to sandpaper the cut to smooth the edge.
  24. Save inner cardboard tubes from kitchen and toilet rolls, stuff with waste
    paper and use as fire-lighters.
  25. Use zip-lock bags for mixing foods, be sure it is closed tight and the top
    is held shut before shaking or kneading.
  26. Duct tape can be used to repair most everything on a trip. Use it to patch
    tents, mend poles, hold up schedules, patch torn shoes, hold poles for
    mosquito nets to cots, etc.

If you like these, check out the entire list.

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Scott
Scott
14 years ago

Unfortunately, #18 won’t work with most flashlights. Unless the flashlight uses LEDs, it will still work.

sofia
sofia
14 years ago

I never heard #20 before, I wonder if it really works… Mosquitoes always bite me in the worst place at the worst time (ie. last time on my chest 2 minutes before a job interview).
But I would probably smell awefully like orange, and that wouldn’t be convenient either…

MitchN
MitchN
13 years ago

For #18, the battery flashlight trick, I’d like to clarify what’s meant. Most flashlights take 2 batteries in the “tube”. Reverse ONE of these batteries, not both. So, you’d end up with both “-” sides of the batteries in the middle of the flashlight and both “+” sides are at the ends (which connect to the bulb). So, even with the flashlight switched “ON”, both sides of the bulb will see 1.5 volts (no voltage difference) and no current will flow. Go ahead and try it one of your flashlights overnight! I always do this for the flashlight I keep… Read more »

David
David
12 years ago

That is a great camping tips list you have compiled. Camping makes for a great family holiday as it’s relatively inexpensive and still good fun!

Dave Nathanson
Dave Nathanson
12 years ago

Unless you are an inexperienced camper, or traveling with inexperienced campers, try to camp at campgrounds that do NOT provide running water. These camps are almost always Free, and you’ll find they are far less populated. You may even get the whole place to yourself! If you are an AAA member, get their camping map for your area. It’s a great resource, and will tell you what features each campground offers. Call well ahead to check with a Ranger to verify details, fire rules, and to make sure the area hasn’t been closed.

Jeff Hicks
Jeff Hicks
11 years ago

A much better way to keep mosquitoes away is to put Listerine on. It works like a charm. I have one bottle all summer and barley have used much of it and and have had bites only when i forget to put some one when i let the dogs out. It really works and I am very happy about that. Mosquitoes seem to love me. 🙂 Now they stay way.

“To keep mosquitoes away rub the inside of an orange “peel on face, arms and legs.

Erica Stone
Erica Stone
10 years ago

When I was growing up, we spent several weeks every summer camping in NY. Our family and one other would head to the same camp site and set up our tents next to each other. It was the most fun, most memorable moments of being a kid. My parents had a ton of tricks they used to keep all of our gear (and four kids) organized and I wish I remembered any of them. This list will come in handy when I take my kids this summer. We’re planning a one week outing by a great river and can’t wait… Read more »

Ganie
Ganie
10 years ago

You can also use rubbing alcohol on your feet to harden the skin and prevent blisters.

Joe Oliver
Joe Oliver
8 years ago

#14 is brilliant.
I love this list. I will be sharing this with the campers I know. Thanks for the tips.

Darell Swingle
Darell Swingle
7 years ago

Hello there, I just found your blog through Google and I’m glad I’d click the link. Thanks

mindy
mindy
7 years ago

This summer we are planning a trip from NJ to Montana. We have recently purchased a travel trailer. So we need campgrounds to stay at. We are more for fishing and hiking so no frills is ok. We do have a 10 year old so trying to keep cost down so we can do some amusement parks. He to is more into history and nature.

10 Essentials
10 Essentials
7 years ago

There are a few good tips here. Some are impractical for most campers – like carrying heavy pliers for a pot holder. Prescription bottles and ziploc bags can always come in handy though. I like the cardboard tube idea, that’s a light, easy to carry item.

Beyond The Tent
Beyond The Tent
7 years ago

Love the tips. One thing we do is always bring a long rope with. Our 5 kids can think of 1000 games to play with it, plus we have had tons fo times where we have needed all or pieces of the rope for various things.

Lemont Southworth
Lemont Southworth
7 years ago

Tip #15, dryer lint, keeps getting passed around but it only really works if the lint is from cotton fabrics, like towels, denim, and underwear. Lint from synthetic fabrics tends to melt instead of ignite.

James
James
6 years ago

I have tried #20 in the past and it was a life saver. I just hate mosquitos and I tries every cream that is anti mosquitos but none worked 100%. I guess that the trick with the orange peels will work better if is combined with other anti mosquito products… anyhow great advice.

Robert
Robert
6 years ago

Great tips. I like the frisbee idea. Thanks!

Joh
Joh
5 years ago

Great article. I would like to add that heavier people have issues with cots and beds. Putting judgment aside, if you are larger than average you can’t just go into a big box store and buy a cot. The average max capacity is 225 lbs. I have linked a reference site. A good cot is sooooo much easier to deal with than an air mattress that lays on the ground. Bad knees and back – ouch!

Austin
Austin
5 years ago

Another food tip – instead of marinating meat in plastic bags all day, if you’re cooking on a campfire just wait till the coals get grey and ashy, then cover them in rosemary. The flavor should spread to whatever you’re cooking

Harold W. Weaver
Harold W. Weaver
4 years ago

Thank Roth! All are fact tips that useful for me, who love camping without much money.

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