5 Hacks for the Frugal Camper

You can spend big bucks on state-of-the-art tents, camping stoves and clothing. However, you can enjoy the great outdoors even when you’re on a budget. Get out on the trail, into the mountains, atop the peak or just go car camping with these tips for frugal campers.

Be a Mooch

Take it from college students at a tailgate party, mooching can save you a lot of money. While tailgate moochers look for beer and free food, don’t be afraid to learn from their fine frugal art. After you assemble your camping gear, make a list of what you don’t have. Don’t buy this equipment. Instead, call up your trusted friends and ask to borrow their equipment. While you’ll be responsible for any damages to it, treat it well and you’ll save big — and your friends won’t treat you like a moocher.

Find Tent Alternatives

Tents are overrated, but tarps are not according Active.com’s creative tarp tips. You can stay just as dry and sleep just as well with a hammock and tarp. Just make sure you take enough rope. Strong trees are a must for tying the tarp above the hammock. Make sure the tarp’s corners are lower than the middle, or if it rains, your tarp will collect water, potentially tear and leave you drenched.

If you have a tent but no ground tarp, old shower curtains work just as well to keep you dry. They will ensure no water seeps through the bottom side of your tent. Just make sure the old shower curtain is clean before you take it camping.

Buy Secondhand Equipment

You can find some decent camping gear at garage sales and even better deals at secondhand outdoor shops. A company like REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) has a yearly garage sale to sell all returned items at significantly reduced prices. Some of these items may have been lightly used, but they’re also discounted and in good shape. Larger urban areas often have secondhand outdoor shops, so check local listings. If you can’t find what you need from these places, check online. Both Ebay and Craigslist offer secondhand equipment.

Don’t Go Hungry

What you eat on your camping trip is completely up to you. You could load up on PB&J sandwiches, an inexpensive option. U.S. News and World Report’s Frugal Shopper suggests you can get the rest of your food by scavenging off the barriers and fishing in nearby lakes. However, pack some extra Clif bars or similar energy snacks in case of emergency. A Google search will provide a list of all the edible plants in your area as well as a cook’s guide to outdoor eating.

Plan Ahead

You’ll save the most money (and pain) when you plan your meals and create a daily and nightly menu for your trip. You can even prepare meals at home, like salads and trail mix snacks. This way you won’t go hungry or jeopardize your safety from a lack of healthy food.

If you’re car camping, stock an ice chest full of your favorite meat. Most car campsites have grills, and you can cook over an open flame (weather permitting). Outdoor grilling saves you big if you don’t want to buy expensive freeze-dried meals.