When I look back on the various outdoor sports that I’ve been involved with over my life, I tended to jump right in with both feet and buy a lot of superfluous gear that I didn’t really need. I still have a dry suit out in the garage somewhere, from my scuba diving days and there is a smattering of snow skiing gear out there, as well. If you are just getting your family involved in camping, sticking with the basics and avoiding non-essential gear, can save you a lot of money.
Essential gear: Flashlight
Non-essential gear: Lantern
You can count on needing some artificial light on your camping trip, for things like checking on the kids and those late-night trips to the bathroom. We just got a lantern this year, though, after camping for years without one. Sure, it’s nice to have some extra light around the picnic table at night, and it’s great not having to try and hold a flashlight in one hand, while you do something with the other, but a lantern certainly isn’t something that we would consider essential.
Essential gear: Food
Non-essential gear: Freeze-dried food
Freeze-dried food has come a long way in quality and taste and they are certainly easy to pack and prepare, but you don’t have to spend $10 to serve the family beef stew for dinner. Freeze your own meals at home in slow-cooker liners for just pennies. See Make Camping Meals at Home to Save Time and Trash for more information about this money-saving tip
Essential gear: Camp stove
Non-essential gear: Barbeque grill
I obviously love to camp, but I’m also a big Oakland Raiders fan and I love to barbeque. A barbeque grill is essential for preparing pre-game carne asada at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Campgrounds, though, have fire rings with cooking grates and nothing beats cooking over a fire. Bring a nice, cast iron, griddle for cooking hamburgers, warming tortillas, and cooking breakfast. A camp stove, even the compact models, will boil water much quicker than a campfire and that makes many cooking tasks much easier.
Shopping for camping gear is fun and addictive, but you can save some money by avoiding non-essential purchases and sticking to the basics. One of the most useful things you can take on your camping trips is a notepad. Use it every time you have one of those “I sure wish we had…” moments, which will really reduce the amount of unused clutter that builds-up in your garage!
Both my husband and I grew up in Eastern Oregon with the Wallowa -Whitman National Forest as our backyard. Fishing, camping, hiking, exploring. The skills and tools a kid can learn from these activities are so varied. Hopefully, we gave our kids the same opportunities as we had, and we are looking forward to sharing all that with our grand kids.
There's nothing wrong with taking non-essentials on a backpacking trip. Just don't take all of them and not if you already have something that does the same thing.
Some of the gadgets I have seen at campsites show me that not everyone is interested in avoiding “non-essential” gear!
see, you can learn all sorts of stuff by just getting out doors. In my old field of business, it is called the paleo bend, you walk hunched over looking for fossils and other neat things right at your feet we all take for granted. GET OUT DOORS PEOPLE!!! there’s a great world to discover and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg!
For anyone’s info if ever out that way, the trackway is close to a place called Black Mountain Oklahoma in a shallow dried up Upper Jurassic riverbed. In fact it’s listed in a book written by a good paleontologist friend of mine Martin Lockley and is on the cover of his bok “A Guide to the Fossil Footprints of the world.
Jim, you made that track. Be honest.
I have lots of light weight hiking gear gathering dust. Shame.
I do, in fact, Josh and I found a dinosaur trackway in Oklahoma in’01! You’ve got to love inquiring minds from kids.
You’re preaching to the choir Jim, but it can never be repeated too many times; unplug those kids and get them outside! There’s a whole lot of “world” out there to discover. What kid wouldn’t want to go hunt for fossils in Montana, Wyoming, or Utah? Be sure to take lots of pictures, Jim!
I’ve seen people with kids on camping trips open the door to a minivan and everything but cable TV was unloaded. I swear, people cannot seem to disconnect from the so called real world even for a weekend out with the family. Some of the ideas I’ve read lately are sound. In fact this one about freezing your own soups, etc is great. Buy yourself one of those little machines that seals your food (pre-made) and then stow it in a cooler with dry ice. If not dry ice, use 1/2 gal jugs of water frozen or gallon jugs.
This coming July my 2d youngest grandson and I are doing the Gettysburg and Manassas trip together and we will be camping out. I’m even bringing my 6″ reflector telescope along for night time viewing of the sky and will be educating Landon from life, not a dull classroom experience.
My oldest grandson Josh was being taken with me on dinosaur digs to Montana and Wyoming when he was 5 years old. Just me and my grandson away from the hustle and bustle of stupidity. Now he’s the classroom encyclopedia. LOL. And at 15 years old, now in JROTC and on the Honor Guard and Drill team team at Ft. Campbell.
Parents, teach your children well is my advice. MAKE them get outside with a bag of marbles and play ‘keepers’. Instill in them that they have an imagination and it doesn’t always have to do with XBox. Just some advice from an old paratrooper who still remembers playing outside with nothing but an imagination and dreams.
Thanks, Lori! Jim – that’s right, anytime you see the words “lightweight”, “backpacking” or “mountain climbing” you better hold onto your wallet – heh.
I was in EMS one time and a customer was telling a sales clerk that they were going camping and needed to buy camping gear. The sales clerk sold them a lightweight tent, jetboil stove, and a bunch of other lightweight expensive “backpacking” gear. I think this is perfect example of getting stuff that you don’t need…