Camping Tips and Tricks!

Camping Tips and Tricks

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I’ve received several questions from fellow Frugal Girls who are interested in starting to camp with their families.

Camping is a great way to save $$ on a vacation, and trust me ~ the memories are unforgettable! ;)

I rarely camped before I met my hubby, but our first vacation after our honeymoon was… camping.  Then we had a sweet baby boy, and then we had another sweet baby boy!  So… I live in a man’s world, and my men love to camp!  So… it’s a-camping-we-shall-go!  Plus… it’s just not every day that you can have a scooter race through the woods… in your pajamas!

{as always ~ thanks in advance for all of the great tips you share!}

Camping Recipes

So… what Camping Tips and Tricks work for you??

Do you have any tips for someone who’s a first-time camper?

Or any fun camping meal ideas, activities or games, ways to save $$ on gear, what gear to take… or not to take, etc??

Leave a comment & share!

See Also:
Camping Menu Tips

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151 Responses to Camping Tips and Tricks!

  1. Kaylynn says:

    We use everything plastic except for serving silverware, like for the dishes and stuff on the grill. We pre-make our food for how ever long we will be gone, like have the hamburgers ready to just put right on the grill. If using a tent, you may find it useful to have a airmattress to sleep on. If using a camper, keep stuff in totes, in case a mouse gets in. Paper towels work better than napkins, and don’t blow away as easy, I live in SD. :) For games, you can bring balls along for kickball or baseball in the park. It’s just so fun and relaxing, I can’t really think of anything else.

  2. Anna C. says:

    I’m a forester by trade, a SAHM right now, and my husband and I used to own a rustic cabin- no ammenities in the middle of nowhere. One thing I highly recommend is to not be afraid to tell everyone you are going and ask for borrowed or hand me down supplies. MANY MANY of my friends have fabulous ideas about camping and figure out an hour into the trip, its not for them after spending hundreds on gear. We actually have collected duplicate gear and I’ve gotten pretty curvy in my Momma years, I have several fitted beautiful down sleeping bags. You have to realise that camping is not about pretty pink or matching outfits, but its about practical and warm or cool or preparing for the unexpected. And last, always always remember to go with the flow. A freak lightening storm that keeps the kids up all night long is no reason for Mom and Dad to be grumpy the next day for kids that freaked out, clothes that got wet, stuff that actually blew away, its all the reason for an extended naptime and cuddle time watching nature’s beautiful show. Nature will fill every camping trip with unlimited treasures, you just need to find them in ways other than we are used to. Also, I know many rec departments, colleges, and sporting programs loan and rent equipment. The best thing I ever did was rent this ugly, heavy foam sleeping pad before backpacking up a mountain for four days in college!

  3. Nicole Shepherd says:

    My family and I recently stayed at the Disney campground and we loved it. It was off season, so it was only $40/night and we got all the same perks as staying at a Disney resort for probably have the price: free transportation to the various parks, Extra Magic hours and fun activities. Plus, we cooked breakfast and dinner in camp every night, so we saved money there.

    • susan says:

      We did this also. It was nice to return to the campground in the afternoon and rest. The trailers were nice because you had separate rooms so the kids would sleep while you could stay up.

    • Jennifer says:

      We’ve been camping at the Fort Wilderness Resort (WDW) my whole life. Even if you don’t want to go to the theme parks, consider a trip to go camping. It’s a lot of fun!!

      • Beth Nelson says:

        We have stayed in the campsites the last two visits to WDW. Before that we stayed at the Wilderness Lodge. It was beautiful but we never seem to “meet” anyone, they either were on thier way to the parks or to eat or to thier room. However we have made some wonderful friends at Fort Wilderness, it is a different atmosphere and people are always out walking dogs, riding bikes, driving thru on golfcarts and they stop and talk and get to know you. I will ALWAYS stay at Fort Wilderness !!!!

  4. L. Keipp says:

    Make sure you take foods you like and can make easily at a campsite. First time camping is not the place to try fancy foods. Make sure you keep your foods locked up – put them back in the trunk of your car when not in use, never keep them in your tent. Same goes for the dishes – do them right away.

    Easiest camping we’ve ever done was to make sure we had an unbreakable set of dishes, just enough for the number of people to have one of each, a few old pans, a large camping coffee pot for making hot water, a dishpan, some biodegradeable dish soap and a good water supply – take it with you just in case – one towel for dishes, one dishcloth. I take a camping stove and fuel as well; for very little money, you can get a camping oven that goes on top of your stove to make baked goods while camping as well.

    Enjoy your trip!

  5. Melanie says:

    Definitely precook what you can before you go. You can also put food in baggies to help with space. Great idea for cooking eggs ( no clean up)is to put them in a ziploc bag and boil them. Then add cheese or whatever else you need to them!

    • Mary says:

      what kind of foods do you recommend apart from the usual hamburgers and hotdogs

      • kristi says:

        dice potatoes, season and lightly butter and then wrap in foil and place on grill or in fire. grill broccoli. we grill chicken alot.

        • Shauna Gaskill says:

          Hobo packs… from a few years of camping with boyscouts.. just about anykind of meat, veggie potatoe can be wrapped tight in foil pack sprayed with cooking spray and cooked in hot coals…
          We have done taco mixes, sausage and peppers …
          so check out scouting books if your library has them, they will have all kinds of hints and tips in them

      • When we used to go camping with our children we made foil dinners. They were great and we still do them on our grill. Use heavy duty foil. Use frozen Hamburger, mushrooms, green peppers.thin sliced potatoes, onion, carrots. Whatever you can think of. Put it in your camp fire for about 45 mins. Flip once when cooking fold back the sides of foil and eat.

        Also when its dark buy those glow in the dark necklaces and put them around the kids necks and you will always see them

        • Amy says:

          We love to foil cook. We even bring frozen shrimp and toss that in with pre cut red peppers, white wine, garlic and butter. Couscous is a quick camp stove dish as well. Camping in Michigan during the summer we take advantage of road side veggie stands.

          • jamie says:

            we make boiled omletes take quart freezer bags and put two or three eggs in it and put what ever fixins you want (ham, onion peppers) have a pot of boiling water ready with lid we use turkey fryer works great and about 10 min dump on plate easy omlet everyone loves them

      • M.Ellison says:

        We always pre make our breakfast burritos, cooked scrambled eggs, some shredded cheese, diced bacon, sausage, ham (what ever you like) and some small tater tots. wrap them up in aluminum foil and throw over a fire or in a pan, (we go jeeping 4×4 and put them on the exhaust manifold, and there warm in an hr).
        We also pre make our ground beef, chop up all our essentials ahead and put them in plastic containers or baggies for tacos, burritos, or nachos for a dinner, then just warm up the meat in a pan, rest is done yum! My husband loves to make the wrapped veggie, potatoes and meat in foil its awesomely good while camping!

    • Debra says:

      We do a group camping trip for Father’s Day every year. So getting ready now :). We are making the first night easy on ourselves and picking up pizza in town (the boys say its great there!). We’ll have pre-made at home breakfast burritos. Then sandwiches for the boys while they hike and tacos in chip bags for the kids and moms that stay behind. Brats and pre-marinaded shrimp put on skewers at camp for dinner. Sharing the responsibility for food makes it easier on everyone. Love our trips,

  6. Oh I love to go camping with my family!!

    I asked my kids (ages 16, 14 & 11) what to post and here are their answers…

    Make sure you pack a tooth brush
    Make sure you pack clothes and not just toys (yes, one of them learned from experience)
    Make sure you don’t wear cheap jewelry that will turn your neck green after playing in the water.

    Ok, so their tips are what THEY say…here are mine:

    Use Ziplock bags to store food in. You need to keep your food in a cooler so if you put your stuff in the bags, it won’t get water logged when the ice melts…I hate using mustard that has water in the spout!

    Keep a bottle of dish soap in your camping supplies so you can wash your cooking supplies.

    Have a flashlight for each person. Place it under your pillow while sleeping so you know where it is for those middle of the night potty calls.

    Flip flops – camp ground showers

    Card games and board games are great! Keep a basket of games in camp supplies to always have handy.

    Have fun!!

    • Melanie says:

      Don’t forget extra rolls of toilet paper!

    • JOANNE says:

      I’ve learned instead of putting ice in your food cooler freeze 12oz plastic bottles & put them all around your food & then I have a seperate cooler for drinks theirs nothing worse than having water logged food. Also I use my big marinating tupperware lid & bottom to store my meats, cheese, butter & in the other one I put my vegetables in it makes it a lot easier when you have to get the food out you just pull out the whole lid

      • Daria says:

        Wow Joanne! The marinating tupperware lid & bottom is a great tip! I’ll certainly be doing that this summer!

      • Amy says:

        We recycle lots of bottles that we freeze and use in the food cooler. They say blocked ice keeps things cold better than cubes. I freeze all our proteins and then we eat whatever order the thaw in.

      • Delise says:

        Wonderful ideas guys! We sometimes go camping where there is NOTHING, no running water, no bathroom, no electricity, no decent roads!Just sand and sea. Its 4×4 country! Very far to the next town. Normally we go during summer. The only means of power in this case is gas and battery power.Here in South Africa you will not find campers using ready-made meals! You have wood, matches, a braai-grid and a dutch-oven or a potjie! The food you pack mutton chops, sausage,chicken,steak,stewing meat. You bake your own bread in you dutch-oven. Veggies would be potatoes, onions,some carrots and cabbage. At first you use the salad-stuff like tomatoes,cucumbers,leaf-salad, but it goes off very fast! The dutch-oven is a must for stews.The lid doubles for a pan for eggs and beacon (You will need a clove to remove from the fire!)Drinking water is very important, a first-aid kit, don’t use inflatable mattresses,they deflate during the night leaving you on the hard ground! Invest in decent stretchers! Remember the sunscreen creams,hats, baby wipes and baby powder.You dont always have water to wash and the wipes comes very handy! Kids with sandy feet in the sleeping bag? Little baby powder and the sea-sand just fall of when applied!Keep meat-tenderizer close by when camping at a swimming beach. It takes the sting out of the blue-bottle burn.

    • Pam says:

      We save an old mayonnaise jar & crack our eggs into that jar. No matter what you do…the eggs stay whole. We use boxed hasbrown potatoes. It takes about 5 min. to re-hydrate them & they taste wonderful!
      For the ice in the cooler…we leave it in the bag. When it melts, the water doesn’t get every where & the water is still cold enough to keep the food safe. Food in zip lock bags is a must.

      • Pam says:

        We also bring un scented baby wipes. They are great for washing up at night, before bed… we don’t have kids with us, but the baby wipes are still great for us ‘oldsters’…lol

      • cyndy holland says:

        I do what my father always did, reuse old milk containers… Whether they be cardboard or plastic bottles, clean them thoroughly and then fill mostly with water to leave room for could leave a couple of frozen ones as they are- and put them in the bottom of the ice chest to help keep things cold and it will help the ice not melt so fast. Otherwise take your frozen container out to the cement in the driveway or something and crash it on the ground there. The cardboard containers or the plastic ones, you just open it up and dump out the crushed ice into your ice chest. And don’t forget to recycle those containers when you’re done.the cardboard ones would usually split open while trying to Crack them, and the plastic ones he usually sliced with a box cutter to open them up.

  7. Kay gilbert says:

    We have an RV and we try to bring as much as possible from the house…example,mayo, mustard, pickles. I raid the freezer and get what I can from there also. Most cases, we know we are going to go camping several months in advance, so I will begin making lists..catching items I want when they are on sale and setting them aside to use in the RV. Depending on your family’s taste, we go from eating hamburgers, to grilling chicken, to steamed fish. We use the microwave and electric skillet a lot (note..this is not dry camping). I also prepare in advance tortillas that have sausage, scrambled eggs and cheese in them. Wrap up in non stick foil, put in freezer..take out as many as you want for trip…stick in microwave. Great breakfast. Don’t have to be camping to use this trick.

  8. Regina says:

    Having started camping in a tent, then moved up to a fifth wheel, planning is where it’s at.
    Prep as much as you can at home. Kitchen space is at a premium, and you want to have fun and not spend all your time working!
    A crock pot is a campers best friend. Chopping veggies, etc and putting food in recloseable ziplock bags works great. They will lay flat and take up very little space in a cooler, unlike hard plastic/glass containers.

    • Nancy M says:

      LOVE the crockpot idea! :)

    • Angie says:

      We have used a crock pot from the first trip in our pop up. We now have a pull behind with the same crock pot! Totally necessity in my opinion! :-) Something else to consider…get a crock pot with a plastic lid instead of the glass. The glass one shifts too easily going down the road and will break everywhere!

      • Cheri Holbrook says:

        invest in crockpot liners they make clean up a breeze!

      • Maggie says:

        Most new crockpots come with clips on the side that lock the lid in place so you can take food with you if you’re camrging close to home. Also we use an electric skillet for a lot of our cooking, really handier than the stove, just set up a table for all your appliances. And cook outdoors in style!

      • Lesley says:

        Use oven bags for crockpot and deep fryer liners. As long as your appliance temp doesn’t exceed the oven tip it will work perfectly! You can even lift the bag after it cools to store the leftovers in and reheat.

      • gigi says:

        Here’s how to stop that crockpot lid from slips. . I put a dishcloth over the top of the crock, then lay the lid upside-down where it should be, but now it’s on the dishcloth upside-down. I go all over and on some bumpy roads in the camp grounds. Mine hasn’t jumped off yet. Good luck

  9. I cook anything that I would make at home. The big difference is, I do all the prep work ahead of time and store in plastic bags. So say I want burritos one night. I make a double batch at home of beans and whatever meat. We eat them that night and I store the rest in the freezer until it’s time to go camping (chop extras of any veggies you use the day before camping and refrigerate). When you get to dinner time at the campsite, layout everything and some foil. Everyone can make their own burrito, wrap it in foil and place on the grate above the fire. Pack long tongs so they can turn their burritos. Think of as many meals like this that you can. Not having a bunch of cooking or dishes cuts down on stress and lets everyone, even Mom and Dad enjoy the camping trip. Boboli pizza crusts and build your own pizzas are great too. Build one and place outside of the direct flames, loosely cover with foil and in a few minutes you have pizza while you camp. Have fun!

  10. Michaela says:

    My husband loves backpacking, so we go for freeze dried foods to minimize cooking, but I’ve been saving his MRE’s that he brings home from work to take with us in case we HAVE to eat them. I’m currently trying to plan a trip now so keep the tips coming!

  11. Gabrielle says:

    If you want to REALLY be cheap, find a campground with a primitive area. You just go out in the woods and find a place to pitch your tent. No barbecue pits, no campsite, and definitely no bathrooms.

    • Cynthia says:

      For these type of situations, you might want to invest in a small port-a-potty along with a port-a-potty tent!!! My husband has found that he would rather put up this extra small tent than to wake up to accompany his wife and daughters to the bathroom in the middle of the night!

      • Mechelle Gilbert says:

        I agree! I have further potty set up advice. We got a chemical toilet and it was not worth the money. We got the 5 gal bucket with snap on lid and we line it with a heavy duty trash bag and keep a container of kitty litter next to it. Just sprinkle the top with litter when your done. A tent from salvation army that even has a tear here and there works fine for this setup. Duct tape is your friend it works great to hold a small tear together in a tent!

  12. Rhonda says:

    Bring personal size bags of corn chips. Heat a pot of chili & pour a scoop in each persons bag ~ top w/ pregrated cheese. Hand them a plastic fork & you’re done!

    Banana Sundays ~ Split banana in half lengthwise with peeling intact. Fill w/ miniature marshmellows & chocolate chips. Put on the campfire until the goods are melted. YUMMO & fun to make!

    • Sherry says:

      Can’t wait to try the banana sundays.
      Do you put them on foil to melt everything and do you cover them? Sound delicious!!

      • Kathi says:

        We also make the Banana Sundaes at home. We make sure we have everyones favorite candy bar. Chop it. Insert pieces into the banana. Adding marshmallows if the person wants it. Topping with ice cream, syrup and sprinkles…My daughter in law taught me this trick :)

      • Rhonda says:

        No, we don’t use foil, we put them right on a rack above the fire. You’ll love these ~ so fun!! : )

    • Lisa says:

      We call them banana boats and we do wrap ours in aluminum foil. They are super yummy, easy, and a great alternative to smores every night.

    • cyndy holland says:

      Or traditional- first night camping dinner- is always FRITO BOATS ! Yummy, good protein, and filling. I always have a supply of paper bowls you can buy from Restaurant Supply places. Not round bowls but the rectangular boats.
      throw some Fritos (your choice of flavors) in the bottom of the boat, put your nice warm chili beans on top(we use the No-bean kind) through a little Pre-shredded cheese on top and you are ready to sit down to the campfire enjoy your evening.
      this has proven for us to be the perfect thing… after the usual two to three hour drive Plus set up Time.

  13. Rachel says:

    Free fire starter: You’ll need an empty cardboard egg carton, dryer lint, wax from a candle that is almost burned down. Fill egg “holders” about 1/4 way with wax, put some dryer lint on top and push into the wax a bit leaving some sticking out to light, and let cool. Use these instead of little starter logs!

    • Emily says:

      Are you supposed to cut apart each section of the egg carton? So that one dozen egg carton could start 12 fires?

      • Amy says:

        keep the egg carton together and rip off a section as you need them. They work great.

        • Kay says:

          Another idea for a fire starter is just use cotton balls dipped in Vaseline, They work great and easy to make or store.

        • Delise says:

          We buy small gas containers and start the fire with a hose with long metal piece with holes, just place under the wood. Very nice gadget that we can buy here in SA at any hardware shop!

      • Teresa says:

        all u need is several toilet paper rolls and dryer lint,I use them every year when I go camping

    • Lindsay says:

      What a great idea!!! I knew about the dryer lint but not the other stuff. Now if I can just get cage free eggs in somthing other than plastic… hm!

    • Lisa says:

      These make great fire starters. Yes you can cut them apart. We usually cut ours in groups of two.

    • Nicole says:

      We did this for our Easter camping trip this year and they worked so much better than the firestarters that we buy. Another trick we learned because it was vvery windy so we had trouble keeping the lighter lit to start the fire, we take juice pouches when we camp and we cut the box in half and placed the fire starter inside half of it to light it and then put our kindling and logs on top of the box. The box serves as a wind block as well as extra kindling to start the logs.

    • Kristy says:

      Another great idea is to fill toilet paper tubes with shredded newspaper then dip them in wax. I’ve never made these because a local group of disabled adults sells them and I like to help them but they work WONDERFULLY!

  14. Sarah says:

    We camp every weekend all summer the key for me is to cook like I was at home. I don’t by special camping foods becAuse that’s usually a pricey trip. Foil and a camp pot can do any thing! I use an old kitchen kettle that is for over the fire only. Rummage sale all the supplies like plastic plates utensils etc.
    An old coffee pot is my savior for heating water quickly. Kids tip / buy glow sticks at the dollar store and pack your own popcorn if they have a movie night! Camping is cheap fun! Kids game – make them a scavenger hunt. Great fun and gives mom some down time while all the searching is going on!

    • Lisa says:

      I have a great idea for heating water. You take old coffee cans and fill them 3/4 full of water and freeze before the camping trip. This helps with keeping your cooler cold. Then you can just place these on the fire after cooking and then when you’re ready to do dishes, you will have hot water when you get finished eating.

  15. Rhonda says:

    Love that Firestarter tip! Do you seperate them into sections or put the whole egg carton on?

  16. Karen Martin says:

    I love camping! I use a mesh bag from the dollar store with samples from hotels and add toothbrush, paste, soap, wash cloth, towel and a few clothspins. The kids are in charge of there own bag. You don’t spend the whole weekend doling our supplies and dealing with wet sandy towels! Always have a first aid kit, with aloe and sunscreen. I use a plastic shoe box size storage container for all the things you “might” need. After camoing season we use it over the winter. Pepto pills are a good thing to add for the kid that can’t say no to the last smore! I also always put a piece of carpet (from the $ store) I put one inside the tent and outside the door, helps with the sand and dirt!

    • Lisa says:

      You can get the mesh bags at walmart as lingerie bags for washing. We use a different colored carabiners so we can identify whose bag is whose. By doing this it’s easy to hang your shower bag in the shower or on the clothes line when finished. This way, they also don’t get lost in the tent.

  17. Becky says:

    If you have electricity a hot pot is worth the ten bucks that it costs. We heat water for washing dishes, making hot chocolate or tea in a matter of just a couple minutes.
    We like to take peanuts in the shells and marshmallows for campfire snacks.
    Keep the food as easy as possible. Hamburgers, hot dogs, peanut butter, cold cuts, individual boxes of cereal (big treat for kids), baked beans, can corn, oranges, apples, bananas, scrambled eggs, pretzels, granola bars, yogurt. If you cook roast beef in advance and freeze it in a ziploc bag you can make hot roast beef sandwiches with bread and can gravy in no time. Bag lettuce, grape tomatoes a cucumber and one kind of dressing for a quick salad. I sometimes make homemade spaghetti sauce with meatballs and then cook the spaghetti and put in a ziploc bag. Heat the sauce, boil water in the hot pot to pour over the spaghetti, done.
    Camping is not a fashion show, take warm comfortable old clothes that you could care less what happens to them. Old towels, blankets, sheets and pillows also. Thrift stores and yard sales are good places to pick up pots, pans, linens and the like. Store camping items in a plastic tub. Umbrellas and a first aid kit are a must. Keep food in the car trunk or plastic tub at night as not to draw animals.

    • Marisa says:

      I bought a small plastic bin with a lid and kept our camping dishes, one for each family member (keep it simple), the bin did double duty as a sink for washing dishes.

  18. While your children are still at the age where they enjoy spending time going out with you, camping is truly a great way to bond with them. Taking time off from the television and game consoles, a nice idea huh? Just enjoy nature with them doing fun activities.

  19. Cindy says:

    We camp every other weekend durng the spring, summer & fall seasons. We have a RV and when we are at home we plug the unit in so our refrigerator stays cold. (we do not see an increase in our electric bill or would not do this) This way we leave all our condiments, extra beverages, frozen meat, etc in there.

    The day we are scheduled to leave I grab a laundry basket, head to our home’s refrigerator, place anything else we may need in the camper into the basket, next I open our “snack” cupboard at home & empty it’s contents into the basket. I then take the basket to the RV & place the items into refrigerator & cupboards. I will buy one “special” meal for us to take along every so often. This works for us the best. Plus if I really want to clean up our “snack” cupboard, which sometimes gets out of control. I will only take along camping the bags/boxes which seem to have just a cookie or two left, or bag of chips with practically only crumbs left. You know the ones that get forgotten about when new packages arrive. Then the kids have no choice but to eat them! Mean I know, but it works!

  20. Jenny says:

    Invest in a dutch oven. We finally bought a small one last spring and it has been my favorite camping tool ever since. I’ve baked pilsbury cinnamon rolls, cornbread chili casserole, chicken and potatoes, breakfast quiche, just to name a few. My husband and I camped for years with just our coleman stove…the dutch oven has expanded our camping recipe collection and it’s just a really fun way to cook.

    • Sherry says:

      Do you use it on the fire?

      • Jenny Hansen says:

        I know you can use it on the fire, it’s just a lot harder to judge the heat of your coals. We use briquettes. Get them started in the fire and then set them below and on the lid of the dutch oven. I got a free app for my phone that tells you how many briquettes you need for each temperature and the size of your dutch oven.

        • Jenn says:

          oh I need that app! We just recently invested in a dutch oven and love it, but I get worried about the temp being right. Thanks!

          • Melanie says:

            One of our all time favorite camping meals that is so quick and easy is Green Beans, Potatoes and Ham. Just dump it in your dutch oven and when your potatoes are done your meal is ready. Good with Rye bread & butter.

        • jamila says:

          I am interested in the name of that app

          • Jenny says:

            For android it’s called “Dutch Oven Calculator” and it was free in the marketplace.

    • Marisa says:

      I like making enchiladas in the dutch oven. You can use your canned chili beans if you want (I like cooking from scratch) then add corn tortilla chips and cheese. Makes a casserol of sorts and its good! Can also make green chili chicken enchiladas.
      Use can green chili, can of cream of chicken soup, can chicken (or cooked if you have some already) add chips and cheese.

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