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33 Dollar Store Camping Hacks You Need to Know

July 24, 2015

Camping is the most budget friendly form of travel and vacationing there is. Campsites range from free to a tenth of the price a budget motel will run you, and are often located in the heart of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the planet.There is nothing quite as exhilarating as hitting the trail and facing nature one on one, away from the comforted security of home and the convenience of having everything you could possibly need within easy driving distance.

There is also nothing quite as challenging as trading out the known for the unknown. While great disasters are usually the start of a great story, great camping memories can be created without having to suffer- or spend a lot of money. These camping hacks are all created from supplies you can easily find at any local dollar store, and are brilliant ways to diminish the hassle that so often keeps us from camping more often.

Don’t let cost or ease keep you from exploring the great outdoors firsthand! Whether you prefer to camp in a KOA campsite in this years latest RV or backpack out on the trail to find a good tree to sleep in, these camping hacks help you get prepared for the adventure ahead.

Camping Hacks for the Car Ride

A great camping trip starts long before you set up tent. The real adventure begins from the moment you start to pack the car. These camping hacks will help you stay organized along the road so you reach your campsite ready to go explore. You’ll love saving time and energy by being able to jump right into setting up camp without having to clean up the car first!

1. Organize your car with a shoe organizer

Organize your car with a clear, plastic shoe organizer. Hang off the back of the driver’s and passenger’s seats for an easy way to keep things organized and easily accessible for your kids. Include things like baby wipes, games, books, and coloring supplies.

2. Portable tray

Use small, plastic shower caddy to create a portable tray for each person’s meal. The sides keep food from sliding off the seats onto the floor.

3. Maintaining your car’s cleanliness

Keep your car clean by using an over sized plastic cereal container lined with a trash can to collect garbage during the road. Or use a cardboard cereal box instead; simply remove the top and line with a small plastic shopping bag. The cereal box will be slim enough to easily fit in the pocket of the driver or passenger door.

4. A penny holder

Use a separate tin can or plastic jar to collect spare change from gas stations and restaurant stops. Keep the jar in a cup holder so you can easily access it for toll stops. You can also use a clean disposable coffee mug from Starbucks or clean plastic cup from a drive through.

5. Cell phone holder

Buy an a few binder clips to hold your cell phone in place on the dash so you can easily follow the GPS without holding your phone or driving dangerously.

6. A make-up bag to organize your small belongings

Use a cheap beauty or make-up bag to organize papers, like camping passes, receipts, passports, and cash.

7. An empty tissue box

Stuff an empty tissue box with empty plastic shopping bags. These can be used for things like collecting recyclables, keeping wet clothes separate, or replacing used trash bags. The tissue box is small enough to fit easily underneath car seats so it won’t get in the way.

Camping Hacks to Use At the Campsite

Even if “glamping”, i.e. glamour camping, isn’t your kind of thing, you can still use these camping hacks add some ease and style to your campsite. Everyone from the weekend RVer to the dedicated backpacker can find a few uses from these dollar store makeovers that help organize the campsite, add some fun, and make camping just a little more relaxing.

8. iPod speakers that won’t cost you a fortune

Use the cardboard roll from a toilet paper roll to make speakers for your iPod. Cut a slit the size of your iPod or iPhone; use thumbtacks to make feet to keep your “speakers” from rolling over.

9. A trash bag

Line a collapsible laundry basket with a trash bag. This will give you a way to keep the campsite tidy and collect trash in a compact manner.

10. A portable night light

Fill an empty plastic container, like a milk jug or apple juice carton, with water. Wrap a headlamp around the jug with the headlamp facing in. The light filters through the water and gives you a portable night light for your campsite.

11. Coffee filters

Instead of just grabbing and packing the Folger’s coffee can off the shelf, buy some coffee filters and pour out individual size ground coffee bean servings. Use the can as a weather protectant for a roll of toilet paper.

12. Tic tacs

Fill tic tac containers with salt and pepper for an easy way to add flavor to your camp meals. You can also use it to bring other spices and garnishes as well, depending on how gourmet your camping diet may be.

13. Grits

Sprinkle instant grits around your tent and campsite to deter ants from joining the party. While the grits don’t kill the ants, for some strange reason ants don’t seem to like piles of strange objects poured on the ground.

14. Shower curtain clips

Camping in the rain is an inevitable adventure. If it’s pouring outside, use shower curtain clips to hang up wet socks and clothes to dry inside your tent. You can also run a string through the tent and tie it off onto trees on either side of the tent to create an indoor section of clothesline. Use shower clips to hang clothes off the line. You can even use a shower clip to hang a flashlight on the cord to illuminate the tent while leaving your hands free.

15. A cool washing machine

Use a 5 gallon bucket and a plunger for a makeshift washing machine to reuse clothes instead of packing more. Fill the 5 gallon bucket up halfway with clothes and place the soap on the clothes. Dry scrub the clothes to really soak the soap into the clothes. Fill to the top with water and plunge away to scrub the clothes clean. You can even place the top on the bucket and push the entire container down a hill for a good spin cycle.

16. Dish sponges

Cut up dish sponges into smaller squares before using them to clean your dishes. This will stretch out your supply of clean dish rags without packing and spending more.

17. Swimming noodles as protective padding

Camping in an RV? Cut a slit along the long edge of a swimming noodle. Slip around awning poles for some protective padding to avoid injury to those walking alongside the camper.

18. Cheap fire-starters

Buying specialty fire starters can be expensive, and not all of them work well. Instead, grab a cheap bag of Cheetos, Doritos, or any corn based chip. They start quickly and make excellent kindling.

19. Match containers

Place matches in a small, plastic jewelry container or sandwich box to keep from getting damp or ruined. Glue a small piece of sandpaper to the inside of the box to scrape the matches against. Make sure you only use start anywhere matches!

20. Cheap padding

Use cheap, interlocking tiles to pad the floor of your tent for some extra comfort and insulation from the ground. Make sure you place the mats on the floor of the tent and not underneath the tent; the ground moisture will ruin the mats and create a nasty, soggy mess.

21. Hiding your valuables

If you are camping in a public or popular campground, hide your valuables out of sight. Use an empty chapstick container to hide rolled up dollar bills, or tie up bigger items in small garbage bags to disguise valuables as trash.

22. Water filter

To help filter water, collect water into a pail. Place a clean towel, sock, or other absorbent item on the water. Be careful to not stir the water around to encourage the sediments to settle. Place the soaking towel into a plastic bag and cut off a small piece from the corner of the bag. Squeeze the bag and towel above another bucket to catch the clean water.

Camping Hacks for Life the Trail

A lot of time spent camping isn’t actually spent at the campsite. These camping hacks are great to use for day hikes or multi-day hikes with camping out on the trail. Since you’ll be carrying everything you need, small items that can be re-purposed and are lightweight are key. “Take only pictures, leave only footprints”- and make sure you have a few of these camping hacks along the trail.

23. Bring an extra garbage back

Use an extra garbage back to line your backpack before filling it up. The liner will act as a water shield and help protect your camping gear from the elements. While not entirely waterproof, it does help to keep your clothes from becoming damp by dew or light rain

24. First aid kit

Keep a first aid kit at the ready and organized in case of an emergency. Use a small candy tin or a prescription bottle to hold band-aids, cotton swabs, burn ointment, etc. Bandages can be rolled up around the case to save space without compromising emergency supplies.

25. Tick removal

In case of ticks, bring along cotton balls and some soap. Soak the cotton ball in the soap and place directly on the tick for half a minute. The tick will come up on the cotton ball for an easy no tweezers needed tick removal!

26. Duct tape

Wrap your water bottles in several layers of easy to remove tape, like duct tape. This gives you some tape for emergencies on the trail without taking up valuable pack space or weighing down your load. Duct tape can come in handy for replacing broken materials, wrapping up blisters, and even as a temporary cast for a broken finger.

27. Newspapers and coupon flyers

Grab some of those newspapers and coupon flyers at the door before you leave the Dollar Store. Pack a few to bring along; if your shoes get wet along the trail, you can simply stuff some newspaper into them to help absorb the water and dry a little faster.

28. Ziplocs

Use Ziploc bags to organize your pack. Being able to see everything will make it easier to find what you need, and the bags will add another level of protection around your gear. Be sure to press the bags tight to get all of the excess air out before zipping up the bags. Extra air takes up valuable space in your backpack.

29. An emergency Poncho

Pack an extra garbage bag or two to use as an emergency Poncho in case of rain. Simply tear out holes for your arms and head, and put it on like a sweater.

30. Cheap key rings

Attach cheap key rings to zippers on your backpacks and tents to make it easier to zip without getting snagged on loose material. Using key rings also makes it easier to zipper items with gloves on in colder weather

31. Automotive paper towels

Bring automotive paper towels rather than regular paper towels. They are much stronger and can be reused, which means you need to only pack a few rather than an entire roll.

32. Deter ticks with this solution

Mix 1 part tea tree oil and 2 parts water in a small, travel size spray container. Spray on your pants, socks, and shoes to help deter ticks from attaching to your clothing. You can also spray your pets to help deter fleas and ticks as well.

33. Portion out items

Portion out items like toothpaste and soap into day size amounts. Cut up a soap bar into tiny cubes, and dry out pea size drops of toothpaste. Pack each into separate ziploc bags and use only 1 portion each day. This makes it easier to ration, is lighter to carry, and you don’t have to worry about losing your entire supply of soap at one time.

Before You Leave

Camping is the perfect vacation for whatever stage of life you are at. When you camp, your fellow travelers include everyone from all walks and stages of life; parents packing up their kids for the annual summer vacation, newlyweds honeymooning on a budget, family reunions, or single adventurers heading out to see the world on a dime. Using camping hacks to help make camping easier means you’re more likely to return out into the wild and see the world.

So grab your tent, pack up your sleeping bag, and go! Head over to Trekeffect.com to find your next campsite and plan the best camping trip you’ve ever taken.

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Bryn Wied
Bryn Wied is an outdoor enthusiast and serious travelaholic. She explores every inch of the globe in her Sanuk flip flops with her favorite travel buddy/hubby Matt. Matt and Bryn live in California where they blog, surf, snowboard and raise kids in between road trips and camping adventures.