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03 June 2011

Camping - Frugal and Green?

Camping can be very frugal and very green or it can be just the opposite.  My family camped when I was a kid because it was cheap.  We had a pop-up trailer and brought everything with us. No disposable dishes, no paper products (except tp and paper towels).

When we moved my parents sold the pop-up and we got out of the camping routine.  As a mom I started camping again with my girls.  I meet people all the time that surprise me.

Frugality: Find a great State or DEC Campground close to home. I like to rent unimproved (no electricity) sites within 1 hour from me.  State and DEC Campgrounds tend to be 1/2 the site rental cost to a Private Camp Ground.  Here State and DEC sites allow 6 people per campsite, so we camp with my parents and when GreenerYet doesn't feel up to camping GreenTeen brings a friend.

Now we have been camping for some time, and to be honest I don't remember how long it has been. I know we started just before GreenTeen learned to ride a two Wheeler and honestly I don't remember how old she was (6,7 or 8). I know she learned at Webster Camp Ground (Thank you Shy-Shy for teacher her).  When GreenTeen was born we started meeting DH's Dad, Step-Mom and Brother at Steamboat Landing, Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks. This was for me, not camping, as we stayed in cabins, but it made me yearn for camping memories. 

A couple of years later we went camping with a group of friends.  We borrowed tents and went to Letchworth State Park - which of course was full for the day.  At the end of the day we found a private campground not to far from Letchworth and set up camp.  I enjoyed it, so I decided to invest in a tent. I found the perfect (or so I thought tent) at the end of the season on sale. 

This tent was supposed to sleep 8 (great for a family of four and stuff) with a screen porch on the front.  The tent was also "dividable" into two "rooms" but hanging a tent material piece in the middle.  This tent served me well for many years.  Although I added a tarp to cover the ground for the screen portion. Last year the Screen tent zipper went (no big deal), then by the end of the season so had the sleeping portion zipper. I saved the foldable rods (I might be able to use them) but the rest is no longer usable. We still have the whole tent and I might attempt to replace both zippers (hey it is already ruined). 

When I mentioned to my MIL that I was going to start camping she cleaned out (over the next several years) her old camping supplies. From her I inherited a coffee pot, camp stove (with stand), dishes, ropes, cards, dominoes, and other odds and ends.  Then last year she cleaned out her tents. I inherited 2 boy scout backpack tents (and backpacks) in excellent (read like they had never been used condition) and the girls think it is great that they each can have their own tents) as well as a huge tent that her family of 6 kids used. My Dad put it together and water proofed it, it is a great tent. 

Now to keep camping frugal and green do use reusable dishes. Yes this means you have to wash dishes (so that means bringing dish pans and eco friendly soap as well as a large pot to heat water in) but it is cheaper than constantly tossing money in the trash or fire pit.  Use reusable water bottles. Most places I have camped the water is potable so we drink it.  If not we bring in water in reusable 5 gallon jugs.  Clean out your fridge and freezer.  I have spoken to many who go shopping specifically for camping.  Mums and I sit down and make a menu (based on what we both already have on hand) and we fill in as needed, but generally speaking we spend less than $30 for a family of 6 for the weekend.  We freeze our meats and use them to keep the coolers cool.  

We do have good quality coolers. We do not use bagged ice, but have had to purchase it on occasion when it is super hot. Generally speaking we keep the coolers out of the sun, pack frozen foods that we eat when thawed, and we use old milk jugs filled with water (leave room for ice expansion) and freeze. We can also drink this water.  We typically pack 2 square coolers and when one is emptied we drink the water in the jugs.  Keep your coolers well packed with ice on top (cold air falls).  We also bring plenty of items that do not need to be kept cold. Breads, pb, fruits and fresh veggies, homemade chis and trail mix. 

We take care of our camping supplies. Mums has a bad back so they have one of those air-matress' with a frame.  We have used an air matress but lately I have been using camp mats (egg crate with water proof backing I got from my mother-in-law. I was thinking of creating bags for them (something that would roll up with them then lay out on the floor).  We wash all cloth items when we get home. Sleeping bags are washed, dried and put away. Camp mats are aired out, and all clothes (worn or not are washed).

We pack well (1 bag per person, plus sleeping bag and pillow).  The kids pack extra underwear and socks, then 2 long sleeve, long pants, 2 short sleeve, shorts (for a 3-4 day weekend), swim suits, old beach towel, wash cloth. We pack plain bar soap (no shampoo, for the weekend we can use bar soap on our hair), toothbrushes, and hair brushes.  You can pack toothpaste or you can rinse with warm salt water in the am (and gargle) and then use a Vinegar rinse in the evening to keep your mouth clean. 

We bring bikes, ladder ball, croquet, boce, cards, drawing supplies and everyone brings a book. 

What I want to figure out is how to make a clothing bag stand.  This would be a bag that would fit the clothes and such that we each needed and then would have a collapsible stand that would fit in an out pocket. When assemble the outer pocket would slip over the stand to keep all the stuff up off the ground without taking up much room. I'll work that out this summer with PVC (I know not really green, but lighter than metal) and if I get it to work, I'll post a tutorial. 


  1. Hey, you won the grocery coupon giveaway on my blog 3 weeks ago. PLEASE email me at beingfrugalbychoiceblog at by 4 pm next Wednesday with your contact info. I really want to hear from you, but I'm going to have to draw again soon.


  2. Sorry Sarah, I completely forgot about entering. Thanks!

  3. GREAT post! We are going to start camping with our little bambino this summer (she's 17 months). We camped pre-baby and hope for the best now.

    We've created a wonnagon with all of our kitchen materials in a big plastic bin. We've got enough cloth diapers to get through two days and...

    A little worried about the fire but it should be fun.

  4. I love when people camp with babies. The thing to remember is to have enough to keep them warm. Also keep in mind a fit pit is still usually hot in the morning. I don't put my fire pit out before bed (but then I don't build a giant fire or camp anywhere that it is dry enough to start a forest fire) we let is burn down to embers and head to bed. In the am I am able to use tinder, pine needles and bark to start a new fire without an added flame.
    My mom used to make a barracade around the fire - using camp chairs- so we couldn't just get to the fire. Off to check out your blog.

  5. Thanks for the visit! I'll incorporate you suggestions AND I already talked to my husband about picking-up a dining tent. Totally didn't think of that but it could save the day.


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My Green is Frugal To Do List

  • Sunday Cooking Days
  • Saturday Park Days
  • Bake My Own Bread
  • Set Up Sewing Space
  • Upcycle Craft Space
  • Space for Scrapbooks
  • Rear Yard
  • Lasagna Beds
  • Clear the Clutter
  • Spend More Time w Family/Friends w/o Money
  • Eliminate Debts
  • Recycling Station on the Front Porch
  • Waste Less
  • Unplug and Turn Off Entertainment Center Every Night
  • Cloth Wipies
  • Use Hankies instead of Tissues
  • Move to Cloth instead of Paper Towels - DONE! Thanks to GreenerYet!

2012 (2011) (2010) Christmas To Do List

  • Ornaments from the girls to lots of peoples :)
  • Dad: Seeds for the garden
  • Mums: Seeds for the garden
  • SMIL: Headrest Couch Covers
  • Joe: Jets Fleece Tie Blanket
  • Billy: Homemade Goodies (pinksters); fleece tie blanket
  • FIL: Basket of Homemade Goodies
  • SFIL: ?
  • MIL: Scrapbook from Trip Out West
  • DH: Green and Black Scarf
  • A: Art Caddy; Quilt (Celestial);
  • S: Pressed Flowers Book; Button Tree Quilt;

My Wish List

  • Small Square Glass Containers
  • Glass Casserole Pans
  • Solar Oven
  • Cast Iron Pans
  • Wide Mouth Canning Jars in 1/2 pint and pint sizes
  • Pressure Canner
  • Water Bath Canner