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Top 10 Frugal Finds for Car Camping

Cheap, thrifty or frugal – whatever your descriptor that’s me. I love the challenge of finding something that’s effective and efficient (cheap). As a family that is relatively new to camping I thought I would lay out the top 10 items that we have used and will continue to use.

Petroleum Jelly + Cotton Balls = Firestarter

In most provincial parks you must purchase your wood from the park store. In most cases we have found the wood to be wet. A simple fix is to pick up a some Petroleum Jelly and cotton balls at the Dollar Store. Take 10 to 15 cotton balls, smear them with Petroleum Jelly (you ain’t getting the brand name at the dollar store), store in a plastic bag and voila, Firestarter! I find splitting or breaking a few of the logs down to thin kindling and using the firestarters gets a good strong base which helps with wet wood.

A campfire started with damp wood

Glow Sticks = Kids Fun and Nightlight

Another good dollar store pickup are glow sticks. The kids love breaking them out around the campfire. At the end of the night throw them in your tent and they act as a great nightlight. If you are like me and your squirrel sized bladder will be waking you up at 2 or 3 AM bathroom break they provide enough light to open up your tent fly and get to the comfort station before its to late.


Aluminum Foil Roasting Pan = Camp Microwave

My family loves bacon but generally we only bring a portable BBQ with us and find the time, effort and grease splattering effect of cooking bacon is a bit of a pain. Pre-Cook your bacon (not to crispy) and in the morning put it in the roasting pan and re warm on the BBQ or even the firepit.

9 X 12 Poly Tarp = Camp Awning and Table Cloth

To date we have never really had a trip where we experienced lots of rain – but that’s just luck. Whenever we camp, I always pack a 9 X 12 Poly Tarp just in case. Generally, I just keep it in my car camping box (actually a plastic tote). For the non rainy trips we have used the tarp as a table cloth. I picked mine up at Canadian Tire for $5 – if you watch the flyer or just do a check of the quick sale bins they are on sale a lot.

A cheap tarp can save a rainy trip

Medium Sized Puzzle = The Backwoods Tablet

Wal Mart, Dollar Store, Garage sale – all good places to buy a medium sized puzzle or two. Most camp sites have a picnic table on site, per my above tip spread your tarp over it. You now have a great spot to lay out a puzzle during those in between moments when you or more realistically the kids get bored

Cheap Inflatable Play Tubes = Wave Pool

Please note, I am not talking about the poop emoji/unicorn/champagne glass inflatables, the are expensive! No I am talking about the small kid sized tubes you can pick up for under 5 bucks. On a recent trip to Awenda Provincial Park these things were awesome. Kids and adults (well, me) loved using them in the big waves of Georgian Bay.

Georgian Bay wave pool at Awenda Provincial Park

Tin Foil, Bag of Mini Chocolates, Sugar Cones and Mini Marshmallows = Campfire Ice Cream Cones

Another simple and cheap way to make the campfire experience memorable and tasty. Roll out a sheet of tinfoil, stuff the sugar cone with a mix of chocolate and marshmallows, wrap the cone in the foil, place in campfire coals, let roast. At the end you will have a bit of warm, gooey goodness! I know I can pick up all of these items at the Dollarama near my house. Plus when Mom and Dad are tired after lunch and not quite ready to attack the next adventure get the kids to make their cones for the night while the adults rest their weary souls!

Deck of Cards = Netflix Binge Watch

We always pack a deck of cards on our trips. You can find them at the dollar store or pretty much anywhere and usually for under $2. Similar to a puzzle it’s a great way to chill at your site and an awesome option if you do get rained on. Crazy 8’s. Old Maid, War are all easy games to be played with the family to pass some time and still enjoy being digitally disconnected

63 Litre Storage Tote = Kitchen Sink and Camp Box

Another good Canadian Tire or Walmart score. For the most part by watching your flyer you should be able to grab one of these for less than $10. This is what I use for my camp box, this is where most of the above get stored as well as a few other key items. When we get to camp we typically empty it out and for the rest of the trip use it as our sink. Fill it up with water, add a little dish soap and Bob’s your uncle! We typically use paper plates for food but frying pans, coffee press, mugs etc. all need to be cleaned and this is a great way to do it.

Car camping box and sink

Ikea UPPHETTA Coffee Press = Starbucks to go

I like, no let me rephrase that, I need good strong coffee in the morning. You can pick up or order this coffee press for $10. Its durable, light weight and makes really good coffee. All you need is a good ground coffee, boiling water and the press. Once the water is boiled (typically I use a Kettle either on the fire or the BBQ) it only takes about 5 minutes before you’ve got a great cup of java. If you are using a regular sized mug one press will cover 3 cups. With large travel mugs you generally get 2 mugs ¾ full. Ikea French Press

So for around $60 bucks the above should ideally satisy your inner Frugalista and make your next camping trip a little more enjoyable. Start watching your flyers or hitting your dollar store (usually around spring you will see actual camping items show up as well) and start saving and get relaxing in the great outdoors.

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