Contributor article by Sally Writes. Photo by Chris Schog on Unsplash.
Spring has truly sprung, and Americans everywhere are revving up to hit the great outdoors. In the spring of 2008, 41.75 million Americans went camping, and this jumped by over 5 million at the start of spring of 2017. This growth continues and an extra million households are expected to start camping each year. The camping industry generates $2.5 billion annually, and while it is possible to camp on a budget entry, any luxuries can quickly drain your disposable income. Is it possible to glam in the wilderness on a shoestring budget? It is if you are canny.
Keep Your Brain-Box Warm
As the sun vanishes below the horizon and temperatures drop, the risk of hypothermia increases. You can’t help radiating heat, so anywhere you don’t have clothing can become a source of cooling from radiation heat loss. On the other hand, effective use of clothing and layers of air can help trap heat while camping. A simple knitted hat can help keep you warm by trapping the heat lost from your head.
Upgrade Your Sleeping Arrangements Cheaply
For first time campers, it is the night that worries them most. There is nothing like a rock hard, freezing cold floor to take all the enthusiasm out of even the most excited camper. Air beds can be extremely expensive, bulky, and a pain to inflate. Roll mats are great but the affordable options don’t always work, and the ones that do, cost too much for a budget camper. Instead, it is far cheaper to go directly to foam suppliers, where you can purchase a roll of 1/4 inch Closed Cell Foam, and cut it to size. If the idea of lying on the ground doesn’t appeal even with a mat, a DIY hammock offers an incredibly cheap and comfortable alternative. Visit your local military surplus shop and get some parachute fabric; you will need a piece around 7 foot by 4 foot and some paracord. Fit brass eyes at each corner, thread your rope and firmly attach your bed to a couple of trees. If you feel too exposed, use any surplus fabric to fashion a makeshift flysheet.
Prepare Homemade Emergency Rations
Sometimes you just need a lift. When things go wrong in the wilderness, nothing can give you a boost like a hit of glucose. Traditionally hikers have kept Kendal Mint Cake on them for those occasions when nothing else will do. Save yourself money on this emergency ration and have fun making it for yourself. All you need is sugar, milk, and peppermint oil. Eating well when on an outdoor adventure is absolutely key, so those emergency rations shouldn’t be overlooked.
Get Organised and Relieve Stress
If you are staying at your chosen campsite for any length of time it’s important to get organized. Scrabbling through wet clothes and smelly bags can get old really fast. Camping cupboards and shelves are a great solution, but they don’t come cheap. Thankfully, in the woods you can find all the raw materials you need to make as much furniture as you want, provided you got your pioneering badge in Boy Scouts, or have read this guide. For a first time camper, the simpler solution is pallets. If you have a group of families camping together, each can bring a pallet on their roof racks, to which other equipment can be tied. Pack a good claw hammer and some nails and even the most inept carpenter can knock up a simple shelf/table unit in minutes. Combine your unit with dollar store car organizers, and you’ve got something really useful. When you are finished you can take your creation home or use it on your last big fire of the camp.
Every Problem Has a Cheap Solution
Don’t want to squat over a hole in the ground but can’t afford an expensive camping toilet? Buy a cheap but sturdy bucket from a builder’s supply shop and a swimming noodle from the dollar store. Wrap the noodle around the top, cut it to size and then slice it lengthwise so it will fit around the rim.
Can’t afford an expensive battery powered fridge? Get a metal ammo box from a military surplus shop, bury it to the rim, half fill with water and keep things in it sealed in bags. If it starts to feel warm inside, place damp tea towels on the lid.
Miss your warm shower? Buy industrial strength black trash bags. Cut a hole in the bottom corner, use duct tape to attach a small length of hose, tape the rose from a dollar store watering can at the end, add a bulldog clip just above the hole, hang the bag up in direct sunlight and fill with water. By the end of the day, you will have a bag of warm water ready to be released through the rose when you release the clip.
Don’t like the dark but can’t afford a power light for your camp? Fill an empty wide-mouthed bottle with a mixture of bleach and water duct tape a headlamp to the mouth of the bottle pointing down into the liquid, fashion a handle out of some string, hang it on a branch above your camp, and then turn the lamp on. The bottle will glow as brightly as an incandescent bulb and illuminate your whole campsite.
Your budget does not have to stop you from enjoying the wilderness this spring. The only thing in your way is planning, research, and original thinking. Don’t slum it and have a break you wish you could forget—prepare a budget glam and create memories to treasure forever.