While I generally prefer to use high-quality reusable camping gear whenever possible, sometimes Dollar Tree items just can’t be beaten in terms of price and convenience. This is especially true if you camp infrequently and don’t want to invest in tons of gear, if water isn’t readily available at your campsite, or if you are camping with a large group.
In this list, I’ll share 22 Dollar Tree camping essentials:
1. Paper or Plastic Cups, Plates, and Bowls
Sometimes it’s just not practical to wash dishes after every meal, especially if you have to haul in your own water or when you are feeding a large group. In that case, inexpensive paper cups and dishes can be a lifesaver. If the campground recycles, that’s great, or you can always use soiled cups and plates as fire starters for your evening bonfire.
Dollar Tree sells all colors of paper and plastic products, so you can even come up with a theme or color scheme for your camping trips. If you have people with food allergies present, you can color code plates of food so they know which ones are safe for them to eat.
They also have fun plastic cups, including mini margarita cups and mini wine cups. No one said you can’t be classy on a budget!
2. Plastic Cutlery
Cutlery can stack up fast when you are eating three meals a day and don’t have a dishwasher handy, especially with a big group. While of course it’s not ideal to use single-use cutlery, it can be a lifesaver and allow you to spend more time enjoying your camping trip and less time washing dishes and silverware. Be sure to recycle your used plastic cutlery whenever possible.
3. Tablecloth and Clamps
While most developed campgrounds have a picnic table in each site, they usually aren’t the cleanest or smoothest tables you’ve ever eaten from, so an inexpensive tablecloth from Dollar Tree is a great way to make your table welcoming and keep things clean as you prepare and eat your meals.
Tablecloth clamps will keep your tablecloth from flapping around or being blown away altogether in the wind.
Party streamers are excellent for marking your tent/tarp/yurt stakes and guy lines to help you avoid tripping over them. Until you’ve kicked a tent stake with your bare foot, you don’t know pain! Plus, if you really get tangled in the lines and fall, you can seriously injure yourself or even damage the tent. Streamers can also be fun just to jazz up your campsite or as an entertaining diversion for kids.
5. Dustpan and Broom
Keep the inside of your tent clean by sweeping out any leaves or rocks that make their way in. If you have a mat outside your tent, you can also sweep it off to help prevent dirt from getting tracked inside. If you are camping in a trailer or an RV, these items can still be super helpful for keeping grime and grit out of your living space.
6. Travel Size Dish Soap
Even if you use paper plates and plastic utensils, chances are you will need to re-use pots and pans if you are doing a lot of cooking, so it’s always a good idea to have some dish soap with you. You can also use dish soap to wash grease out of clothes before the stain sets if you are in a pinch, and to clean up other minor messes.
7. Glow Sticks
Glow sticks can also be used to mark your tent guy lines at night to avoid tripping in the dark, or to put on your kids and/or pets to easily keep track of them once the sun goes down. They are also good entertainment for kids as they can make crowns or necklaces or put on a light show.
8. Rainy Day Games and Toys
One of the worst-case scenarios for camping with kids (or as adults, let’s face it) is a rainy day that forces you to spend extended periods of time in your tent or camper. It’s always smart to be prepared with games and toys that your children can play quietly and that will keep them occupied for a few hours.
With our dependence on electronic toys, phones, and computers, it can be hard to find things to do even on a sunny day, so having a stash of games and toys can help stave off the dreaded “I’m bored” chorus.
9. Books and/or Coloring Books and Markers
There’s nothing better than relaxing in your hammock or beach chair with a good book, and if you grab a few at Dollar Tree, you won’t be worried about dropping your library loans or expensive hardback books into the lake or getting them sandy.
Coloring books can serve the same purpose for little ones, or many adults find coloring relaxing as well! Dollar Tree sells marker sets that are perfect for traveling in case some of the markers get lost, fall in the dirt or water, or otherwise get ruined.
10. Beach Toys, Baskets, and Floaties
If you don’t live near a beach, you probably don’t own tons of beach toys. But, if you go camping near a lake or other body of water, beach toys can provide hours of fun for kids. Dollar Tree sells all kinds of tubs and baskets that can be used to pack and haul beach toys while still allowing them to drain the water and dry out. Floaties are a great way to stay cool while you work on your tan as well.
11. Travel Toiletry Bottles
These are super convenient for packing shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, etc., but they can also be used for kitchen items like olive oil, ketchup, and other condiments. You can pack sunscreen in them too if you just need a small amount or want to bring some on a hike.
These bottles can also be used to store paints or other craft materials if you want to get creative while you camp.
12. Hand Soap and/or Hand Sanitizer
Sometimes campground bathrooms aren’t the most well-stocked, so you may wish to bring your own hand soap just in case. If you have a water jug in your campsite, you can also save a trip to the bathroom if you just need to quickly wash your hands. Hand sanitizer is always a good idea when you are camping as well, especially if you don’t have access to water.
13. Duct Tape
Tent ripped? Duct tape it. Floatie popped? Duct tape it. Blisters from hiking? Duct tape it.
There are few things that duct tape can’t fix, so it should definitely be a staple on your camping packing list. Dollar Tree even has several color options so you can choose your favorite.
It’s much easier and safer to start a bonfire with a long-stem lighter than a match. Lighters also come in handy if your stove needs to be manually lit, or if you have a citronella candle to keep mosquitoes away.
15. Poly Rope
This lightweight rope can be used in many ways. You can string up a clothesline to dry wet swimsuits and towels, use it as guy line to stake down tents or tarps, tie down floaties or other items likely to blow away in the wind, hang food items from a tree to thwart bears, or any number of other uses.
You can in theory use this type of rope to tie up boats and other watercraft, although I would consider using a more significant rope than what you find at Dollar Tree for this purpose.
16. Plastic Storage Bags
These are super convenient for packing so that you can see what is in each bag.
They can also be used to hold dirty or wet laundry and keep it separate from your clean clothes, or to keep important items (cameras, phones, etc.) safe from water and sand. If you are packing for multiple people (small children for instance) these can help you stay organized if you use one bag for swimsuits and beach clothing, one for pajamas, and so on.
17. Tissues, Paper Towels, and Toilet Paper
As I mentioned, campground bathrooms aren’t always stocked, so it’s always a good idea to bring some backup toilet paper just in case. Tissues are always handy as well, and paper towels can make cleanup after meals easier, or be used as napkins. Used tissues and paper towels make good fire starters as well.
18. Plastic Food Containers
These are super handy both for packing food (rice or pasta for instance) and for saving leftovers. You can also eat out of them to avoid washing another dish.
If you want to be extra prepared, you can even meal prep with these containers by packing them with pre-portioned amounts of all the dry ingredients necessary for a dish. Or, if you are just going on a short camping trip, you can prepare all of your food at home and pack portioned meals in these containers, so then you don’t have to cook at all while you are camping.
These containers come in all sizes, from teeny tiny (which are great for holding spices or any medications that you need to bring with you) to big ones which can hold a whole dinner. They even make special containers to hold eggs so they don’t get smashed up in your cooler on the way to your campsite!
19. First Aid Supplies
Dollar Tree has a surprising selection of first aid supplies, from bandaids (they even have camo ones, so camping appropriate) to travel-sized Advil and antibacterial wipes. In the unfortunate event that someone gets hurt or sick while you are camping, it pays to be prepared.
They even have a handy travel pack which includes cotton pads, cotton swabs, and cotton balls which are always a good idea to have in any first aid kit.
20. Aluminum Foil and/or Aluminum Pans
Nothing screams “camping” more than cooking over an open fire. Most campground grates have enormous gaps and it’s unlikely that they are cleaned regularly, however, so bring foil or a foil pan to place over the grate. You can also wrap potatoes in foil and chuck them directly into the coals for delicious baked potatoes!
The pans are super helpful if you have a lot of small pieces of vegetables for example, or if you are cooking meat and don’t want to lose all the juices and marinade into the fire. They also help distribute the heat more evenly so your food will cook thoroughly without burning.
Plus, if you do end up burning something onto the pan, you can simply throw it away after you’re done instead of spending hours scrubbing it.
21. Trash Bags
There may not be a garbage can close to your campsite, so it’s always convenient to have a bag in which to collect trash, which you can then walk over to the trash receptacle when it gets full. Or, your campground may not have garbage collection at all, which means you will need to pack everything out with you.
Either way, trash bags are essential. You can also use them to store dirty laundry, wet clothes, or muddy shoes so your car doesn’t get filthy on the drive home.
22. Dishcloth and/or Potholder
If you are cooking over the fire, you will definitely need a potholder or dish towel with which to grab the pan from the grate to avoid burning your hand. Especially if you plan to wash dishes, a dish towel is essential so you can put the dishes away right away rather than having them spread out to dry all over your table.
However, there’s always a chance when cooking outside and with fire that your potholder or dish towel might get dirty, burned, or both, so packing a Dollar Tree towel will save your favorite dish towels and potholders from home.
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