This weekend, families across America are packing up cars, RVs, and backpacks for a Fourth of July campout. Not spending the holiday with Mother Nature? There's still plenty of summer left and loads of cheap camping gear for outdoorsy types on a budget.
Start with our buying guides on cheap tents and cheap sleeping bags. A camping pad for under that sleeping bag costs $12.38 at Walmart and will help keep you warm and comfortable (bonus: it can double as a yoga or exercise mat). If you're looking for even more comfort, we found the best prices on air mattresses at Amazon, where the Intex Prestige Downy full air bed kit with battery-powered pump goes for $23. Amazon is also the place to buy a camping stove; the Stansport single-burner propane stove costs $21.29.
Even at a campground with electricity, a flashlight can help you find your way to the bathroom at night -- and make your face look frightful as you tell a good ghost story. The Dorcy carabineer floating, waterproof flashlight clips right to your pack and costs $7.84 at Amazon (it's slightly cheaper elsewhere online, but watch out for shipping costs).
The hands-free Quarrow Vista3 headlamp ($12.97 at Bass Pro Shops) is also waterproof and has a glow-in-the-dark power switch. For in the tent, when you're just hanging out playing cards or rustling through your stuff for a change of clothes, we like the Coleman LED Camp Lantern for $13.88 at Walmart.
Walmart offers lots of other cheap camping gear as well. The Ozark Trail Deluxe Arm Chair is the cheapest camping chair we found, at $9.88, and consumers say in reviews that it's a great value for the money. A few other things that could come in handy: a five-gallon Coleman Water Carrier that collapses to save space ($5.88); a Coleman Fixed-Blade Knife ($10.97); and a Coghlans Solar-Heated Camp Shower ($9.97), which is essentially a hanging bag of (hopefully warm) water with a hose at the bottom. One last nifty item available at Walmart: the Stansport Collapsible Carry-All / Trash Can ($16).
Use this multipurpose product for carrying all your cheap camping gear or for hauling away your trash, and, in the meantime, keeping animals and flies out of it. Users say it also makes a great laundry hamper.
No collection of cheap camping gear would be complete without a first-aid kit. Outdoor store REI has one on sale for $7.93. To potentially save even more, use this as a guide for assembling your own first-aid kit from items you already have around the house.