Camping For $25: Thrift Store Hacks To Keep Cozy

A hacker is somebody who’s always thinking creatively to solve problems, usually using what they have on hand. Sometimes that means using a 555 to build a CPU, and other times it means using a dead flashlight to start a fire. In the video below the break, [Kelly] shows us a series of hacks you can use while camping in the woods for a night to keep you warm, dry, and well fed!

[Kelly] started his camping trip not in the woods, but rather at a local thrift store. Instead of packing along hundreds of dollars in gear, his aim was to keep costs low. Very low. With some searching he was able to find a blanket, cooking utensils, rope, knife, tarp, and several other camp necessities for just $25.

A good campfire is a necessity of course, and [Kelly]’s full of great ways to start a fire even if all you have is a lighter with no butane or an old flashlight with dead batteries. The purpose of the video is to show how anyone can get their bush craft on even when all they have is a few dollars and a little know-how, which he generously shares. And after watching, we’re sure you’ll agree that he met his mark.

Will you raid the local second hand store before your next camping trip? After seeing this video, you just might! And while you’re there, make sure to grab the things you’ll need to make your own camping-friendly French press so you have some good coffee while you’re out camping in your… uh… Corolla?

18 thoughts on “Camping For $25: Thrift Store Hacks To Keep Cozy

    1. I’ve honestly been preparing for exactly this for the last 30+ years. I have a home, etc. but I know that all it takes is something stupid and I could be homeless in a day, and if I don’t have skills and supplies, I could easily be screwed.

  1. So he brings bacon wrapped ribeye steaks, did not bring any fire starting materials, did not clean any of his gear ahead of time, uses his only water bottle as a charcoal holder, AND just happened to find a lighter in the stream? Eh…

    I’m also a little skeptical about the flashlight reflector technique. Notice how the “punk wood” is just barely inside the reflector and is quickly smoldering, while the actual focal point would be considerably further forward since the filament of a light bulb is definitely not at the base of the reflector.

    1. I notice the differences between the reflector for LED vs incandescent flash lights. Might be easier with the LED flashlights as the light source is a bit more flat and they don’t emit light from their back side.

      The thrift shops here don’t have any fancy or recent electronics. I can throw out old 486 or PII in a box in my apartment and it’ll be gone in a couple of hours. It is that sad here. I envy ones I read about. :P

  2. old oven by the road waiting for scrap day?slide out a rack, cut it
    down a bit,bend two ends down for supports,and it makes an excellent portable grill,cooking on a wood fire is supper satisfying.
    also the cord on an electric oven has four fat, fine strand conductors ,and like the grill,might never realy been used.
    another curb side grab is to skin a leather couch,you know,
    broken or cat wrecked,but with half a acre of leather still nice
    looking,sharp knife or a box cutter,skin that beast

    1. I’ve been trying to figure out where to get a rack for a LARGE smoker I’ve been building. The racks that are commercially sold are either too small or crazy expensive for what I’m doing. I’m gonna be watching the curbs even more now. Thanks for that tip. Also, the one about the leather couches is perfect!!

  3. “bacon wrapped ribeye steaks”
    Take it from someone that has spent ALOT of time hiking the “woods”
    EVERY coyot in 5 miles will be in his camp all night and he won’t
    be sleeping!! They LOVE steaks!! haha
    I too take issue with some of his “tips/finds”
    5 bucks says his truck is parked just out of sight.

  4. This is hardly a new thing. Colin Fletcher’s The Complete Walker certainky mentioned surplus clothing. A Golden Book of camping from the sixties had a lot about making do, even sleeping bags out of blankets.

    I have a Bantam paperback from the late sixties about getting started with hiking, and it talks abiut starting with used clothes and running shoes, and surplus, only buying lighter equipment when you know’ll keep at it.

    In 1972 Albert Saijo wrote The Backpacker, about minimalist hiking.

  5. I do a lot of hiking (like: 25 miles or more each week in summer), and the one thing I always hike with is a space blanket, because exposure and shock are the potential problems that can’t be easily dealt with using local materials. It’s cheap, tiny, and lightweight.

    I keep a thermal sleeping bag in my truck because a HS friend once ran off the road in *his* truck and was trapped overnight. Scott Adams talks about having his car fail in upstate NY and having to walk miles in freezing weather, and almost died as a result. Maybe not a problem where you live, but still…

    The second thing I always carry is a working lighter (the first being a swiss army knife), because being able to light a fire will get you past a ton of problems you might otherwise have in the woods.

    I think in modern times carrying a cell phone is a good idea, especially if it’s fully charged and you turn it completely off while hiking (so that it won’t be out of charge when you need it). There are lots of cheap phones available, and with a “friends and family” plan you can throw an extra phone in your vehicle and if you only use it in emergencies it doesn’t cost anything.

    I heard a conversation on TV once that ran something like this:

    Teacher: How can you start a fire when you’re in the woods?

    Student1: Rub two sticks together
    Student 2: Focus sunlight to a point
    …and so on

    Teacher: Well, how about using matches?

    Student 1: What do you do if you don’t have any matches?

    Teacher: Then you don’t go out in the woods!

    1. >having to walk miles in freezing weather, and almost died as a result. Maybe not a problem where you live, but still…

      Define “miles” and “freezing”.

      I occasionally walk miles in freezing weather for groceries. It’s uncomfortable but I’ve never almost died.

    2. >> carrying a cell phone is a good idea, especially if it’s fully charged and you turn it completely off <<

      I have found that phones vary enormously in battery life when turned off. It's always a good idea to test your candidate phone and select one that doesn't self-discharge (either battery or phone) over a few months. I have a few old ones that keep 90% charge over many months, and others that discharge in weeks.
      If you have a removeable battery you can stick a slip of paper or tape over the contacts, which sometimes helps, if the battery itself holds charge.

  6. Felix Immler polished can bottom with leafs to achieve te same effect. In fact bushcraft crowd is full of fascinating solutions for camping with Mors Kochanski motto “the more you know the less you carry”. Mors himself was interesting person full of knowledge learning everything from physics through chemistry to biology to fully understand his trade.

    I always recommend Felix Immler channel – this guy does wonders with pocket knife.

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