Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Some Shopping Tips For Campers

I make it a habit to check out the camping stuff just about everywhere I go. Places like REI, Cabela's, Camping World, and Big 5, that specialize in camping equipment and sporting goods are always good choices. Walmart, K-mart, Sears, and Target, which we visit often for other things, are also good places to at least window shop. Colemans Surplus is also a good online resource (not associated with Coleman's camping equipment).  But I also look over the stuff in truck stops and even local grocery stores. The little stores in campgrounds are always fun to check out. You'll often find creations of local craftsmen there you won't see anywhere else. Being bargain oriented (or perhaps just cheap!), I like to look for Manager's Specials and Clearances. I find that is a good way to check out new gadgets and stock up on disposable supplies.  It is nice to be able to try out new gadgets without having to shell our big bucks for something you don't even know if you'll like.

Camping purchases may be planned or spontaneous. Spontaneous buys will happen when you come across a good deal in your travels. Planned purchases reflect the additions or improvements you want to make in your camping lifestyle based on what you've seen others using or new products you've seen advertised. When you have determined you want a specific new gadget it is often useful to shop around to get the best price. Check the Internet. I've found a lot of stuff I needed (or wanted) on eBay. Make a list of the things you need and compare prices and availability, then make your best deal. Don't forget to consider shipping costs when buying on the Internet. As retailers have become more competitive with Internet stores, the lack of shipping costs plus the convenience of having it NOW instead of waiting for it to be shipped often tips things in their favor. Spontaneous purchases happen when you're browsing through the camping department and come across something you like. More often than not I've regretted not buying something when I spotted it. All too often it is no longer available or more expensive when I finally get around to adding it to my list. Spontaneous purchases are particularly justified when you are out of town and somewhere it would be difficult to return to at a later time -- or when the item is on sale. I've found some of my camping tools in truck stops during our travels -- and have never seen the identical items anywhere else. I don't think I've EVER bought something and then wished I hadn't. There have been a few times I've found better pricing on some items at a later date, but I'd rather over pay now rather than miss out on something good, which is what usually happens if I wait. Just this summer I kept passing over a Coleman Dual Fuel lantern at half price. This time I lucked out and there was one left when I finally decided to buy it. If I'd waited just one more day -- or maybe even on more hour -- it could have been gone!

There are some unusual places you may find camping stuff. Garage sales and thrift stores can yield unbelievable bargains on camping equipment or things you can adapt for camping. Sometimes items have never even been used, just stuff people accumulated and never used or no longer need. Sometimes you'll see tools or supplies at home centers and hardware stores that are applicable to your camping lifestyle. If you like bargains (and most of us do!), check out liquidation centers and keep your eyes open when you visit your local dollar stores. I created a solvent-resistant, cushioned work surface on the workbench in my motorcycle trailer using foam animal puzzles from the 99 Cent store. It looks kind of funky, but it keeps things from sliding around, protects the counter top, and is surprisingly resistant to grease, oil, and solvent making it easy to clean. I took a lot of initial teasing from my macho dirt biking buddies about my kiddie puzzles -- until they saw how well it worked! By then the 99 Cent Store was all sold out and they had to do find another solution or do without. "Swim noodles" from the dollar store can be cut to make colorful windshield wiper shields for motorhomes and tow vehicles or used to wrap exposed tent or canopy poles to protect them from people walking into them and cushion the impact when they do. A dollar swim noodle is a cheap investment to reduce the chances of bending an aluminum pole. More than once I've found handy kitchen gadgets for my motorhome and camper on the kitchen utensils wall at my local Dollar Tree. They may not be restaurant strength or quality, but they're cheap and easy to replace if something happens to them. They are usually more than adequate for the light use they get camping. You never know what you might come across that will be helpful -- at least not until you spend a little time reviewing the options.

You will sometimes find useful items in your own garage, basement, closet, or attic -- things you might have set aside from your normal lifestyle that can be resurrected to add comfort or convenience to your camping experience. Sometimes you can cut down a broken shovel handle to adapt it for camping use instead of throwing it away. That old 2-slice toaster that your family outgrew might be just the right size for your camper. "Retired" towels, linens, and blankets often find new life for camping. Blankets that were too ragged around the edges for home use can still provide plenty of warmth in camp and you don't have to worry too much about embers from the campfire burning holes in them. Those old manual can openers we've shunned for years at home in favor of automatic electric models are perfect for camping and emergency preparedness kits. One nice thing about recycling old stuff is you're not out much, if anything, when something happens to it, if it gets damaged or left behind.

Campground stores can be a mecca for campers. They often stock items frequently needed or requested by campers so things have, to some extent, been pre-selected just for you. Smaller campgrounds have limited supplies but don't be afraid to ask someone for what you need. They may have back stock or may be able to pick up what you need on their next supply run. In some cases you may find prices quite a bit higher than you'd pay in big-box outlets, but you are paying for convenience. I've often seen milk go for around $5.00 a gallon in a resort town when it sells at Walmart for $2.99 or less -- but Walmart is 35 miles away and not even a motorcycle can make that trip for $2.00, not to mention the wasted driving time. So don't begrudge camp stores if their prices are a little higher than downtown. Just be grateful when they have what you need!

The Internet can be a great source of camping equipment and supplies.   I like to check ebay and craigslist quite regularly.  Coleman's Surplus is a good source of surplus military stuff.   Local classified ads can also be a good place to look both online and in the paper.

Shopping for provisions.   When shopping for provisions, look for appropriate sized items to fit in your RV cabinets or camp kit.  Getting a 50 lb bag of flour may get you the lowest price per pound, but where the heck are you going to put it?   You might store that 50 lb bag at home and transfer just what you need to your RV or camp kit as needed.  Try to update your provisions at the same time you do your normal shopping so you don't have to make a special trip.  Be sure to check your needs before you go shopping so you can get everything in one trip.  You may be able to spread out the cost of stocking your RV or camp kit.  Make a list of everything you need.  Then look for coupons to save money.  And pick up  few items on your list each time you do your regular shopping.

The main thing to remember is to always be alert for camping items where ever you go. Be prudent in your shopping but be prepared to take advantage of on-the-spot deals -- unique items or special prices.  By checking out many different places you will be better prepared to recognize a good deal when you find one.

Good shopping!

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