Best Supplies For The Cheapest Price?
Walmart, Target and Kmart can get you adequately supplied with medium-quality products at a low price. Look for sales on tents and the like.
If you are just starting out it’s best if you not buy someone’s used outfit unless you are very familiar with it and know it has all the parts. Start out simple and learn as you go. Don’t break the bank right off. Don’t buy more tent than you need and don’t spend top dollar for the latest ultra-light outfit if you’re going to be staying at the local park with your car 15 feet away.
Sleeping bags can often be bought at the thrift stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army or DAV. It takes some looking around, though.
The same thrift stores are a great source of cheap cooking supplies that you aren’t worried about re-using. I have also often found whole, unused mess kits. I often find small backpacks and rucksacks as well as full-framed backpacks.
Campstoves are hit-or-miss. If you buy used make sure you see it working before you buy it.
Tarps and rope can be found cheap at at BigLots / OddLots or the usual discount stores.
Food is food. If you’re going to have a cooler then get a big one. I get mine from a local auction house. Freeze up your bottled water ahead of time to save on the ice you have to haul. If you’re going just for the weekend then two gallons of water frozen solid will last you if you’re not silly.
Don’t bring a lot of soda and sugary drinks. The bugs love the stuff and will not leave you alone. Bottled water, coffee, tea, and maybe some of those drink packets for the bottled water if you have to. Avoid packing bread unless you have a camper to store it in. The bread gets squished easily and has to be kept away from the critters. The packaged pre-made pizza crusts (Boboli) can be handy and fun. Packaged soft tortillas are good.
Canned is okay but make sure you take your trash away from camp each night. I get a lot of neat meals cheap at BigLots. Rice dishes, jambalaya, noodle soups, packaged heat-and-eat meals, pre-cooked hamburger, Spam, potted meat, soups, summer sausage, canned fruit, canned veggies, flatbreads … there’s a lot of fun stuff there.
Bring lots of aluminum foil and you will give yourself a lot of options. You can cheat by packing a meal or two in the foil and just tossing it on the grill for a while.
The bottom line is that you do NOT have to head off to the local outfitters and pay big bucks for the dehydrated stuff and $50 MRE kits. Save that money for some extra camera film.