27 Must Haves for your Camper on a Budget!

So you took the dive, and you bought a camper! But now you need to stock it, and everything really adds up – how can you save money and do it as thrifty as possible?

Thrift stores!

My favorite thing ever is finding deals at thrift stores, and I wanted to go over some things that are just better to buy used than to spend money on.

When we were deciding what camper we wanted, we were really torn in between buying an older one and renovating it, or buying a new one (with all the bells and whistles!) and just trying to be tight with our finances after.

In the end, we decided we did not want any problems to pop up if we bought a used camper. We also didn’t want to spend our weekends that we could be camping working on the camper!

This meant, though, that I couldn’t buy all the cute “adventure themed” linens, and the pretty silverware, or find the EXACT thing I wanted for everything.

I instead had to be resourceful and find as much as I could at our local thrift stores.

RVs get messy… FAST! Check out this article of 61+ RV organizing accessories and tips to make sure your camping vacation remains stress free (and without clutter!

Before We Start – what I wish I had started doing WAY earlier (and for less than $9… super in budget!)

I kept on waiting to have a picture perfect camper before officially documenting our trips, or thought I’d ACTUALLY just use a notebook. I wrote this article over 3 years ago… and I only started journaling our family RV trips a year ago! =(

It might not seem important now, but I’d recommend getting an RV Journal right from the start so that you can have an easy to reference way to remember your RV trips (and the upgrades over time from your budget choices to the final decor choices!)

rv journal

Linens for your camper

There are always a ton every thrift store I go to!

The organization may not always be the best, but it’s worth going through what’s there to save some serious money!

Even the most basic sheet sets can cost 20-30 dollars, and normally you will need 2-3 of them to cover each bed.

While the linens might not be matching, it’s good to just get everything covered, then be on the lookout for cute stuff to upgrade over time.

where to find cheap linens for camper
Kind of mismatched, but it will do until you find the linens you love!

Here are some linens to make sure to get for your camper

  • Pillowcases – These are so cheap, that it’s worth buying a couple so that you have extras while camping! Kids get so dirty so quick that it’s nice to just switch out the pillowcase every day!
  • Fitted Sheet + Top Sheet – While I normally don’t use top sheets, they are helpful for camping because they prevent your bigger, heavier comforter from getting dirty as fast. Also, it’s just nice to have a lighter sheet for sleeping if it’s summer!
  • Extra thick blankets – Always good to have in an emergency, such as when your heater stop working or it’s just a really cold night. They can double as a safe surface for babies to play on outside!
  • Shower Towels – Even if you don’t have a shower, or never intend to be gone long enough to need to shower, they can come in handy for unexpected trips to the pool or splashes in the lake!
  • Ugly Shower Towels / Dish Rags – We bought a couple of ratty shower towels, and just cut them up to be dish rags. They are just helpful for wiping up, and will save you a ton of money on paper towels!
See also
31 Campervan Gift Ideas Campervan Owners Will LOVE | 2021

It’s also nice to have a dedicated “camping” set of linens.

Having an extra linen set is helpful so that hat when you get back from camping, you can just strip everything, wash it, and get it all back on and be ready for your next trip!

Dish Accessories for your RV kitchen

Most thrift stores are OVERFLOWING with silverware and other cooking must haves!

A silverware set will be easy to find, but don’t forget to get these other essentials for your camper!

  • 1-2 Metal Pots – While camping might conventionally be all about grilling and smores, we know that, with kids, noodles and other less exciting food may be preferred. Also, you GOT to have “cowboy coffee” in the morning if you’re camping!
  • Spatulas and Whisk – Pancake making supplies!
  • PLASTIC Plates and Cups!- As pretty as others might look, if you’re camping with kids this just eliminates the possibility of breaking dishes. They also, in my opinion, hold up a lot longer. Just be sure they are dishwasher safe!
  • Coffee Cups – The most unique cups I have ever found have been at thrift stores! If you can’t find any cool ones, just get some basic cups and keep an eye out for those unique pieces
kitchen utensils in thrift store for a camper
If you have the patience, you can likely find all the kitchen utensils you need here!

Organizational Items to utilize all the space in your camper!

Laundry baskets, storage containers, hanging storage are all things I’m talking about!

Make sure to take measurements of any storage spaces that you’re trying to find a container for beforehand!

Campers often have weird shaped or sized storage areas, and it can be hard to find a good one. Luckily, there are many odd finds at thrift stores!

Here are some organizing items to look out for at your local thrift store

  • Laundry Hamper / Bag – I personally prefer a bag, since floor space is limited, but your camper might be bigger!
  • Hanging Organizers for Small Closets – These are often marketed as shoe or sweater organizers, but they are perfect for those weird spaces in your camper because they are soft and so sort of moldable to where they need to fit!
  • Back of the Door Hangers – It’s all about utilizing the space you have, and doors are prime realty! I often hang towels from them, but you could hang Day / Night clothes for easy changing!
  • Cloth Foldable Bins – I love these for bringing into the house, packing with our clothes, then transporting back into the camper. Each person has their own bin, and when not in use, they fold flat!
  • Trash Cans – I like to get two for outside, and one small one for inside the camper. It’s nice being able to have your recyclables already separated (one trash can for trash, the other for recyle) so it’s that much easier to take care of when you get home!
  • 3M Hooks – While these might be a little harder to find, you’ll want some hooks! They are great for hanging bigger utensils that don’t fit in your kitchen drawers as well as small items you don’t want to lose such as keys. These might be a little easier to find at a store such as Habitat for Humanity.
  • Velcro – You might find some rolls of velcro in the craft area of the thrift store – snatch them up if you see it! Velcro is amazing for keeping things in place while in transit, and it’s super easy to apply!
  • Silverware  Trays, Dish Drying Rack, Dish Storage (preferably vertical) – These are things that don’t get much use (unless you travel full time of course – lucky!) so you don’t need anything super quality. I always buy vertical storage for things like plates and cups because I find that I have a ton of vertical space with no shelves in most of my cabinets!
  • Wire Shelving or other Adjustable Shelving – This isn’t necessary, especially if you already found a good hanging organizer, but it’s good to look out for anyways. If you have a smaller camper, you’re probably going to be looking for locker sized shelving units!
See also
Overlanding vs. Off-Roading: Is There Really a Difference?

P.S. Here are some RV bathroom specific organization ideas that have helped me a ton!

Kids Toys that can take some rough play!

I absolutely love buying toys used – there always seems to be a giant selection, and it’s kind of fun because you never know what you will find!

I like buying things that are durable, easy to clean, do well outside, and don’t have a bunch of little parts.

This means rubber or good plastic, as they are not easy to break and can be washed off fairly easy. I also like to not have tons of little pieces laying around everywhere that will inevitably get lost!

Check out this list of 29+ camp toy ideas for kids!

Here are some toys every kid needs on a camping trip (that you’ll likely find at your local thrift shop!)

  • 2 or 3 Balls – Get some different kinds! A rubber one for kicking, a cool textured one for the younger kids, and a bouncy one!
  • “Beach Toys” IE a Shovel, Bucket, Rake etc – Where there’s a campsite, there will be rocks and dirt! Just a couple of tools like this will keep kids busy for hours!
  • Truck Toys – Boys AND girls will love to dig stuff up and move dirt around! Another favorite that I see all the time at thrift stores!
  • A toy that can “eat” stuff – What I mean is some sort of toy that your kid can make eat things. A toy that has a mouth that can open and shut – this might be a hand puppet, or one of those finger operated toys that you pull the lever down and the mouth closes. I can’t tell you how much fun my toddler has had when I send him on some mission to feed his dino something from around camp!
sand toys for camping
There was this awesome dirt pit at our last campsite that the kids loved!

Extra Baby / Kid Care Items

While this is mostly applicable to younger children, it’s still good to see if there are any duplicates of items you need for your kids!

See also
61+ Best RV Organization Accessories and Products of 2022

This might include high chairs, booster seats, baby gates, or an extra pack ‘n play.

The more dedicated camping items you have, the less you have to pack, and the quicker you can get out the door!

If it’s your first time camping with a baby, you might want to check out this handy baby camping checklist and this list of baby camping gear so you know what to be on the lookout for!

Some easy extra baby items to keep an eye out for

  • Booster seat/highchair – Even if your child is fine to sit on their own, sometimes it’s helpful to keep them “contained” while you get chores done
  • Pack N Play – I don’t use one, but I do know parents who use them for outside play!
  • Bed rails / Baby Gate – Helpful if you co-sleep, or just want to add some extra security to your toddler’s sleeping arrangement!
  • Shoes – These get wet often, so it’s really helpful to have one or two extra! The morning dew always get my guys shoes wet, despite us telling him to stay out of the grass!
  • Clothes – Pants are a big one here, since they will likely get dirty the fastest!
kids items to find in a thrift store for your camper like a bedrail
We use our bed rail for cosleeping and as sort of a makeshift barrier to keep everyone contained!

Other tips on finding cheap camping items

If you can’t find what you need at the thrift store, the next best place to look would be on line community markets, such as Facebook Marketplace!

Be sure to join all the local garage sale sites too, as things like kid items are bought and sold fairly often.

Lastly, you could check out Amazon and see if there are any Warehouse Deals on things you need.

Don’t forget to sign up for a downloadable version of this budget item checklist so you can bring it with you next time you visit your local thrift stores!

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