• Hannah Smentkowski

The 5 Best and 5 Worst Camping Items You Can Buy at Walmart

I used to be one of those people that worked at a camping store and received amazing discounts, like 50% off $300 backpacks kind of amazing. Now that I'm not working that store anymore and I realize I should've taken way more advantage of that system.

While I'm still always on the lookout for great deals on high-end gear, it is almost impossible for me to afford the gear I want anymore without saving for months. Luckily, while I wait for the big gear purchases there is always Walmart for starting out cheap and reliably.

Even if in the future you want to upgrade your gear, it's always best to start with what you can get your hands on. That's why I made this list of the best and worst camping items you can get at Walmart for cheap, so you can get started quickly without making some of the money-wasting mistakes I did.

Recommended Items

These are the necessary items you need for camping that will last you a long time for a fair price.


I'm not going to lie, Ozark Trails (the Walmart camping brand) has some pretty great stuff if you keep an eye out. I've had one of their 2-person tents for 4 years and it's still going strong.

Their tents are very spacious, with mine have two large vestibules on either side of the tent, my tent can fit 2 people and my dog if needed. It's also very sturdy, I've camped in some minor winds and rain and this tent stood against these elements as if it wasn't just made of cloth and sticks.

If you're looking for an entry-level tent then look no further than the cheapest tent you can possibly get.

2. Lighting

At Walmart, you'll find tons of options for lighting, and while non of them will light up a football field, they'll do just fine for either a late dinner on the picnic table or lighting up the inside of a tent.

I highly suggest this little lantern if you can find one, it costs $3.50, is surprisingly bright, and it even has a red light feature to protect your night vision. There is also this collapsable solar lantern that's not quite as bright, but a great backup option for emergencies.

For a tent light, this overhead click light works great, and it also has an amber night light feature for only $12.

3. Sleeping pad

While you could get a foam sleeping pad for around $15, it's only half an inch thick and will probably leave you with rocks sticking in your back all night.

If I wasn't worried about the weight I was bringing, I would opt for an inflatable mattress which you can grab for only $13, and a hand pump for just another $10. But if you want to get really spendy you can grab an electric pump for about $12, for those who don't want to spend 30 min inflating a mattress manually. Just make sure you'll have somewhere to plug it in when you get to the campsite.

Even the cheapest mattress should last you a long time as long as you take care of it. But since you're bringing it outdoors there is a likelihood of popping, luckily you can grab a new one for super cheap.

4. First Aid Kit

You can buy so many different types of first aid kits, from 5 bandaids to a complete EMT med-pack. For regular car camping, you most likely won't need the 150 piece kit, but I believe you can't really go without one either. So, for best practices, I suggest bringing at least the minimum:

-multiple different sizes of bandaids


-pain killer (ibuprofen)

-sterile gauze pads


-bandage roll with cloth tape

This way you'll have no worries about small infections, pains, or bleeding instances. Just don't go swinging an ax around like a mass murderer and you'll be alright.

5. Hygiene

While it's always best to use biodegradable soap when your wastewater goes onto the ground, but if you're staying in a campground with a complete indoor bathroom then you can use whatever cleaning products you want.

The cheapest biodegradable camp soap would be the Coghlan's camp soap you can find almost anywhere, but you can also find small bottles of Dr.Bronner's castile soap at Walmart as well for not much more. These soaps can be used for anything from washing dishes to washing your hair, I personally use them a lot because of their versatility.

It actually blew my mind looking at the Walmart travel-size toiletries section, they have everything from tiny shaving creams, to mosquito spray, to perfume, and in almost any big brand you can think of, it's crazy. This is also a great section to grab hand and body wipes to clean your hands and give yourself a quick wipe down at the end of the camping day (which is the best feeling ever).

So, don't forget to snag either some full travel bottles or some empty ones to fill up at home because you do not have to compromise if you don't want to.

Non-Recommended Items

Before you get too excited about grabbing your whole camping set up for next to nothing, here are a couple of items I urge you not to buy so cheap.

1. Sleeping Bag

I say not to buy this cheap because the lower-end sleeping bags offer about as much warmth as a throw blanket from your hallway closet. So no matter nice it looks, grabbing an old blanket from your house would be more worth your time and money. Simply layer up and get cozy under a few blankets and you'll be fine for summer camping.

2. Backpacking Bag