One of the ways to save money so you can put things away for the kid’s college fund and retirement is to pick inexpensive hobbies. For example, instead of taking up golf, take up Frisbee (disc) golf. For less than the price of one club, you can get a whole set of discs and head out onto the course alone or with a few friends, all green fee free. You could probably save a few thousand dollars per year and still get the exercise from walking and get to enjoy the fresh air. There are even usually tournaments held at many local courses if you’re the competitive type.
Another of our favorite activities is camping. Rather than paying $80-$120 per night or more for a hotel room, plus meals out, you can pay like $8-$15 for a site at a campsite in a state park, or even go for free if you just find a place in a national forest or unmanaged state or federal land. Since you’re cooking your own meals, food is cheap. You can easily have a great weekend away for a family of four for $50 to $80, including meals, after investing a few hundred dollars for a tent, sleeping bags, and a few other odds and ends. As with everything you can spend more if you wish, but you can get an adequate gear cheaply and it will last a long time if you take care of it.
Recently I bought a couple of new camping items that I tried out on our last camp-out that I thought I’d discuss. The first was a solar-powered lantern from Suaoki:
Suaoki Led Camping Lantern Lights Rechargeable Battery (Powered By Solar Panel and USB Charging) Collapsible Mini Flashlight for Outdoor Hiking Camping Tent Garden Patio(Emergency Charger for Phone, Water-Resistant, Orange)
I actually bought two of these- one for myself and one for my son. The item can be pulled apart as shown to become a lantern for use to light a tent or just in the campground. It can also be pressed together to become a flashlight or for compact storage. The solar panel on top can be used to charge it during the day. When I went camping last time I realized that I hadn’t brought the big flashlights as I had planned, so I was glad we had the two lanterns.
On day two Mrs. SmallIvy discovered that it had a little USB connector on the side that could be used to charge a cell phone, which she did. Unfortunately, this left us with a dead battery on the lantern as it drained out all of the charge from the lantern. With a couple of hours to go until sundown and somewhat cloudy skies with thunderstorms rolling through, I was worried we would be without the light since I didn’t see how we could charge the lantern before dark. I was surprised, however, that even in questionable light from about 5 PM until 7 PM, we were able to actually charge the light enough to function as needed that night. It never went out, although we didn’t use it for too long. Probably my only complaint is that the lantern sides seem a little flimsy, like they might break if you were rough with it, but it seemed to work fine if you were properly gentle.
The other item we took with us was a wood burning camping stove from Ohuhu:
This was the first time that I had used a wood burning stove, using instead one that burned propane from the little canisters (or cooking over the fire, as we did for the first ten years or so when we went camping. I was interested in this stove since I hate having to carry the gas canisters with me, particularly when backpacking, and having to worry about what to do when you need to leave the car for a while (since the canisters can explode if they get too hot). I also hate the waste off throwing out all of those empty canisters when done. It seemed neat to be able to just pick up little bits of wood around camp and have fuel for cooking.
The stove was a mixed bag. It used wood, as promised, and put out a huge flame, at least for about five minutes. I discovered then, however, that the flame would go out and it would go to a state where it would flame back up if you blew on it, but then go back out. I also tried feeding it fuel as I went, but generally got the same result. It gave enough heat to probably boil a first small pot of water, but then it was kind of done. (Note also, that since you’re burning wood that puts off soot, that you’ll blacken your cook wear. You can cover it with foil or put some dish soap on it before use to make clean-up easy if desired.
Looking online after I came home, I discovered a few things about these wood burning stoves. One thing is that they burn from the top down, so you really need to load a bunch of wood, twigs, and leaves at the start, then the time you have is limited by the size of the stove. Adding more wood as you go really wasn’t effective. I did discover that you could refill it and start a fire again with a little blowing, but this created a delay between the first fire and the second during which your pot of soup would have stopped boiling. It is probably great for a cup of tea or some hot water for oatmeal in the morning, or for a relatively quick meal that you want to heat up, but you’ll probably want a different stove to cook something that you want to boil for a while.
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