We've invested over the years in a collection of canvas folding chairs. Those were hard to spend the money on, but we are so glad we have them. A few years ago, we camped with friends who had a smaller family than ours. Their kids couldn't understand why we didn't each have our own chairs. I tried to explain that when travelling with camping gear for so many people, there just isn’t room for everything we might want. But by now, adding a little at a time, we are up to five big chairs and two child sized chairs.
Another camping tip coming...the small folding chairs work very well for the little ones to sit up to the picnic table benches while eating. Much better than trying to sit up to the table to reach.
We've also tried using a folding booster chair at the table, strapping it onto the bench somehow, but it doesn't work as well. We do bring it along though, if we have room, because it's one more seat for somebody during campfire time. We wouldn't have bought it just for camping, but since we have it, we bring it along.
We also always have our two umbrella strollers. They don't take up too much room, and are very handy. We use them to send the kids to fill the collapsible water bags, the 2 gal. thermos we bring, and the stock pot for hot water. Somebody always sits in them when we are around the campfire; and of course they get used for just plain taking the little ones on walks (or for sending the medium children on a walk with the younger ones while the parents and the biggest kids set up or take down camp).
Tip number three: Learn how to mend your camping equipment.
Our big accomplishment this year was to mend all the fraying and ripped canvases on our folding chairs. Elsie and I sat out in the garage for about two hours one afternoon and evening before vacation working on them. It was so nice this year to not have to keep re-adjusting the canvas in order to find the lesser ripped sections to hold the chairs together. We did four upper shoulder area repairs and two arm rest repairs.
Matt's chair had a broken foot, the plastic thing that holds all the legs in one spot, but allows them to shift when folding. Joe helped me pop out the rivets. then he helped me expand the size of the hole a bit and filed them smooth. I threaded para-cord through the parts and knotted it off with enough room for the movement it needs when folding and unfolding.
Elsie said to me, "Do you think regular people just go out and buy new chairs?" It made me smile. I was glad to share that thrifty lesson with her, and that she picked up on it without me even mentioning it.
Amy Dacyczyn, of The Tightwad Gazette fame, always said to calculate a wage for yourself in order to determine if something is worth spending the time on. With five different broken camp chairs to work on, at about what are they this year, $20 each? I figure that comes to about $20/hour. Elsie and I each worked two full hours; Joe and I probably worked about 1/2 hour each on the foot of the one. Not a bad was to spend a couple of hours.
We were very pleased with our accomplishments.
Last year was a "fix the tents" year. We invested in the elastic cording, and several different diameters of tent pole parts. We still have two small tents for which we can't find the small diameter of pole we need, but someday I will find something that works. Those little ones don't take up too much room sitting on the shelf.
All the others started out last year's vacation with good poles and elastics and ends. This year we have one pole section to replace before packing away the tents. We also have nylon and netting for patching. We haven't used it yet, but I noticed our big tent has several holes in the netting. I'm tempted to just use duct tape, but we shall see.