We are neck-deep in a time of technology and instant entertainment riding carelessly in our pockets. This era means we need to connect to nature more than ever. The outdoors are calling us all and it’s time that we answer the call of the wild! Grab your clan and head out into the woods for a fun-filled family camping trip!
But, who has the capability to shell out a small fortune for a simple camping trip?
I thought the whole point of camping was to escape reality and delve into our natural surroundings? Yet, add up transportation, campsite fees, equipment, and food and you’ve reached a deficit.
These mathematics can easily cause you to spend a paycheck or two; never mind if you drag the whole family along for the ride.
Adding your kids to the mix leaves you spending at least a thousand dollars per vacation–camping or otherwise. This is obviously not an easy feat for every family, especially because kids can’t pay for themselves (lazy buggers).
Looking into camping equipment can quickly become overwhelming. Prices can range from fifty dollars to hundreds of dollars in a matter of moments. It’s all-too-tempting to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of camping gear without even heading outside, but that is not conceivable for everybody.
Nature should not be out of reach to anyone! It’s there for all to enjoy.
Now, put away your wallet and go outside gosh-darn-it! Well, not quite.
Unfortunately, you still have to spend some money but that doesn’t mean that the necessities of camping are out of reach. Here are some tips on how to go camping without spending a fortune.
Location, Location, Location!
Campsite fees can range from twelve dollars to fifty or sixty dollars a night. That’s not much if you’re comparing it to a night in a hotel, but why pay anything when you can camp for free? Some of these sites may have full utilities, some utilities, or none.
The deciding factor all comes down to your own research. You must decide what you need during your trip and what you’re willing to pay for.
The first step to finding your ideal camping spot is figuring out if you own the land yourself or not, which is found out easily enough. You could also see if a friend of yours owns a good plot of land that you can camp out on. This is a huge plus when you have little ones! They don’t need to go somewhere crazy and new because they will enjoy whatever outdoor space you bring them to.
If you don’t live in the wild country then you’re next best bet is a campsite. If you can access a State or National Park, State or National Forest, or any similar camping ground then you can find one for a decent price, as I’ve mentioned before.
A lot of campsites can also provide a fire pit, a picnic table and maybe even electricity. It all depends on how connected you want to stay to our modern world and how much you’re willing to pay to do so.
The trick to finding a less expensive campsite is finding one near your home that isn’t popular. The popular ones tend to charge more (I know, shocker). Don’t fall prey to expensive campsites that suck their patrons dry for a small plot on their lot. And don’t forget to check out our guide to choosing camping locations.
Now that you’ve found your campsite, let’s move on to the more expensive part of camping: gear.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on camping gear. Yes, yes, yes…we all dream of camping in a luxury tent with luxury camping clothes and cooking gear that will make your real kitchen blush–but let’s be real here.
That stuff is EXPENSIVE. From cooking stoves, to fanciful tents with multiple rooms you could be looking at spending large chunks of your paycheck just to put a cloth roof over your head. Of course, we all wish we had that tent in Harry Potter with a working bathroom and full kitchen, but that is make-believe.
The most important step in budgeting a camping trip is to plan-ahead! You have to make a list, check it twice…no wait. No, yes! C’mon Santa! Double-check that list and make sure you’re only bringing the necessities.
Be strict with yourself. Because let me tell you, some of those necessities don’t include skewers for making s’mores. You can easily strip bark off the end of a stick with a small knife or just eat the chocolate and marshmallows raw like I do.
Some of the items that are luxurious but non-necessary are tables and chairs. You can buy smaller folding chairs that are light and great for camping, but they are not necessarily the most important piece of equipment.
Necessities do, however, include a tent. The best thing to do is find a singular tent that fits everyone in your group. You can find great tents on a budget that could fit up to 6 people. You could also buy used, just make sure the tent is still in good condition.
Another thing that’s important to have is a proper sleeping bag. One of the obvious reasons for using a sleeping bag is to keep you warm. The ground holds the temperature of the air, so if the air is cold than the ground will be cold. The inside of a tent is much too thin to hold any warmth for your poor, tired, sleeping body so choose your sleeping bag wisely.
Clothes are another form of equipment that are extremely necessary. You need to be prepared for all types of weather. We all know that weather can change in a flash from extremely hot to pounding rain to raw and cold.
Winter is around the corner and the colder temperatures are starting to spread. Binging on expensive Patagonia, L.L. Bean or REI clothing is not the best option if you’re trying to save money. As long as you plan and pack accordingly then you don’t have to spend all of your money on clothing.
Instead of shopping the niche clothing stores that I mentioned, check out your local thrift shop, Goodwill, Savers, or Salvation Army. I have bought used Asolo boots, LL Bean fleece, wool Eddie Bauer sweaters, all for pennies on the dollar. I might look like a million bucks on the trail but have only paid a few dollars for an outfit that will keep my comfy when I’m camping.
It is important that you have good shoes, especially if you plan on hiking or walking, sun protection, and extra clothes for warmth. Other than that, keep your credit card in your wallet and stray from the more expensive stores.
All-in-all make a list! It’s the best way to remain prepared and stay on budget.
Without a well-constructed list, you might as well be grocery shopping while hungry which we all know leads to useless spending on snacks that you don’t need.
If you want to look at another list to help you create your own list then click here!
Well, now you have found your location and you’ve compiled a list of necessary gear, so it’s time to talk about my favorite subject; food.
Food can get expensive quickly. I remember back in the 90’s we would buy a whole carriage of food for about forty dollars, but here we are smack-dab in 2018 and spending fifty dollars for just a handbasket of food.
In these times of expensive living don’t waste the extra cash just to go camping! Like gear, it’s best to start a grocery meal list. Planning ahead will allow you to budget efficiently to prevent you from spending unnecessary cash.
First things first, breakfast! I don’t know about you but besides being the most important meal of the day, breakfast is my all-time favorite.
Make some pancake batter and freeze it overnight and then all you have to do is cut the tip of the bag and squeeze out the batter like cake frosting.
You can do the same thing with beaten eggs and chopped veggies to make omelets (just don’t freeze them this time). Egg sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil are another great thing to freeze and rewarm over a fire. They are filling and full of protein–just what you need to fill up on for a busy day outdoors.
Lunch and dinner are also important to plan beforehand. One of our fan favorites is a campfire pizza log! Warm, delicious, and filling it’s a great choice for everyone. Who doesn’t like pizza?
Don’t forget that you can make burgers, hot dogs, and long-sandwiches made in a french baguette.
You can also make shrimp or chicken foil packs that are easy to throw over a campfire or on a grill.
Dessert is easy! S’mores and campfire eclairs are my favorites. All you need is graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate for one, crescent rolls, cool whip and chocolate frosting for the other.
No matter what you decide to pack, make sure you bring a good sized cooler and some ice. This will keep everything organized and in one place, as well as cold (obviously. It’s a cooler).
There you have it, a list of the three necessities for camping on a budget. I, personally, like to buy the more luxurious camping needs throughout the year. A shirt here, a grill there. That way I slowly accumulate more high-end camping equipment as time goes on and it helps me stock up on camping luxuries. This practice leaves each camping excursion more comfortable than the last.
Photo by Teena Kulakowski