10 Secrets for Budget-Friendly Camping


You love camping, your kids love camping, but your wallet doesn’t want to budge for a family vacation this year. Instead of missing out on a necessary break from the daily grind, find ways to save before you go, and learn how you can cut costs at the campsite, too.

Save Before You Go

Budget camping starts well before everyone piles in the car for a family road trip. Consider how you can cut costs in every area possible, from buying equipment to choosing a site. Here are some ways you can save before you go.

1. Buy used equipment: Instead of purchasing all new camping gear the week before, take a little more time, and look for used items. Find used pots, pans, spatulas, hiking boots and more at most thrift stores or online. Check with your local outdoors retailer for their next gear swap, if they have one. And don’t forget to ask family and friends for camping items they may no longer use.

2. Choose a park close by: You don’t have to go far to “get away.” Save on gas by picking a location that’s close to home. The benefits of a camping trip are just as real 30 miles from home as they are 300 miles from home.

3. Buy multi-purpose items: Buy gear, clothing and food that can be used for more than one purpose. For example, ground turkey can be used for tacos, burgers, or mixed in with veggies and pasta.

4. Choose a primitive site: Campgrounds without electricity and running water are often less expensive. But keep in mind that some primitive sites are walk-up only. If you’re traveling with lots of gear or children, you should confirm easy access.

5. Create and keep a camping box: Instead of buying temporary items, purchase things that can be used for the entire season, or longer. When spices are on sale, grab a few for your camping box. The same goes for batteries, tarps, ropes and canned goods.

6. Use items from home: When you’re budget camping, use items you already have. Use a yoga mat, instead of buying expensive sleeping pads. Sleep under old comforters from home instead of buying new sleeping bags. Bring old pots, pans and spatulas that you have stashed in the back of your cupboards, instead of purchasing an entirely new kitchen set. 

7. Try solar lanterns: Don’t worry about buying a bulk box of batteries. Charge your lanterns in the sun during the day to keep them running all night. 

Keep it Affordable at the Campsite

The penny-pinching isn’t just for the preparation stage. Find out how you can save money every day at the campsite.

8. Explore free recreation: You want to find a variety of activities to stay busy all day, especially when camping with children. Don't hop in the car and find the nearest water park. Rather, look for nature trails, the campground beach, or a group volleyball or basketball court.

9. Cover your wood bundles: A surprise shower can ruin your wood for the rest of the trip. Don’t risk spending money on more; simply cover the woodpile with a tarp. It’s a simple budget camping tip that will save you money, time and frustration.

10. Keep your cooler in the shade: On especially hot camping trips, a cooler in the sun means you’ll spend more on ice than necessary. Always keep your cooler in the shade to get the most out of the ice you already have.

Camping is a great way to have an affordable vacation with your family or friends. Use these budget camping tips to ease your mind—and wallet—on your next trip.

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