5 Money Saving Tips for Camping on a Budget

Camping is considered one of the cheaper options when taking a family trip. In fact, for many years it was the ONLY type of vacation our family took by necessity. But is it really much cheaper booking a hotel? According to the American Camper Report from the Coleman Company Inc, in 2019, families spend an average of $643 on camping gear alone. This is just the camping gear and it doesn’t include the cost of goods, transportation, permits, and entrance fees into parks.

Needless to say, camping can be just as expensive as a hotel, if not more expensive, if you’re not careful. If you’re an avid or wannabe camper and you’re determined to find ways for you and your family to enjoy camping, then here are some wonderful ways to camp on a budget. 

Look into less expensive campgrounds

Sure, going to a national park for camping is a pastime for many camping families. But since the pandemic, both camping at and entering national parks have reached sky-high limits. This has also caused major problem with littering and ecosystem damage (such as forest fires). 

To combat this wave of demand, the US government has raised the price of entering national parks. Even standard campsites require their campers to pay a nightly rate. Some rates can cost as much as $250! That’s the same price for a 4-star hotel! It’s best to look into free or incredibly cheap campsites, as this will save you a lot of money in the long run.

Ask friends and family if you can borrow camping gear

It’s important to be well prepared and to look for helpful items that you can regularly use for the great outdoors, such as products on EcoGearFX. If you’re a family that just wants to test out the waters for the first time with camping, then it may be best to ask around to borrow some gear. Why spend a bunch of money on camping equipment if you’re only going to go camping once, right?

In addition to borrowing from friends, your local college might have programs for renting equipment. If you’re associated with the college or know a student or employee, consider this option. While likely not as cheap, your local outdoor store might also have a rental program.

High-quality camping gear can get expensive. Tents and sleeping bags do not come cheap. While outdoor gear such as things for hiking can be fairly affordable, it’s not exactly the same for camping. Instead of purchasing equipment just ask around or even look into renting some. When you’re ready to invest, consider that you’ll take the cost I mentioned above ($643 spent on gear per family) and divide it by 10-15 years. Fifty dollars per year on camping equipment makes for a much more affordable trip!

Look for free things to do

Thankfully, there are plenty of outdoor activities that don’t come with a cost. This includes walking trails, hiking, cycling, and even swimming holes. Many waterfront campsites will offer rentals such as boats and kayaks. These tend to be at a premium as well.  Just skip out on these and look for some free activities. Some other ideas could even include watching movies at night, stargazing, watching the sunset, and even playing board games together. Many state and national parks have free tours, talks and activities, as well, making your trip both fun AND educational.

Ditch those disposables

There’s no better time to consider the environment than on a camping trip! You don’t need disposable plates, cups, or cutlery. You can still make dinner table memories without the fancy setup. Save some money by packing the dishes and cookware that you use at home, if you don’t have a dedicated camp set. It only takes a few minutes to clean them. When you’re ready to commit to camping regularly, you can buy a specialized, lightweight camp set OR just start collecting re-usable options and putting together your own set. No one will care if they match or not!

Plan your meals

This doesn’t have to be difficult, but plan simple yet nourishing meals to keep everyone satisfied and ready for outdoor activities. Whether you go all out with bacon and pancakes or keep it simple with granola and yogurt, camp food is part of the fun. But don’t let it be part of the stress! Check out all of these camping meal ideas to bring fun, delicious and easy meals to your camp site.

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