What’s the Best Way to Camp on a Budget?

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Vacations provide a great opportunity for people to unwind from the daily stress of life. It also gives families and friends a chance to bond as they enjoy nature’s beauty. However, vacationing has been quite expensive these days due to rising hotel costs and tourist destinations becoming increasingly expensive. Fortunately, you can still enjoy the great outdoors by camping on a budget. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars for you to have a great camping experience. You can have a great camping trip and still save money. Here are some tips for camping on a budget.

Camping ground fees

Your camping spot and the season you go camping will determine the costs that you will incur. Ideally, you should opt for a camping spot where you don’t have to pay anything to use the ground and the facilities. If you know of such a spot, then it should be your first choice when you are looking for camping grounds. Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of knowing or owning a spot where they can set up camp. If you don’t know of such a spot or your backyard is not large enough for camping, then you need to scout nearby campgrounds.

State and national forests and parks offer great campgrounds at an affordable cost. Most of them have already set aside areas within the park for camping. Most parks and forests charge approximately $5 to $20 per night, which is considerably cheaper than camping in a private park or sleeping in a hotel. Also, they are furnished with picnic tables and premade fire pits. Some are even equipped with electricity, among other facilities such as showers, bathrooms as well as places to put trash. When camping on a budget, make sure that you choose a site that is not popular and it’s close to home. If a camping site is close to your home, then you will save on gas as well as other travel-related expenses. Also, popular sites tend to charge more, compared to those that are less known.

Avoid going for camping trips during the holidays, as much as possible. Instead, plan for them during the offseason. Most campgrounds across the country are fully booked during the holidays. Therefore, if you manage to land a spot, there is a high chance that they will be overcrowded, thus defeating the whole idea of camping. Apart from that, holiday charges are higher than off-season rates. If possible, camp during the weekdays, as opposed to camping over the weekend. Most people are weekend campers. Therefore, if you camp during the week, then you will have a quiet and serene time on your own. If you don’t have children, then it’s highly advisable to camp when schools are in session.

Camping Equipment and Gear

If you are going for your first camping trip or you don’t intend to be camping every weekend, then there is no need for purchasing new camping gear. Camping tents, camping cots, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, chairs, and other camping accessories can be expensive to buy all at once. The good news is that you can avoid most of those costs by renting or borrowing equipment. For instance, you can ask your friends whether they might have some of the accessories you are looking for. And if you ask nicely, there is a high chance that they will lend you theirs, if they are not going for a camping trip that weekend.

Apart from borrowing from your friends, you can save costs further on camping gear by purchasing second-hand equipment. After all, who said that you must have a new camping tent or a sleeping bag? Most campers tend to upgrade their gear quite often. Therefore, if you visit thrift shops, you will find pans, pots, cookware, spatulas and other camping accessories, at an affordable cost. Even if such items break after a few uses, then it will not be a big deal, since you only spent a few dollars to acquire them.

You can also use your home kitchen accessories for your camping trip, instead of buying new items. However, you should note that your kitchen camping gear will endure a lot of abuse. Therefore, don’t bring your best pans and pots. Instead, look for old or spare mugs, pans, pots, spatulas or other kitchen accessories that you no longer use. If you have some spare beddings at home, then you can use them for your camping trip and save money, instead of buying new ones.

You can also rent your camping gear, instead of buying new items. There are numerous companies in almost all the cities that offer camping gear rentals at an affordable cost. You can rent almost any hiking or camping gear from these companies. A simple Google search will give you a list of companies near you that offer gear rental services.

Food and Drinks

Food costs can add quite first. Therefore, prior planning is vital, if you want to save money on food and drinks. If you decide to buy all the food and drinks from rest stops or service stations, then you will end up spending more money than you should. Instead, cook food at home prior to the trip, pack it and then bring it for the trip. For instance, you can bring your own flask of coffee and some home-prepared snacks. Also, make sure that you plan all your meals carefully. And once you have a clear plan of the foods that you will eat during your camping trip, you can then go ahead and buy them in bulk. For instance, rice and beans can be added to a wide range of meals easily. Also, they are cheap, especially if you purchase them in bulk.

If you will be cooking your meals over an open fire, then you must bring your own firewood or buy from the campsite. However, some campsites don’t allow firewood from outside, as a pest control measure. In such a situation, you will have to purchase firewood from the campsite. You might also be lucky to find some firewood sellers outside that camp, for less than what you will pay if you purchase it from the campsite. If those firewood sellers are there, then you should consider buying it from there and you will save a few dollars.


Even if you are trying to cut costs, it doesn’t mean that you should have a boring camping trip. There are hundreds of ways that you can entertain yourself, even on a budget. And it doesn’t mean that you have to stay connected to your cellphone or iPad. For instance, during the day, you can explore hiking trails that are close to your campsite. You can even establish your own trails and make the adventure even more thrilling. Hiking will give you a chance to connect with nature and enjoy beautiful sceneries. Hiking also offers numerous health benefits such as improving your body balance and boosting your mood. If you are camping as a group, then you can have a dancing competition. A face to face conversation with your fellow campers is also a great means of passing time.

If it’s a family camping trip, then you can come with inexpensive items that will keep the children entertained. Sports balls, simple yard games, and card games will keep the kids entertained throughout the trip, and you won’t have to spend too much money to acquire them. Also, make sure you research the camping area in advance and check whether they have some approved swimming holes or bike trails. If there are such spots, then you just need to bring your kids’ bikes or swimsuits, and they will have a great time.

Travel Costs

If you want to keep your camping expenses to a minimum, then you need to pay attention to your travel costs. So, how can you lower your travel costs during your camping trip? First, don’t travel too far from home. While traveling thousands of miles away from home might feel like the perfect weekend getaway, fuel costs and other travel-related expenses can add up quite fast. There are various resources that you can use to find campgrounds near you. Apart from saving money on fuel, it will be easy to go back home or call for assistance, in case you encounter technical problems during your journey.

Also, make sure your gas tank is full before you head out. If you will be camping in a remote area, it’s highly likely that gas prices will be higher, compared to what you normally pay in the city. You can lower travel expenses further by splitting the costs with your friends. Instead of each person traveling by their personal car, you can instead hire a larger van that can comfortably accommodate all of you. Ensure your vehicle is well serviced before you leave home. While it might appear like a huge capital outlay, you will end up spending double or even triple that amount, if your vehicle breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Not to mention that your camping trip will be ruined.

Additional Tips

Regardless of when or where you will be camping, make sure you adhere to the regulations of the area or site you will be camping in. Also, be courteous and avoid unnecessary altercations with other campers. If you break the rules, you might get in trouble with the authorities or end up with hefty fines, thus defeating the whole idea of camping on a budget.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are a seasoned outdoorsman or you are planning your first trip out in the woods, camping doesn’t have to be expensive. Just because you are on a shoestring budget doesn’t mean that you can’t have a great and enjoyable camping trip. With proper planning and the right approach, you can have a memorable camping experience at a reasonable cost. The above tips and tricks will help you to have a great camping experience and remain comfortable throughout your expedition, even if you are on a shoestring budget. Happy camping!

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About the author


Hi, I’m Brian Bradshaw. I’m a super duper mega hiking enthusiast, with a love for everything that has to do with outdoors, hiking, gear, footwear and more.

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