If you’re looking for a fun and exciting adventure with the family, camping can be an excellent way to explore the great outdoors. However, once you realize how much gear you have to pack in and out, the price tag can be a bit higher than you might expect.
Fortunately, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to head out into the wilderness. In fact, camping can be one of the most cost-effective vacation options, provided that you follow these tips.
Rent or Borrow Equipment
The first step of planning your camping adventure is to create a list of supplies. You’ll need items like:
- Sleeping bags (one per person)
- Camping stove
- Camping utensils and dishware
- Knife and hatchet
The amount of supplies you bring will depend on a few factors, such as how many people are coming with you, where you plan to stay (some campsites have amenities), and how long you’ll be out in the woods. Once you’ve completed your list, start asking friends and family if they have any of these items that you can borrow.
If you’re coming up short on borrowing, you can try camping equipment rental sites. REI is probably the most well-known option, but you can look up other sites online. In some cases, renting the equipment is much cheaper than buying it outright. Ideally, you should set a budget first so that you know what you can rent and what you have to borrow.
Stay at Free Campsites
Compared to a hotel, campsites will be much, much cheaper. On average, you can expect to spend between $40 to $80 per night. However, you can save even more money by staying at free locations. State parks also charge less than private campsites, so you can save money camping while still getting access to things like bathrooms and (in some cases) showers.
Keep in mind that free campsites won’t have any amenities. Usually, they’re pretty bare, although you might get a picnic table or barbecue pit. The bathrooms at these sites may also be somewhat questionable, so you might have to plan to do your business the old-fashioned way.
When creating your camping equipment checklist, it’s helpful to break everything down into at least two categories – must-haves and want-to-haves. The must-haves are camping essentials, such as your tent and sleeping bags. However, some potentially unnecessary items may include lanterns, a generator, a full-sized propane tank, and more.
That said, if you can borrow all of your most-expensive supplies, you may not have to trim your list much, if at all. Nonetheless, it’s good to have an idea of what you can remove, just in case. For example, perhaps there’s not enough room in your car for everything to fit, plus all your campers.
Bring Cheap and Stable Foods
One of the biggest challenges of camping is feeding yourself. If you’re on a weekend trip, you can typically bring a cooler with some ice since it will take a couple of days for everything to melt. However, if your excursion will last a week or more, you’ll need to figure out some other options.
Another challenge is getting the right balance of nutrition. For example, junk food is particularly shelf-stable, but your body will quickly crave vitamins and minerals.
Canned foods are the best option since they won’t spoil quickly, and you can often cook them inside the can, saving you the hassle of cleaning dishes afterward. Plus, it’s always easier to keep food at ambient temperature than to keep it cold, especially when you’re in a hot environment.
Although your campsite may be cheap, you might have to spend a bit of money to get there. However, if you live close to some campgrounds, it’ll cost a lot less to visit local areas than it would be to travel out of state. Not only will you save on gas, but you can get to your destination (and back home) that much faster.
When planning your trip, it helps to create a list of campsites complete with overnight fees, amenities, and distance from your house. Then, you can pick the best camp based on your budget and any other travel requirements necessary.
Make Your Own Camping Gear
Although it can be a lot of fun to buy various camping equipment for different purposes, doing so will inflate your budget quickly. Instead, you can enhance your camping experience by learning to make specific items yourself. For example, instead of buying a bunch of fishing equipment, you can learn how to make a fishing trap.
Not only will making your own gear save money, but it will also teach you some valuable skills, and the process can be a bonding experience between you and your kids. After all, isn’t that one of the best parts of camping?