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Enjoy Camping for Less with These Tips

Enjoy Camping for Less with These Tips
Linsay Thomas

Camping may seem like the ideal vacation. It brings you closer to nature and allows you to get some much-needed time away from home without hundreds of dollars in hotel fees. However, considering all the gear you need – tents, sleeping bags, warm clothing and food, to name a few – a one-time camping trip can easily cost your family $500 or more. Fortunately, there are many ways to slash costs and still have fun outdoors.

Start With a Trial Run

Never camped before? It can be frustrating to spend the time and money on preparation and gear only to have a miserable time. Admittedly, camping is not for everyone. There are many people who cannot sleep in anything but a warm bed with an expensive mattress. Maybe you are one of them. Before committing to a weekend camping trip, borrow a friend’s tent and set it up in your backyard. Try sleeping there one night and see if you enjoy it or not.

Preparation is KeyCamping Gear

If you are ready to camp for real, you need to be prepared. Camping is not something you can do spontaneously because if you forget something, it can end up costing you much more than expected. You will want to make two lists. One list should have all the gear you need, while the other should be a meal-planning guide that lists meals and ingredients. Do not forget the spices and condiments or the sunscreen and insect repellent. Bottled water, beverages and ice are also necessities. If you do forget anything, there will likely be a convenience store near the campsite, but you will pay a premium.

Buy Used Gear

Brand-new tents and sleeping bags for the entire family can set you back a pretty penny. Instead, look online on eBay and Craigslist for gently used items. Your local thrift store may also have some deals. If you do not camp often, you might even be able to borrow gear from a friend or family member or rent it from a sporting goods store.

Choose the Right Accommodations at the Right Times

Avoid holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day and Labor Day, when the campgrounds can be not only crowded but more expensive. Save money by shooting for less popular times of the year. Government sites such as parks typically offer decent facilities at the best rates. There are even fee free days throughout the year, including August 25 for the National Park Service birthday celebration. Resorts have more amenities, but you end up paying for them even if you do not use them. Besides, is spending time at a sauna really considered camping?

Share the Cost

Many campsites can accommodate 2-3 tents. If so, invite some friends or family and split the cost of the campsite fees, food and gas.


Camp for Free

There are several types of campgrounds – national forests, BLM land and wilderness areas – where you can camp free of charge. Check out to find a location near you. You might need a permit to do so, but if you are comfortable roughing it without bathrooms or running water, then you might enjoy this experience. However, many areas do not allow cars or bikes, so you will have to be comfortable hiking in to your campsite.


Follow these tips and you will be financially and emotionally prepared for your next camping trip.


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