There’s nothing quite like the feeling of camping – enjoying the peaceful and quiet surroundings, breathing in fresh air, and being one with nature. But just like with any other excursion, you would have to shell out money to be able to enjoy these “perks”, whether you’re a beginner or not.
According to the American Camper Report (from The Outdoor Foundation and Coleman Company Inc.), adult campers spend an estimate of $546 a year on camping gear alone. Add the damage from food, gas, permits and campsite fees among others, and your expenses can pile up quickly.
But don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to cut down the costs of a camping trip if you’re smart. It would also depend on whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned camper.
Follow these quick tips and you’ll be able to maximize your next trip at the great outdoors without burning a hole in your pocket:
Choose a Budget-Friendly Campsite
There are thousands of campsites and parks across the country, most of which require a nightly fee for campers. The prices vary greatly though – on average, a camping permit would cost $12-$25 a night, but some high-end campsites charge up to $219 nightly.
It’s ideal to choose a one that works well within your budget, making sure it offers amenities you need (one campsite may be cheaper but don’t have bathrooms). Or better yet, opt to stay at a free campground! Go to campendium.com or freecampsites.net to find ones near your area.
When planning dates for your trip, work around weekdays – many campsites offer discounted nightly rates in the middle of the week and charges go up during weekends.
Stay Close To Home
If you’re itching to go camping but have a limited budget, consider choosing a campsite nearby. How far your campsite is matters, because the further it is, the longer the drive, and that means more money spent on gas (and other miscellaneous expenses like stopping for food).
Use ReserveAmerica.com to find good campgrounds in your area or nearby. Just type in your zip code and you’ll also be able to compare campsite costs for your selected dates.
Purchase an Annual Pass and a Rewards Card
If you love to camp out in different National Parks, it is highly recommended that you invest in an Annual Pass, which will save you money. You can also consider purchasing the Kampgrounds of America Value Kard Rewards which will save you 10% on every stay at one of their campsites, earn points for future stays and even discounts for camping gear.
Save Money on Camping Gear
Whether you’re just trying out camping or you go outdoors regularly, the most important thing to remember when it comes to camping gear is NOT to go for the cheap stuff. Chances are, they won’t last long and won’t serve their purpose.
High-quality camping gear don’t come cheap. If you’re a frequent camper, it’s actually more ideal to invest in gear that are on the pricier side but work well and will last for years. It will save you more money in the long run as compared to buying a cheap tent, for example, over and over again along the years.
Another way to get good quality camping accessories is to purchase lightly-used pre-owned ones. You will be able to find tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, water filters etc. at resale shops. You can also check out websites like Go Switch Back, REI Outlet, Campmor or Gear Trade for good deals.
But if you’re on a tight budget or don’t plan on going camping too often, consider borrowing from camper friends or renting out gear. You can rent camping gear from shops like Rei Co-Op.
Split Expenses with Friends
Invite family or friends to go camping with you! Not only is it “the more, the merrier” in the woods, but everybody also wins because expenses will be shared with everyone. Split the cost of the campsite fee, food and transportation with everyone in the group. Even if you were only able to invite 1 friend, your expenses are automatically halved.
Pre-Pack Your Meals At Home
Planning your meals for the entirety of your trip will not only save you time, but money as well. While store-bought pre-packaged meals are super convenient, they can be a bit pricey. To save costs, pre-pack your own meals at home.
Prepare everything you can at home so that they’re easy to heat up and consume when you’re outdoors (less time cooking means more time to relax!) Don’t forget to bring snacks, drinks and even spices and condiments (pack them in small Ziploc bags!) to avoid buying them in convenience stores near your campsite.
A good tip to follow here is to shop in the bulk food section for snacks like trail mix and dehydrated food items (beans, fruit, meat etc.) which will have a lower price tag.
If you’re camping with a group, assign meals to a person or a couple to save money (and space in your luggage!). On Day 1, you provide and cook breakfast, a friend will do lunch, another will do dinner and so on.
Enjoy Free Camping and Outdoor Activities
While cruising on a boat or kayaking are truly fun, most campsites rent out boats and kayaks at a high price. Choose free (and equally fun!) outdoor activities like hiking and fishing. Bring your bike and enjoy bike paths or enjoy the scenery along walking trails. Watch a sunrise or sunset, go bird watching, play board games during down times and have a grand time around the campfire at night.
Work in Exchange of Camping
Yes, you read that right! You can do volunteer work at a campsite and in exchange, you can stay for free (and even sometimes earn a salary)! Before your trip, call your campsite and ask about volunteer work opportunities or programs.
Indeed there are many ways you can save your hard earned money even on a frugal vacation like camping. Follow the tips above and you’re sure to enjoy your time at the great outdoors without spending too much.
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