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How to Plan a Camping Trip on a Budget

Want to plan a camping trip on a budget? Here are nine ways to make your experience budget-friendly!

Camping can be one of the most enjoyable and cost-effective ways to holiday. When camping, there are no nightly hotel fees, minimal travel expenses, and no restaurant bills. Furthermore, camping gets you out of the city to experience fresh air and explore beautiful, untouched nature. You can have a fantastic time enjoying the great outdoors without draining your entire bank account. Plus, you might start a tradition that your friends and family will love for years to come. That being said, there are still ways you can trim down your camping expenses and save money. In the rest of this article, we share some tips on how to plan a camping trip on a budget.

Borrow or rent camping equipment

If you don't already have camping gear, you can save money by renting or borrowing it instead of buying new equipment. Upfront camping costs can be high—depending on the size of your group. Tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, chairs, stoves, and mess kits don't come cheap. Luckily for you, there are other options. Before you go out and buy expensive gear, check with your friends and family and ask to borrow their equipment. You will not only save money, but you will also learn what you will need when it comes time to buy your own gear. Otherwise, check out local gear stores or REI for camping rental options. If you live near a university, you can usually rent equipment for a fraction of the price.

A view from inside the red and white tent overlooking two chairs and a lake.
One of the best ways to cut down on camping costs is to borrow camping gear from your friends and family.

Buy second-hand equipment

If you think that you will plan a camping trip on a budget each year, consider buying second-hand camping equipment. That way, you can get your own gear for much less than what you'd spend on new gear. This is also a great option if you need equipment you can't rent or borrow. Be sure to check your local thrift stores. If you time it right, you can find great deals on camp stoves, sleeping bags, and warm clothing for outdoor activities. However, before you go shopping, be sure to also check out our list of the best camping gadgets. There might be something on this list you didn't even know you needed until now.

Use the things you have at home

For a fun camping trip on a budget, you don't always need special camping equipment. For example, you can take the blankets from your bed from home and use them in a tent. If you don't want to use your bedding, look for those forgotten blankets in the back closet, or go to a thrift store to find some that you don't mind getting a little dirty. Don't forget to check the weather forecast before using blankets from home. Consider bringing a few extra layers in case the temperature plummets down overnight.

Another thing you can easily obtain from home is cooking equipment and cutlery. If you're only going to be camping for a few days, there's no need to buy specific camping cooking equipment. Just find an old pan that you haven't used in ages, and you're good to go.

A woman lying in a tent, under a blanket.
Bring your blankets from home to save money on camping equipment.

Go camping close to home

If you're planning a camp trip on a budget, camping close to your hometown might be the answer to your problems. When considering places where you can go camping, make sure you start by looking up closer camping spots. You might be surprised by what you find.

Camping closer to home reduces the overall cost of the trip, primarily in terms of gas money. When towing a trailer, motorhome, or truck camper, your miles per gallon will inevitably increase. As gas prices rise throughout the summer, a few cents can add up after several trips to the pump. Camping near home also reduces the stress of quick weekend getaways.

Cook simple meals

If you're camping on a budget, you'll most likely be cooking your food over the campfire. This is an excellent money-saving idea because you'll have a campfire going anyway, so why not also use it for cooking? Additionally, most campground fire pits have a grate over the top for easy cooking. Some fire pits even have a charcoal grill. As for recipes you can make over the fire, there are tons of easy camping meal ideas you can look up.

People holding sticks with sausages over a campfire.
Hot dogs are one of the many easy, affordable meals you can make over a campfire.

Avoid camping during holidays

Travelling during peak season or the holidays can significantly increase the cost of your trip. Not only is traffic worse, but site prices are likely to rise, and gas prices can rise as well. Furthermore, many larger campgrounds that offer those extra-fancy amenities typically charge less during spring and fall. So, if basic camping isn't going to suffice, camping outside of peak season could be a good compromise. However, if camping during peak season is your only option, try choosing a less touristy, less expensive location.

Prepare a bag of essentials

When going camping, make sure to prepare and bring your essential bag or box. It's a bag that contains the things that are important for you and your family. In other words, an essential box enables you to have everything you need by your side. Pack all the items you and your family could need to function. It can contain your electronic devices (fully charged), food, or hygiene-related things like toothbrushes, soap, and towels.

Choose a campground with natural interests

When choosing a plate to set up camp, make sure it is located in an area rich in natural wonders to visit and explore. That way, you can hike to a beautiful viewpoint, visits a waterfall, or build a mini raft to paddle down a river. You can enjoy numerous exciting adventures that do not require any special equipment and that you don't need to pay for.

Avoid camping in national parks

Camping in national parks has obvious appeal, but the entry fees are another unnecessary expense. There are a zillion other unique places to visit that are entirely free, and that will allow you to plan a camping trip on a budget. So save the extra amazing places for a time when your wallet is a little fatter.

So what are you waiting for? Your budget-friendly camping trip is just around the corner.

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