Camping on a Budget: 13 Affordable Camping Tips and Tricks

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Megan Bryant is a passionate writer and traveler who has combined her two loves to help others fulfill their traveling dreams. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually curled up with her 3 Dachshunds and a good book or planning her next adventure—wherever that may be.

Camping is a great budget-friendly activity for those in need of a break from reality. But if you’ve never been camping before, the costs of preparing for a trip can quickly add up. From the costs of camping gear to campsite fees and firewood, there are plenty of expenses that you don’t even think about. 

Luckily, however, there are a few things you can do to keep spending to a minimum. So here are 13 tips and tricks that should save you some money while planning and executing your upcoming camping trip.

Purchase Second Hand Gear

Camping Gear
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Camping gear is one of the biggest expenses during a camping trip. And if you’ve never been camping before, then it’s likely you’ll be starting from scratch. 

One of the best ways to save money when camping is to purchase secondhand gear. Lots of people purchase all the gear, try camping a few times, and then decide that it’s ultimately not for them, selling their equipment off for far cheaper than what they bought it for. 

Whether you’re after a tent, a sleeping bag, or even camping cookware, search secondhand websites before purchasing brand new.

Borrow Camping Gear

Camping Gear 2
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Alternatively, an even cheaper way to gather all your camping equipment would be to borrow gear from friends and family. Ask around and see if anyone has camping equipment in storage that you can use for your upcoming trip. More often than not, you can collect everything you need for a camping trip just by asking around. Just be sure to return all camping gear in the same condition you borrowed it in.

Take Gear From Home

Camping 1
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Usually, you have things lying around the house that you can use while camping. There is no written rule that you can’t take your duvet in lieu of a sleeping bag, for example. 

Rummage your house for cookware, pillows, and blankets—that will be half of your camping equipment accounted for!

Camp With Friends

Camping with Friends
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Camping with friends is another great way to save money because each person can contribute one thing to the camping checklist. One friend may have a camping stove, another may have a four-man tent, and another may have cooking utensils and firewood. Teaming up with your buddies and each bringing a piece of equipment can save you all heaps of money, making your camping trip as low-cost as possible.

Pack Reuseable Items

Camping Cooking Gear
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In a bid to save money—and the environment—pack reusable cookware. Reusable knives, forks, plates, and water bottles can be easily cleaned while you’re out camping meaning you can use them time and time again. Not only will this do less damage to the environment, but it will also mean that you don’t have to repurchase the items. 

It’s likely that you’ll even have a plastic plate, cutlery, and water bottle at home, so really, you have to spend anything at all. 

Search for Free Campsites

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There are plenty of low-cost or even free campsites out there where you can pitch your tent and enjoy the great outdoors. Some sites even offer picnic tables, fire pits, and bathrooms, giving you all the comforts you need for a reasonable nightly fee. Search websites like KOA and Hipcamp to see if there are any free sites near your area.

Camp Outside of National Parks

Camping Tents
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Staying on the topic of campsites—never camp inside National Parks, if you’re on a budget, that is. Although camping inside a National Park is extremely convenient, campsite prices tend to be higher, and you’ll also have to pay an entrance and parking fee. 

Instead, opt for a campsite outside the park and visit the park during the day to see the sites without the hefty camping fee.

Camp During the Off-Season

Off Season Camping
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Busy seasons—AKA the summer months—are when most people plan their camping trips. But with higher interest comes higher prices. The same camping site can be a fraction of the price in fall or winter than it would be in summer. So if you don’t mind slightly cooler weather, try camping in the off-season when other campers arent.

Pack Your Own Meals

Cooking while Camping
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It’s tempting when camping to head to a local restaurant and refuel or to purchase prepackaged meals from local supermarkets and convenience stores. Purchasing meals from restaurants and nearby stores, however, can get extremely expensive, which is why it’s better to take your own food from home. 

Pack your own ingredients and cook up tasty and nutritious meals over a campfire or gas stove. Not only is cooking while camping a great and entertaining activity, but it is also the cheapest option when it comes to food.

Bring Firewood

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Campgrounds charge above-average prices for firewood, and these prices will quickly add up if you’re cooking three meals a day. If you can, take your own firewood with you or even head out foraging—if your campsite allows it—to make your camping trip as budget-friendly as possible.

Enjoy Free Activities

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The beauty of the great outdoors is that many activities are free. You can hike, swim, fish, watch wildlife and explore local attractions without spending a penny. Just get creative and find interesting ways to entertain yourself.

Dont Travel Too Far from Home

Camping Tent
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Gas prices are forever on the rise, so to cut back on costs, camp somewhere close to home. There may be nicer campsites a four-hour drive from your house, but when you factor in the costs of gas to and from the site, is it really worth it? 

Remember, you can always travel further out at a later date when your budget allows it. So, for now, gain a new appreciation for your hometown and find a site as close to home as possible.

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Apostle Islands
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Olympic National Park Hoh Rainforest
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