Camping On A Budget

Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama

Camping doesn't have to be an expensive hobby.  You can camp on a budget and have a great time.  Planning deliberately allows you to make the best choices about where to spend your money.  A great view and well deserved down time may be less expensive than you think.  So, how can you camp on the cheap?

1.  Starter Gear

Look for second-hand gear that you can purchase to use.  From bedding and linens to dishes and cookware, look for gear that you can re purpose and use at yard sales and thrift shops.  Facebook has lots of groups where people are selling general housewares to camping equipment such as tents.  Keep a look out for gear that someone wants to sell.  Some of the best pieces to look for that you can use for camping are:

  • Sheets, quilts, sleeping bags, and bedding
  • Cookware and dishes
  • Tents
  • Lamps
  • Camping Stoves
  • Inflatable mattresses
Our camping trip last year at Oak Mountain State Park.  We camped in a borrowed tent.  I purchased some inexpensive inflatable mattresses on Ebay.  It was a great starter trip for us.

You could even put out a message on a social media group or just on your social media feed looking for specific camping gear.  There are lots of people that have purchased gear then are not camping as much as they once were and are willing to sell.  

Even if you have been camping for a while and just want to get new gear, second-hand equipment can be a way to stay within a budget for camping.  And if you are wanting to upgrade your current camping gear, consider selling some things you aren't using to another camper.

Before you do anything, look around your home and gather up the things that you could use for camping.  You may have extras of lots of things that could become designated camping gear.  Make a list and then work from there so that you make wise decisions about where to spend your money.  Check out my First Camping Checklist to help get you started.

2.  State Parks

Where you camp can be expensive.  State parks typically have reasonable nightly rates and provide nice amenities.  I look at state park websites to view what amenities are available to make a determination which parks meet our specific camping needs.  I find that most state parks are typically around $25 per night.  This price can be more or less.  But, I find this to be a reasonable rate.

State parks offer a variety of amenities from swimming, hiking, playgrounds and more.  We love how quiet and secluded most of them are!

3.  Free Camping

If you really want to make your camping adventures budget friendly, try free camping locations.  Campendium is a resource where you can locate free camping spots based on state.  The Drivin and Vibin Blog has a review of quite a few free camping spots where this couple has stayed.

4.  Discount Clubs and Travel Apps

Joining discount clubs and travel apps can also provide budget friendly options for campers.  Joining the Good Sam Club through Camping World.  The annual Good Sam Membership is $27.  This membership provides a discount on diesel and gas at Pilot Gas Stations.  You also receive a discount at Camping World when you shop.  Finally, you can save at Good Sam parks throughout the US.

KOA also offers a Value Kard.  The $30 annual membership provides a 10% discount every time you stay at a KOA park.  You also earn points every time you stay at a KOA much like you would as a member of a hotel loyalty program.  The KOA App that you can download to your mobile device also recommends discounts at local places once you are at your camping location.

With any membership program, ask yourself how much you would use these benefits?  If you shop at Camping World and would patronize Pilot Gas Stations on a regular basis, the membership might pay for itself alone.  Also, ask yourself how often you would stay at a KOA campground.  And, how often do you camp period?  While membership does have its privileges, they may not offer much to the occasional camper.

5.  Camping Meals

Eating out can be a huge expense.  Plan to have meals at your campsite and even picnics that you enjoy on the road with your family traveling to and from your camping location.  By planning your meals out ahead of time, you can save a great deal of money.  Dining in is always more economical.  Pinterest has lots of great ideas for camping meals.  This might inspire you for some extraordinary meals that can still save you money.  Look for meals that can serve double duty where leftovers can be used at another meal.

You can do a lot of cooking over a campfire.  Campgrounds usually have a grill or firepit that can be used for camping.  Or, bring a simple camp stove for other cooking options.  This my coffee and warming apple cider for breakfast.

Do you have some budget friendly camping ideas or tips?  Comment and share.  I'd love to hear how you make camping an economic activity.

Saving money doesn't mean sacrificing when camping.  We love a campfire meal and just time outdoors.  No matter where we are, we love camping.  That doesn't mean we have to pay more to do it.