Camping is a great way to save money. You don’t need to pay for a roof over your head because your tent already provides the ceiling. And you do not need to pay for air conditioning because you don’t need it outdoors, but did you know you could save even more money? Yes, the ‘cheap’ way to have a vacation offers even better ways to pad your pocket book.
In this article, How to Save Money on Camping – a Tips and Advice Guide, you will learn all about how to minimize the damage to your wallet and have more fun outside.
Let’s get started.
My Top 5 Tips to Save Money
For a lot of things in life, I follow the 80/20 rule. These tips will be the top ones to get you through it all. 90% of your savings will come from these five tips. It is my go to for big savings.
1. Stop Buying Brand New Camping Gear – Rent, Buy Used, Go Clearance, or Borrow.
REI Garage Sale, Craigslist, Switchback Gear Exchange, Campmor, and GearTrade are all splendid ways to get used camping gear. My personal favorite is the REI Garage Sale. You will find all sorts of good gear at the event. The amount is mind boggling. This includes everything. Many outdoor gear stores like REI will also often push items onto clearance, so be sure to keep a sharp eye out for those days.
If you meet a person from Craigslist for gear, then you can negotiate as an added bonus.
You can also rent your camping gear. LowerGear.com, Gear to Go Outfitters, Mountain Side Gear Rental, and OutdoorsGeek.com are all splendid places to rent camping gear for as long or as little as you need. If you are a student like me at UC Santa Cruz, then you know OPERS rents gear out to students for a discount.
If you are near a university, then be sure to check them out to see if they rent gear. You can also check if your local outdoor outfitter rents camping gear, so look at their stores and call them up.
2. Skip the Prepackaged Meals and Prepare Your Meals.
As a young guy with little patience, I love prepackaged meals. Just pop them in the microwave, set the timer, and out pops the hot food in under five minutes ready to eat. You pay a price for that convenience with your wallet. It takes a little extra time to get the basic ingredients beforehand and cook the ingredients. You lose a little time, but save a bit of money.
3. Stay Local and Use Less Gas.
The farther you travel, the more gas your car burns and the more stress you are likely to experience. There are bound to be places near you which you have not explored. It may not be Yosemite or Yellowstone, but a good night out in nature is bound to be a blast.
4. Skip the Expensive Campgrounds and Check out the Free Ones.
Believe it or not, but you can camp for free. Yes, there are many places where you can, in fact, spend no money from night to night. If you want more detail on this, then I suggest you check out one of my previous articles, Where Are Places I Can Camp for Free in the US and Canada? It is sure to help you find out everything you need to know.
5. Share Your Tent with Friends.
When you camp with your friends, y’all can cut down on gas costs, share tents together, and buy more food in bulk. When you have more people on your side, there is a lot more you can do. Like ride sharing, cost sharing is an excellent way to save money.
Change Your Mindset to Go Deeper
It is one thing to read a blog post online. It is entirely something else to change your mode of thinking. You need to adopt a frugal mindset. The most important question you can ask yourself is “do I really need that?” Most of the time, you can get by on your camping trip without much.
Another important question to ask yourself is “where else can I get that for a lower cost?”
When you ask yourself questions, you force your mind to think creatively.
You are bound to have neighbors who have camping gear they have not used in ten years just sitting around their garage. It does not hurt to ask. The worst someone can say is “No” and then you just have to go and ask someone else. Heck, you can even get free camping gear if you tell an outdoor retailer you are an Instagram star or will promote their product on a Facebook story adventure.
Only pack what you need on a camping trip. You can probably cut down a lot of what you already bring.
Nitty Gritty Tricks of the Trade for Detailed Eyes
You can get by with the first tips I showed you. All that advice up top is more than enough. This part of the article is for the engineers, the people who constantly want to optimize and reach the maximum state of money saving. It is an ideal to strive for, but it is not for me. At some point, you have to optimize your time. But if you want to go farther, then this part of the article is for you.
Kitchen Advice to Keep the Bacon Sizziling
1. Block Ice Lasts Longer than Cubed.
This just makes sense. Cold things that stick together tend to stay cold. It is a lot harder to melt an iceberg than an ice cube. As a result, you will keep your fruit, veggies, and bacon cooler for longer.
2. Buy Food in Bulk and Become an Economy of Scale.
As a university student, I love Costco. When I buy from them, I know the food will last me three months. If you do the same, then you can be sure to also save money. With more food, the price per pound drops.
3. Couscous Cooks Faster than Rice, Lowering Fuel Costs.
This one is new for me. Propane and heating can be expensive if you let it get to you, so switch to couscous. It cooks in five minutes and you get the same calories, but rice is not that expensive. You do save a bit of money with this method. I will probably still cook rice, but this is something to consider.
4. Freeze Your Meats to Make Them Last Longer.
Most people are probably already doing this. But if you freeze your meat before leaving and then put it into the cooler with ice, then your meat will act like a block of ice and keep everything cold.
5. Go Vegetarian and Save Money on Meat.
If you did not know this about me already, I am vegetarian, so I save money on meat. Meat is, well, expensive. For many places, it is subsidized, but the cost is hidden in detrimental health effects and negative environmental costs. If you do not want to make the lifestyle change, I understand, but you will make a great impact on the environment.
I will happily eat my beans and rice thank you very much.
6. Bring Reusable Water Bottles.
This is something you should already be doing. If you haven’t already, you need to be doing this. All it takes is one reusable bottle and you do not have to worry about buying those recyclable bottles again.
7. Better Yet, Go Ice-less to Save Extra Dough.
Ice is expensive to make. It takes a lot of energy to turn water into a solid. If you bring food that does not need a cooler to keep fresh, then you are pulling double duty. You save money and energy.
8. Check Out a Local Food Pantry or Food Giveaway.
On UCSC’s campus, I can find multiple food pantries where they don’t ask any questions. I can get food for free at the places and lower grocery costs. Food pantries (at least in the US) are fairly widespread, so you can be sure to find one near you where you can save money. If you are in the Bay Area, then you are bound to find food giveaways from the technology companies because of events.
Extras to Purchase if You are a Camping Regular
1. Purchase a National Parks Annual Pass.
The national parks are amazing. You can see all sorts of Nature’s parts by going to a National Park. For one person, an annual pass costs $80. Most entrance fees cost $20. If you go to four parks, then the pass was worthwhile. This does not include camping fees, but you do save money with a pass.
If you are a senior, then you can save even more money with a lifetime pass at $10. Every senior should buy a lifetime pass. You get more than your money back at the first visit. As a senior, you also get a discount on other park amenities like camping fees (50% off), but it varies from park to park.
2. Join the KOA VKR (Value Cards Reward) Program.
Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. I would not do this one because you have to spend quite a bit to make a return, but it is something worth consideration. With a $25 annual membership, you save 10% on wherever you stay and other perks like 15% off gear at Coleman.com.
Extra Tips for the Adventurous Bunch
1. Stop Using Disposables and Switch to Reusables.
More often than not, you probably have an item you can switch from disposable to reusable. It just takes a bit of thinking. It might be bringing hard plates instead of compostable ones or switching from a plastic water bottle to a metal one.
2. Bring Your Own Firewood and Collect it if You’re in a National Forest Area.
Many campgrounds sell firewood, but at a premium. You pay a price for convenience, so be sure to bring all your firewood beforehand. If you are in a National Forest Area, you can collect wood on the ground for free. Just be sure to be aware of the burning laws and rules in place.
Are You Going to Get Outside this Week?
Well that is all there is from me. I do have one request before you go though. I ask you to join me on my weekly hike (in spirit of course), so you will need to head on over to AllTrails.com. It is my go to site for finding trails near me. You can bet there is trail you have not done before. So what do you say? Are you going to get outside this week? All it takes is a bit of planning and you will be living a better life in no time flat.
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!