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How to Save Money on Your Budget Camping Trip

Posted by MoneyKey on July 11, 2019
a group on a budget camping trip

If you’re looking to take some time off this summer and start enjoying the great outdoors, camping is a great way to do it! It’s also a great way to spend some quality time with your family in some of the most beautiful scenes of nature the country has to offer. But when you’re taking the whole family on a vacation, things can get pricey. The cost of travel doesn’t need to be through the roof, though. The main goal is to spend quality time with friends and family, and a budget camping trip can be a great way to do that without breaking the bank.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways to reduce the cost of your budget camping trip and help you save money on your vacation.


If you want to take a budget camping trip, you’re going to need to figure out where you’re going to be going. Do some research to find the nearest national parks, state or national forests, or any public recreation areas that are ideal destinations for your trip. If you’re trying to minimize the cost of your trip as much as possible, look for somewhere that’s close to home to save on travel costs.


The cost of a campsite can vary, but it’ll usually cost $20 to $30 a night to book a well-equipped recreational campground. These will typically include clean washrooms, showers, laundry facilities, and even convenience stores. These sites are often equipped to support RVs, so they may be a little more than you need if you’re staying in a tent.

camp site for a budget camping trip

You can also find primitive camping sites at national parks, state parks, local parks, and recreational sites across the country. These campsites will usually have washrooms, drinking water, and picnic tables. Some may even have showers, but they generally won’t have an electrical hookup. These sites can cost around $10 per night. If you’re looking for a reasonably well-equipped space to set up your tent in nature, this might be your best bet.

It’s important to keep in mind that prices will vary by region, the time of year, and the amount of people you’re bringing to the campsite.

How to have some inexpensive fun

You shouldn’t be short on fun activities to do on your budget camping trip. A lot of public parks will give you the chance to do all sorts of outdoor activities. They’ll often have hiking trails, and they may have a nearby lake for you swim in, go fishing, or even have boats for you to rent. Some sites may have some amenities for you to enjoy like swings – great if you brought your kids! – a playground, or a basketball court.

Even if they don’t carry these amenities, it doesn’t take much equipment for you to enjoy the outdoors. Bring your bikes, board games, a frisbee, baseball gloves, or any other fun outdoor activity you can think of. These remote areas are also a great place to watch the sunset and see the stars at night away from the city lights. Some public parks may offer nature programs geared towards kids, and you might even be able to catch a movie outdoors if they’re showing one on the weekend. There’ll be all sorts of ways for you to enjoy your budget camping trip with friends and family.

How to save on camping equipment

If you’re going camping for the first time, the upfront cost of buying all the equipment you’re missing may seem like more than it’s worth. But there are still things you can do to cut some of these costs while still getting good equipment.

Borrow from friends or family

If this is your first camping trip and you don’t want to buy all the necessary equipment because you think it’ll just gather dust in your garage, you might be tempted to rent most of what you need. But what’s cheaper than renting? Borrowing! Speak to your friends and see if they have any equipment lying around that you can borrow for your budget camping trip. If none of your friends have the equipment you need, see if you can join a camping club or group on Facebook and see if anyone is willing to lend you what you’re missing.

Look on discount websites

While you might see the occasional sale at a traditional brick and mortar retailer, you may be able to find even better deals by searching for sales online. Some discount outdoor sites you might want to check out are:

 If you’re looking for cheap camping gear on these sites, it’s important to stay vigilant and check back frequently for sales, otherwise you might miss out on some of the better deals.  

Buy used equipment

borrow equipment to go on a budget camping trip

Another online stop you should make when you’re looking for cheap camping gear for your budget camping trip is Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and E-Bay. People will sometimes buy camping equipment impulsively and then decide it’s not for them which can be a great opportunity for you to grab some barely used gear at half the price.  

Camping gear

Now that you know where to get your camping gear, it’s time to look at what you’re going to need. This starts with getting a tent. If you’re bringing a family of four, you may want to consider getting a tent that’s meant for six people. It’ll be nice to have some extra wiggle room at night so people aren’t bumping up against each other.

The next thing you’ll need is a sleeping bag. Assuming you’re not camping in the cold, look into getting a 3-season sleeping bag. This will be the most versatile one you can get in terms of the range of temperatures it can be used for, and if you get a little hot at night, you can unzip it to cool off. If you know you’re going to be sleeping in hot weather, you could even save money by ditching the sleeping bag altogether and bringing sheet and blankets from home.

If you want a little extra comfort at night, you may want to get a sleeping pad to put under your sleeping bag or bedding. You can find these for around $30. These will also be helpful if you’re bringing your own bedding and not a sleeping bag. Either way, you should make sure to clear the area that you’re planning on laying your sleeping bag on of rocks and pine cones to make your sleep more comfortable.

equipment for a budget camping trip

You’ll also need to consider how you’re going to cook your food. If your campsite comes with a grill, then you’re set! But if not, you may want to bring a small gas-powered camp stove with you. You should be able to find a single burner stove for around $15-$20, and a propane fuel cylinder for around $10.

And speaking of food, you’ll need a cooler to keep your food from going bad and your drinks from going cold. Make sure you get one that’s big enough to accommodate everything you need.  

You’ll also want to consider adding these things to your camping list:

  • Pots and pans
  • Cup and glasses
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Pillows
  • A cheap tarp to place under your tent to protect the tent floor from tears
  • A battery lamp
  • A first aid kit
  • Bug repellent
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Wash basin to wash pots and pans

You don’t need to break the bank to enjoy a budget camping trip

We’d all love to take a little break during the summer to get some much needed time off from our hectic lives, but when you’re on a tight budget, this may seem a little out of reach. If you want to get into the great outdoors and avoid pricey airfare, a budget camping trip may be just what you need! Consider these tips to help you organize your trip and cut back on costs where you can. Now get out there and start enjoying nature!

Do you have any tips for planning a budget camping trip? Share below!


Disclaimer: This article provides general information only and does not constitute financial, legal or other professional advice. For full details, see MoneyKey's Terms of Use.

Posted in: Lifestyle

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