The Cost of Camping
The wind in the trees, the birds in the air, the sunlight trickling down dancing across your campsite by the pool that cost as much as a hotel room and has everything but the – wait is that a kitchen sink? Camping can be so many things depending on the person, but it does not have to be expensive, you don’t always need to be “glamping”, and you don’t need all those amenities.
In general, the following are the costs you can expect when you go camping:
- Reservation and/or Membership Costs
- Food Costs (Restaurant, Grocery Store, etc.)
- Transit Costs (Gas, Diesel, etc.)
- Equipment and Supplies Costs (Cookware, etc.)
- Shelter Costs (RV, Trailer, Tent, etc.)
The fact is you can stay at great campsites for little to no cost – you just must be willing to forego some of the amenities you may be used to.
There are 20 National Grasslands and 154 National Forests in the United States, and the United States Forest Service website has an interactive map showing trails, camping area, and more. https://www.fs.fed.us/
You may have also heard of the Bureau of Land Management or the phrase “BLM Land”. 10% of the landmass of the United States is BLM land. You can camp almost anywhere on BLM land, and the type of camping experience ranges from established campground to dispersed wilderness camping. You can visit their website at https://www.blm.gov/visit to learn more about where you can camp for free or with little fees.
Yes, steaks taste great straight off the campfire skillet – especially if you cook some scallops on the side… but you really don’t need to have a fancy meal when you are camping.
The best way to save money on food while camping is to bring your own food and water with budget friendly meals in mind and forego the restaurants or camp café. A pack of hot dogs and a loaf of bread is less than $3. Fruit that does not need refrigeration like apples or oranges are great as well. A bag of marshmallows is less than $2 – your diet can wait.
With the price of gas and diesel these days one of your biggest expenses when camping can be your fuel costs. This is especially true when you are in an RV or pulling a trailer.
The obvious answer here is you should consider places that are close to home. Sure, that nice place by the lake in the next state is great, but you can find outdoor charm anywhere if you look. Does your county have any parks that allow camping? Are there any state parks nearby? Government run campsites typically have lower cost.
Here is a radical idea: go camping in your own backyard or on a friend’s patch of land. Bring some buddies and I guarantee you’ll have a great time.
Equipment and Supplies Costs
Darn. So, you want to go camping but you don’t have a metal camping mug, a set of those cute camping utensils, or virtually anything from the camping aisle. Is it time to head to Walmart?
The answer is probably ‘No’. You survive at home, right? You can use the same kitchen supplies, bedding, and other things you use at home on your camping trip. Just remember to bring it back before you have to cook that souffle next week.
Alright so I know you know the answer to this already, but it needs to be said. Tent camping is the cheapest way to camp. You can get a low-cost tent from places like Walmart, Academy, Amazon, etc. and that is obviously going to be much cheaper than a trailer or even renting a cabin.
Putting it All Together
So, in a nutshell, to camp on the cheap stick to these points:
- Stay at a government run park or on someone’s land with permission.
- Stick close to home, don’t waste gas.
- Plan out what you need and what you will eat. Use what you already have when you can and buy only what you need.
- Eat cheap and avoid the camping aisle.
- Get a cheap tent.
Camping does not need to be fancy, and it does not need to be expensive. Tent camping in the wild is a charming getaway – especially when you aren’t worried about your bank account.