Tips for Camping on a Budget

For some, camping involves pitching a tent by a lake. Others hit the road in the family motorhome, in search of inspiring vistas or perfect swimming holes. Whether you pack light or want the equivalent of a house on wheels, there are many things to consider. 
What sort of food will you take? If you’ll be tent camping, what sort of pack, sleeping bag and tent will you need? Sure, there are an endless variety of products that are marketed as “essential” for the perfect outdoor experience. However, with a little creativity and careful consideration, you can still enjoy a care-free camping trip without over-spending.  

Be your own chef

Will you take only ready-to-eat meals or bring cooking equipment? Buying pre-made meals will certainly save you space in your pack. However, trail-ready meals are quite pricey. Unless you’re planning a multi-week trip, you can probably make your own meals using some basic staples. For instance, forego the $3 granola bars by making your own energy-boosting trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit. Stick to one-pot meals to minimize the equipment you’ll have to carry. Pre-made wraps or sandwiches are convenient lunches for when you’re on the trail. If possible, cook over an actual fire to minimize your fuel usage. To really keep it simple, try supplementing your packed food with nature’s bounty foraged along your trip. Depending on where you’ll be camping, you could find anything from dandelion greens, to blueberries or hazelnuts. Just make sure you know what is edible and what isn’t!

Prioritize your purchases

Keep in mind that you don’t need every specialized gadget in order to enjoy your camping trip. Try starting out by investing in the basics that you’ll likely use the most, like a tent and a sleeping bag. You don’t necessarily need to buy the most expensive model to get your money’s worth. However, a well-constructed tent will pay itself off in the long run if you plan on using it for years to come. A solid, comfortable pack is another important item, as you’ll be likely be wearing it for hours at a time. 
Another consideration is if the item’s quality will affect your comfort. An uncomfortable pair of hiking shoes will cause you more misery than a slightly itchy sleeping bag. The same goes for clothing. You don’t need a $100 pair of hiking pants to be comfortable. It’s better to splurge instead on a well-made rain jacket to help you stay dry and warm. 

Involve your friends

Friends don’t let friends camp alone, right? Camping with others will allow you to share items like tents and stoves, letting you avoid these expenses. Camping as a group also means you can split expenses like gas and campground or park entry fees. If you plan on camping often enough to merit purchasing your own gear, try borrowing equipment from friends first. This way you can try out different models and figure out what you really want to spend your money on. 

Keep it simple

Worried about how you’ll shower while in the middle of the woods? No need to splurge on a fancy rig—check out these handy DIY ideas instead. In a pinch, you can always do a sponge bath or jump in a lake or river. Consider how to get the most out of the equipment you take with you. For instance, turn your headlamp into a lantern by placing it against a clear jug of water for ambient light. Likewise, for cooking, you can probably manage just fine using some basic utensils from your kitchen cupboards.


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