9 Tips for Camping on a Budget – Save Money

Camping on a budget

Camping allows enjoying nature’s beauty and outdoor recreation at often a fraction of the cost of other vacation options. However, expenses from travel costs to gear and food can still tally up quickly without some savvy planning. Use these pocket-friendly tips to keep camping on a budget with family affordable without skimping on the fun and excitement of exploring the great outdoors.

9 Tips for Budget-Friendly Camping Ideas

1. Research Low-Cost Campground Options

Private campgrounds with extensive amenities like pools and clubhouses often come with premium pricing. Save money by researching public lands and modest but scenic parks instead. State, regional, provincial, municipal, and national park budget-friendly camping 

grounds feature tent sites for a fraction of some glitzy private counterparts. Most only charge small reservation fees and modest nightly rates. Search for federal lands beyond national parks too – sprawling national forests, conservation areas and recreation areas manage equally stunning locales for primitive camping at low or no cost through various permit systems.

2. Invest in Multi-Use Camping Gear

Purchasing all the camping equipment needed for comfortable overnights outdoors costs a pretty penny without smart strategies. Save substantially by ensuring larger investments like tents, sleeping bags, camp kitchen setups, and other key items work for both car camping weekends and backcountry backpacking to maximize usefulness.

Relying more on multi-use products than niche accessories is only helpful in specific scenarios. For example, choose a single high-quality, midweight sleeping bag for 3 seasons instead of multiple cheaper options. 

3. Borrow, Rent, and Buy Camping Gear 

Before buying all new gear, explore borrowing equipment from helpful friends and family with closet castaways they no longer use. Some outdoor retailers like REI even rent certain products to test out or fill gaps cheaper.

Likewise, scout deals shopping secondhand outlets and online classifieds selling gently used gear at deep discounts first. This allows the creation of fully functional camping kits with quality equipment for a fraction of retail prices. Thus, you can easily borrow camping gear instead of buying new camping gear. 

4. Easy Camping Meal

Dining on granola bars and hot dogs the entire trip ruins health goals and the fun. But gourmet campsite cooking isn’t necessary either. Build tasty, satisfying camp meals around budget-friendly staples like eggs, pasta, rice, beans, potatoes, peanut butter, bread, and oatmeal. Naturally, these items need to be cooked, so it’s a good idea to invest in some good quality camping cookware for cooking on an open fire.

Then enhance nutrition and flavors by incorporating fresh produce, spices, oils, and more affordable proteins like chicken, tuna, and turkey as affordable additions into mix-and-match bowls, skillets, and foil packs. Pre-made ingredients like sauces and seasoning blends add convenience minimizing time camping rather than prepping.

5. Camping Food Storage

Purchasing all new coolers, containers and camping kitchen organizers adds up fast. Save money using reliable food, beverages, and meal storage options already on hand for smarter packing. For car camping, hard-sided plastic storage totes work great for organizing kitchen components, while Ziploc bags neatly divide ingredients and leftovers.

Repurpose water bottles avoiding resorting to pricy specialty containers. Backpackers should rely on lightweight, reusable phone-sized stash bags over expensive specific stuff sacks.

6. Use Apps & Loyalty Programs    

Cut costs further using smartphone apps providing discounts and alerts on camping options. The Dyrt, Hipcamp, Tentrr, and similar apps list everything from public lands to private campground rates with easy filtering and trip planning.

National park sites also detail regional loyalty pass programs bundling park access for a full year at reasonable rates. Retailers like REI Co-Op grant members special coupons and used gear sale alerts helpful for frugal camping setups.  

7. Plan for off- Season Trips

Snag site reservations at popular locales for nearly half the price simply by strategizing the best times to visit avoiding peak summer months when all students are on vacation. Shoulder seasons of spring and fall see far fewer crowds, lower lodging demand, and sites discounted accordingly.

Added bonus – enjoying wildflowers or fall foliage offers more memorable trips too. Just pack proper seasonal gear for comfortable camping if the weather shifts cooler or wetter.

8. Picking Nearby Camping Sites

Far-flung bucket list adventures require airfare and long road trips adding expensive transit costs. For regular weekend getaways, pick promising parks within half a tank of gas or a reasonable day’s drive instead.

Searching locally saves transportation expenses while still unleashing beautiful weekend escapes. Regional spots also allow building familiarity with fewer repeat purchases as closer places stay within reach for return trips.

9. Choosing the Right Camping Vehicles

The vehicles campers drive significantly sway gas costs when reaching destinations. Large trucks, vans, and aging RVs guzzle pricier fuel amounts the farther you venture. Newer crossovers, cars, and smaller trailers offer better MPG over long hauls.

Another bonus of picking parks closer is relying more on bikes, boats, or jogging trails to explore rather than driving everywhere once on location. Moreover, you can even set up a truck bed in your camper if you want to go tent camping on a budget


The joys of simple camping rest in escaping stress by embracing beautiful natural settings, not paying premiums equaling fancy resorts. Get strategic choosing affordable campground options, borrowing, and buying used gear, and cooking straightforward meals to keep total trip costs low. 

Use smartphone apps to find deals while picking closer locations in shoulder seasons for easy weekends away enjoying nature without draining wallets. Plan smart and the difference leaves more funding for future adventures ahead instead of paying past ones off.