10 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Camping Trip

Updated on: by Amy Kennedy

When the city noise becomes overwhelming and you long for the tranquility of the great outdoors, nothing beats a camping trip.

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It’s the perfect escape to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul, offering an immersive experience amidst nature’s grandeur.

But amidst the lure of starlit skies and the crackling campfire, one can often overlook the mounting expenses that camping can incur.

However, without careful planning, the cost can quickly add up. In this guide, we’ll delve into 10 practical ways to save money on your next camping trip.

Why Camping Trips Can Be Expensive

Unplanned camping trips can indeed lead to unexpected expenses. From investing in gear to food costs, transport, and campsite fees, it’s easy to underestimate the total price tag.

Let’s break down some of these potential expenses to gain a clearer picture of where your money might go, and how we can work towards slashing those costs.

The Cost of Camping Gear

When it comes to camping, the right gear can make or break your experience. High-quality tents, sleeping bags, camping stoves, and other camping essentials can quickly add up to a significant sum.

If you’re new to camping, you may find yourself shocked at the price of new, top-of-the-line equipment.

The Expense of Campsite Fees

Depending on the location and amenities, campsite fees can vary greatly. Highly sought-after sites or those within national parks can demand a premium, especially during peak season.

The more amenities the campsite offers, like electricity, Wi-Fi, or bathroom facilities, the higher the fee is likely to be.

Food and Provisions

Food is an essential part of any camping trip, but it can also be a substantial expense.

Impromptu meals or buying food on the go can be costly, and the same goes for last-minute shopping trips for forgotten items like firewood or marshmallows.

Transportation Costs

Getting to your camping destination is another factor to consider. If you’re driving, you need to account for fuel costs.

If your chosen site is far from home, those costs could escalate quickly. If you’re renting a vehicle or an RV, that’s another significant expense.

10 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Camping Trip

Borrow or Rent Camping Equipment

Investing in brand-new camping gear can be expensive, especially if you’re new to camping or only do it occasionally.

This is where borrowing or renting becomes a brilliant money-saving strategy.

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You can reach out to friends or family who have camping gear stowed away and would be willing to lend it.

Reliable Rental Sources

Alternatively, renting from reputable sources is another cost-effective way to secure your camping essentials.

There are specialized rental companies like OutdoorsGeek, and local outdoor stores that offer a variety of equipment, from tents to cooking gear, all for a fraction of the purchasing price.

Buy Used Camping Gear

Used doesn’t necessarily mean worn-out.

Many people sell their camping gear after just a few uses.

Buying used equipment from reliable sources can save you a significant amount of money, while still ensuring you have quality gear.

Finding Quality Used Gear

Online platforms such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace offer a plethora of used camping gear.

You can often find items that are nearly new for a fraction of the original price, making it a great resource for cost-conscious campers.

Plan Your Meals

Planning your meals in advance is not just a health-conscious choice but also a wallet-friendly one.

It allows you to create a shopping list, avoiding impulse purchases and minimizing waste.

Don’t forget to include snacks and drinks in your meal plan.

Easy-to-Cook Camping Meals

Focus on meals that are simple to prepare, require minimal ingredients, and have non-perishable options.

Websites like Fresh Off The Grid provide a vast range of easy-to-cook camping meals that are not only affordable but also delicious.

Camp During Off-Peak Seasons

Camping during the off-peak season can result in substantial savings.

Popular campsites often lower their rates during these times. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy your camping experience with fewer crowds, adding to the tranquility.

Weather Considerations

While off-peak camping is a bargain, it’s essential to be well-prepared for the weather conditions.

This may include investing in a warmer sleeping bag or ensuring your tent is rainproof, depending on the season.

Choose Free or Low-Cost Campsites

Why pay more when you can pay less, or nothing at all? There are numerous free or low-cost campsites across the country that offer a safe and scenic setting for your camping adventure.

Finding Budget-Friendly Campsites

Websites such as FreeCampsites.net are an excellent resource to find these cost-saving options. Remember to research the amenities and rules for each site as they can vary significantly.

Carpool or Use Public Transportation

Carpooling is an eco-friendly and economical way to reach your camping destination. By splitting fuel costs, you can save a significant amount.

It’s also a lot more fun to travel in a group, making the journey as enjoyable as the destination.

Public Transportation Options

If your camping site is accessible by public transport, it could be a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly alternative.

Websites like Rome2rio can help you plan your journey using various modes of public transportation.

Limit the Use of Paid Attractions

While certain attractions like zip-lining or guided tours can be exciting, they often come with a hefty price tag.

Instead, embrace the natural attractions around you – hiking, bird-watching, and star-gazing are all free and can be equally, if not more, rewarding.

Maximizing Your Outdoor Experience

Check out local visitor centers or do a bit of online research to find the best natural attractions in your camping area.

There’s often an abundance of trails, lakes, viewpoints, and other natural wonders to discover, all without spending a dime.

Invest in Quality, Durable Camping Gear

While investing in high-quality, durable camping gear might seem counterintuitive when trying to save money, it can lead to significant long-term savings.

High-quality gear will not only enhance your camping experience but will also last longer, saving you the cost of frequent replacements.

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Choosing Your Gear

Do your research before buying any gear. Look for product reviews and choose items known for their durability and performance.

Consider it an investment into many future camping trips.

Utilize Nature’s Resources

Mother Nature provides a wealth of resources that can be used to cut down on camping costs.

For example, collecting firewood (where allowed) for your campfire instead of purchasing it can save you a tidy sum.

Sustainability Considerations

However, remember to use these resources responsibly.

Don’t damage live trees for firewood and always follow the “Leave No Trace” principles to maintain the environment’s sustainability.

Get a National Parks Pass

For avid campers, a National Parks Pass can be a cost-saving godsend.

For an annual fee, you get unlimited access to hundreds of national parks and federal recreational lands.

Maximizing the Pass

This pass can be particularly valuable if you plan to visit several parks within a year.

Plus, it’s a fantastic incentive to explore the awe-inspiring beauty that our national parks offer.

Just remember to check which fees are covered by the pass, as some amenity or activity fees may not be included.

Extra Tips to Save More Money While Camping

These additional tips may seem small in isolation, but when applied collectively, they can contribute to significant savings, helping you get the most out of your camping budget.

Carry Reusable Water Bottles

Ditching single-use plastic water bottles in favor of reusable ones not only benefits the environment but also your wallet.

Buying bottled water can add up over time, and in many camping locations, safe drinking water is readily available.

Stay Hydrated and Save

Invest in a good quality reusable water bottle or a hydration bladder if you plan on hiking.

If you’re unsure about the quality of the water at your campsite, consider a bottle with a built-in filter or carry portable water purification tablets.

Use Solar-Powered Lights

Harnessing the power of the sun is a smart way to save on your camping expenses.

Solar-powered lights eliminate the need for batteries or fuel, and they can provide ample lighting for your campsite or inside your tent.

Best Solar Options

You can find a variety of solar-powered options such as lanterns, string lights, and even inflatable lights. Make sure to charge them during the day for use at night. Check out options like the Luci Outdoor 2.0 or the BioLite SolarHome 620 for some inspiration.

Split Costs with Friends

Camping is a wonderful activity to share with friends, and it also provides an excellent opportunity to split costs. From transport to food, shared expenses can make your camping trip significantly cheaper.

Planning for Shared Costs

Communicate clearly with your group about the budget and expenses.

Consider using apps like Splitwise to easily track shared costs and ensure everyone pays their fair share.

FAQs About Saving Money on Camping Trips

1. Can I camp for free anywhere in the U.S?

While it’s not possible to camp for free just anywhere, there are numerous places in the U.S where you can camp without incurring any fees.

These are typically found on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in National Forests, and grasslands. Websites like FreeCampsites.net are great resources to find these spots.

2. Is camping a cheap vacation option?

Camping can be a very budget-friendly vacation option, particularly when compared to traditional holidays that involve flights, hotels, and dining out.

However, costs can still add up, particularly if you’re not careful with gear purchases and campsite fees.

By following the tips in this article, you can make your camping trip as cost-effective as possible.

3. What are some low-cost meal options for camping?

There are plenty of affordable and easy-to-make meal options for camping. Consider meals like chili, pasta, grilled skewers, or hot dogs that can be cooked over a campfire.

Don’t forget about no-cook options like sandwiches or salads.

Planning your meals in advance and buying in bulk can also save money.

4. Is it worth buying a National Parks Pass?

If you plan on visiting multiple national parks within a year, the National Parks Pass can save you a considerable amount in entrance fees.

The pass is $80 per year and grants you access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites.

However, if you’re only planning one or two visits, it might be cheaper to pay the individual entrance fees.

5. Is it cheaper to rent or buy camping equipment?

The answer depends on how frequently you plan to camp. If you’re an occasional camper, renting or borrowing can be more cost-effective.

However, if you camp frequently, the cost of renting can quickly exceed the price of buying. If you do decide to buy, consider second-hand gear to save money.


Camping doesn’t have to break the bank.

With the above tips, you can save money on your next camping trip while still having a memorable outdoor experience.

Remember, a successful camping trip relies on planning, so take the time to prepare, and you’ll be well on your way to an affordable outdoor adventure.

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