Camping On A Budget (Or For Nearly Free!)

Camping on a budget doesn’t mean eating hot dogs all week. It can enhance your outdoor adventure by focusing more on nature and less on unnecessary expenses.

“See the opportunities for adventures, not the constraints that get in the way.”
-Alastair Humphreys

This blog post will extensively cover camping on a budget – from choosing your location and acquiring gear to cooking meals and saving money with cheap entertainment.

1. Choosing Your Camping Location

When it comes to camping on a budget, some of our favourite locations include secluded beaches, crown land and free campsites.

You can do so many things for free (like trekking, cycling, swimming and paddle boarding) no matter where you end up!

camping in a budget friendly remote area

2. Camping During Off-Peak Season

Save a few bucks by camping in off-peak seasons when rates are generally lower, and campsites are less crowded.

To me, this is a win-win. You can get a cheaper site and have the campground to yourself (potentially.)

3. Selecting Campsites Close to Home

If you’re camping on a budget, staying close to home will significantly cut costs. You’d be surprised at how many beautiful campsites are nearby. 

Selecting these local gems reduces travel time and significantly saves fuel consumption (as cheap gas doesn’t exist anymore).

4. The Cost-Effectiveness of Car Camping

If you’re looking for a budget camping trip, this is it. Camping in your car eliminates the need for camping equipment like tents and special gear. 

This can be an economical choice that allows you to bring simple camping essentials from home and reduces the need for specialized equipment.

You can also avoid campground fees by finding “off-grid” camping spots in remote areas. Who doesn’t love a free campsite?

camping on a budget by car camping

5. Consider Wild Camping

If you want to save money and take it one step further, wild camping may interest you.

This is when you camp in areas other than designated campgrounds. These spots are usually only accessible by foot or bicycle, reducing your camping costs significantly.

You only need a tent, sleeping bag (or sleeping pad) and simple camping meals (canned foods are easy) for an epic camping adventure.

Shopping Smartly For Gear

Having the latest and greatest gadgets and gear sounds lovely, but there are many ways to acquire the things you need to go camping without spending more money.

6. Renting Versus Buying Gear

If you’re new to camping or only go occasionally, consider renting gear from a local outdoor store or online.

Rather than investing in expensive, brand-new gear, renting camping equipment is a great way to keep costs low. 

7. Borrow Camping Gear

Borrow equipment to save extra money. This is a great option if you don’t want to buy your own gear, knowing you only go on a few yearly camping trips.

If your friends or family members have spare tents, sleeping bags, or other items lying around unused, they might be willing to lend them for your trip.

sharing or borrowing camping gear

8. Check Out Thrift Stores and the REI Garage Sale

If getting camping gear for no money isn’t an option, you can check thrift stores for more bargain items like sleeping bags and a tent.

These places often stock gently used equipment at lower prices than brand-new retail outlets. 

You might even stumble upon a vintage piece that will add charm to your camping adventures.

REI has quarterly “garage sales,” you can also shop for used outdoor items. I’ve found some really good stuff this way.

9. Investing in Annual National Parks Passes

An annual pass could save regular campers a lot of money over time. 

For instance, the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass provides access to more than 2000 recreation areas in the United States.

This one-time investment can yield substantial savings, especially if you plan multiple yearly trips.

camping gear like a tent, sleeping pads, compass and mug

Utilizing Existing Supplies

The best part about camping? You don’t need all the fancy gadgets advertised in outdoor magazines. Many everyday household items double up perfectly fine as camping accessories.

10. Everyday Household Items Useful for Camping

Your kitchen utensils could serve as cooking tools during campfire meals, old bed sheets can become makeshift tents or ground covers, and those empty plastic containers? They’re perfect for storing food safely away from wildlife.

This reduces overall expenditure and promotes sustainable practices by reusing items instead of buying new ones.

11. Don’t Overlook Your Garage

In addition, don’t overlook your garage. Old tarps can be used as ground covers under tents or makeshift rain shelters if the weather turns bad unexpectedly. 

Even duct tape has countless uses – from fixing torn tents to securing loose ends of ropes. The key is being creative and resourceful – two qualities every outdoor enthusiast should cultivate.

old kitchen pots and pans perfect for you next budget friendly trip

12. Maintaining Your Camping Gear Properly

Apart from acquiring gear affordably, it’s also essential to maintain what you already own properly.

Regular cleaning and storage according to manufacturer guidelines will ensure your equipment lasts longer – saving replacement costs.

13. Importance of Vehicle Maintenance Checks

Maintaining your vehicle regularly is another essential tip for cost-effective camping adventures.

Avoid unnecessary repair bills by ensuring that your car or RV is in top shape before setting off.

Regular maintenance checks will help prevent breakdowns en route – nothing ruins an adventure faster than unexpected car troubles.

If you’re unsure about what needs checking, here’s a quick list:

  • Tire pressure and tread depth
  • Oil levels
  • Coolant levels
  • Lights (headlights, brake lights)
maintain your camper for your next adventure

Cooking While Camping Out

Save money on your next camping trip by cooking simple meals. Not hot dog simple, but easy with minimal ingredients.

I’m talking about cheap meals that can be cooked on your camping stove in one pot.

14. Preparing One-Pot Meals Using Canned Ingredients

Cooking simple one-pot meals with canned ingredients can help keep food costs down while camping.

These recipes are easy to prepare and can be super delicious and nutritious.

Eating out at every meal stopover during travel days can quickly add up. However, cooking your food proves more cost-effective and enhances the overall camping experience. 

15. Using Reusable Water Bottles and Aluminum Foil

To reduce expenses (and plastic waste), consider using reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water for each group member. 

This not only saves money but also contributes towards reducing environmental pollution.

In addition, aluminum foil comes in handy for cooking when camping out. It’s versatile, lightweight, and easy to pack – perfect for preparing anything from grilled veggies to baked potatoes over an open fire.

cooking over an open fire with your own firewood

Cheap Entertainment

You can do many free, cheap and fun activities as a couple (or as a family). I love camping in secluded areas where we have to get creative.

16. Free Family Activities Like Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts are free and encourage creativity and teamwork on family vacations.

If your camping fund is low, you can create your scavenger hunt using items found around the campsite or even incorporate elements of nature into your game.

17. The Joy of Board Games

These timeless classics provide hours of enjoyment and foster bonding time between friends and family. 

Plus, they’re cost-effective – you likely already have some favourites at home that you can bring along on your next camping adventure.

Consider card games like Uno or Go Fish if you need to pack light.

enjoy your next family camping trip with a game of monopoly or other board game

18. Educational Entertainment Options

Consider bringing field guides about local flora and fauna or storytelling books about outdoor adventures for an educational twist.

This will entertain and educate everyone about their surroundings in a fun way.

How Much Does a Week-Long Camping Trip Cost?

The cost of a week-long camping trip can vary greatly and depends on these factors:

  • Location– finding secluded (free) locations will significantly reduce your cost.
  • Season– camping in the off-season is cheaper than peak season.
  • Amenities you require– if you need power and running water, you’ll probably pay more for your excursion.
  • Accommodations- keep it cheap by sticking to a tent you borrowed from your brother.
  • Food– do you enjoy eating hot dogs and beans by the fire, or is bbq’d steak more your thing?
  • Activities– what do you want to do during your week? Star gazing is free; jet skiing is not.

To give an exact amount is nearly impossible without knowing you.

We like to camp off-grid and have gone on many camping excursions that only cost us the price of simple food and gas.

FAQs in Relation to Camping on a Budget

What is the Cheapest Form of Camping?

The cheapest camping is usually tent camping at public campgrounds or national parks. These options often have lower fees compared to RV parks or cabin rentals.

Primitive camping in designated areas or dispersed camping on public lands can be even more cost-effective as they may not require fees.

Can You Save Money by Camping?

Yes, camping is an excellent way to save money. You can significantly reduce your lodging expenses by opting for camping over traditional accommodations like hotels or resorts.

Furthermore, cooking your meals at the campsite instead of dining out can help you save on food costs.

Camping also eliminates the need for expensive entertainment, as you can enjoy activities like hiking, fishing, or stargazing for free or at minimal cost.

Why Has Camping Become So Expensive?

Camping has become more expensive in recent years due to various factors. Increased demand for camping experiences has increased prices at popular campgrounds and resorts.

The rising costs of maintaining and improving campsite facilities also contribute to the overall increase in camping expenses.

Moreover, inflation and shipping costs (due to expensive gas) have increased the cost of camping supplies.

How Do You Camp Comfortably on a Budget?

Camping comfortably on a budget is possible with a few smart strategies.

1. Rent or borrow camping equipment from a local company, friends, and family.
2. Plan your meals and opt for simple, cost-effective recipes that can be cooked over a campfire or a portable stove.
3. Choose lower-fee campgrounds or explore free options like public lands or dispersed camping.
4. Pack strategically by prioritizing essential items and avoiding unnecessary gear.

What is Minimalist Camping?

Minimalist camping is an approach that focuses on simplicity and reducing the amount of gear and equipment.

It involves only packing essentials, such as a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, basic cooking supplies, and necessary clothing.

Minimalist campers often prioritize experiences and connecting with nature over having an extensive array of camping gear.

By embracing a minimalist mindset, campers can enjoy a more streamlined and less cluttered camping experience while reducing costs and environmental impact.


Camping on a budget can be a blast – trust me, I’ve done it! Zero-waste camping is also something that I am passionate about, and I think you’ll enjoy my next article.

16 Environmentally Friendly Tips for Zero Waste Camping