Camping is awesome! It’s a great way to make a staycation into a real vacation even if you’re only 15 or 20 minutes from home. Plus, if you’re a parent–it’s a great way to teach your kids about survival skills, how to identify flora and fauna, and mainly, get them off their screens for a bit without having to beg. A win-win!
Here are our favorite hacks to camp on a budget so you can streamline your path to FI and have fun in the process!
Saving On Food
Focus on low-cost and simple to make meals. If you can buy and prep ahead of time, you'll save time and money. And by the time you get to a camping area, your options for food will be limited and expensive–so focus on things you can whip up quickly to keep everyone a happy camper. It's good to plan some meals with a heat source, but also, options for no-cooking. Some areas and seasons limit camp fires, so plan accordingly.
Whatever you can freeze ahead of time (like water bottles, meat, crockpot meals) will help keep food and drinks cold, but it also means that you likely purchased these items in bulk or on sale–so you can build a frugal stockpile in advance!
Even though they’re convenient, avoid buying “snack sizes”. Purchase regular sized trail mix bags, popcorn, jerky, and cereal; and portion them out. A side benefit is that it will reduce your trash. Anything you can make or prep ahead of time, like, brownies, cereal bars, sliced oranges, or yogurt cups will save you time and hassle at the campsite.
A great hack if you have electric hookups is to pre-prepare crockpot meals in ziplock bags. These can be thrown in the cooler and thaw out over a few days to be cooked. This also saves ice space in the cooler and keeps drinks cold. Of course, there are always camping favorites that are easy to prep with limited kitchen utility like oatmeal, trail mix, popcorn, sandwiches and hot dogs–so don’t overthink it! Pinterest is full of easy camping recipes, so start there for some easy dinners you can prep ahead and cook on site.
Be A Savvy Camper
Bringing water jugs and refillable water bottles along with some additives like Nuun or Mio, in place of soda or Gatorade, is also a great way to save in your budget, as well as keeping hydrated. Keep drinks in a separate cooler than food, since it gets opened more often.
Be sure to bring toilet paper, but keep it in a ziplock or coffee can to ensure it doesn’t get wet or dirty. Baby wipes are nice to have to freshen up hands and faces when needed, too.
Take some extra ziplock bags of various sizes. They can be used for a multitude of unexpected situations–muddy clothes, special rocks and other natural treasures, etc.
Being wise about your activity planning and food prep means you’ll have less wasted time and food when you arrive!
Crowdsource The Savings
When you camp, it’s just easier to utilize your network to borrow what you can and keep costs down. Even if you are planning on camping solo as a couple or family–you likely have friends and neighbors that can loan you whatever you need. With friends, you don’t have to really buy any camping supplies! And it's likely they can tell you the best spots for cheap to pitch a tent within driving distance.
If you want to bring friends along, this also helps economize with scale. Assign each couple/family a day to plan activities or a meal to be in charge of and chip in together for a cabin or campsite. Plus, while more people means more work, it also means more helpers for set up and tear down!
Borrow An RV & Boondock
Building off the idea that camping is even more cost effective with friends, chances are you know someone who bought an RV with great intentions but takes it out on the road far less than they’d like.
A great way to save on RV style camping is to boondock–A.K.A. park without a hookup. While having electric and water hookups are great, sometimes you just need to rough it for a night or two, but the RV helps you remain comfortable. Boondocking is free and it allows you a lot more freedom and flexibility in when or where you stop for the night, since you won’t need a reserved spot.
Camping is an awesome way to unplug, get some fresh air and even get some exercise to boot. With so many people spending hoards of money to “get away,” somewhere exotic, there’s something to be said about simply escaping to your own backyard and leaving your WiFi connection behind and connecting over a fire pit!