Family Camping on a Budget

Save money by cooking your own food (photo by ClintJCL)

Save money by cooking your own food (photo by ClintJCL)

One of the attractions of camping is that it’s generally cheaper than other types of family vacations, when you take into account rooms and meals. Camping is a great way to get the family together and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

When it comes to camping, the biggest risk to blowing your budget is probably gear envy. There is a lot of really great outdoor gear out there, from camp stoves, to lanterns, and everything in between. You really don’t need a lot of gear in order to have a great time in the backcountry, though.

We just bought our first piece of actual cooking campware last month. As much camping as we do, and we do a lot, you would think that we had all kinds of fancy pots and pans for outdoor cooking, but we don’t. We have always used old pots and pans from the house, and they seem to work just fine.

Indeed the easiest way to save money on camping is to use what you already have. You might not have any sleeping bags out in the garage, but maybe you have some foam mats or old blankets that you can use, instead of spending hundreds of dolars on sleeping pads.

Sleeping is one of those areas that I do not recommend cutting corners on. If rest and relaxtion is one of your goals, then it does not make a lot of sense to skimp on a tent or sleeping bags. Particularly for family camping, it pays to make sure the tent is big enough for everybody, and durable enough to last longer than one season.

Camping meals and snacks are another area where it is easy to get carried away if you’re not careful. Save money by making your own snacks and plan inexpensive meals with bulk foods like pancakes, hotdogs and hamburgers. Hamburgers and hotdogs are probably things that your kids don’t usually get at home anyway, so they’ll be thrilled!

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5 thoughts on “Family Camping on a Budget

  1. Save money on getting multipurpose family camping gear, like the 11th hiking essential: good old wood walking sticks. They are great fun for the whole family, that you can carve your memories into. They provide hiking safety helping you keep on the trail, but also to keep those many critters at bay. Wood walking sticks also act as tent and tarp poles, help your children or spouse out of a ravine, get your food stored easier up in a tree away from bears and raccoons, support you crossing streams and are not lightning rods like metal poles are.

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  3. I believe they were AWESOME, though anything in the middle of the woods tastes better than in real life, because you’ve sort of psychologically tricked yourself into thinking you are SURVIVING, what with being out in the woods.

    Camping gear for a cat bed — I’ve seen that in my own house 🙂 We’re going in just 2 weekends.

    ClintJCL’s last blog post..links for 2009-04-16

  4. Hey Clint! How’d those burgers come out, anyway? A lot of good tips there – you can get some great deals on camping gear at yard sales. It’s amazing how many people buy camping gear and never use it (or use it for a cat bed) 🙂

  5. Hi. That’s my picture you used — good stuff. Another tip: Check out yardsales. I got a camping backpack for $3. It ended up smelling like cat pee. However, the frame on my original pack broke, so we removed the cat-pee-part, and re-used the $3-backpack frame on my real camping backpack. So yes, even a cat-pee-backpack can save you tons of money by providing you with replacement parts so that you don’t have to buy a 2nd pack when your first breaks 🙂

    And you’re totally right about the pots and pans. Really, you don’t even need those. I often put a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew directly in the fire. No pan needed. No plate either – eat right out of the can!

    Hammocks are also cheap at yard sales.

    And while camping chairs are nice, you can also sit on your rolled up sleeping bag with some amount of comfort.

    And buying ice is nice, but… if you have running stream nearby, you can store your beer/soda cans in the water, and it will keep them cool. Assuming you can wedge them in between some rocks such that they don’t float downstream! 🙂

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