It is not easy to get away from the routine and find time to exercise and experience the great outdoors! Camping is a great way to be out in nature and not worry about it being very expensive. It does not matter how old anyone is, they can still go camping and enjoy themselves. It might seem that finding the right campsite can be expensive, but there are ways around it so the costs don’t mount up. How to camp for cheap and still have fun? We have advice on that!

Let’s look at camping from this perspective:

  • You have decided to go camping this summer even though you have no experience.
  • You don’t yet have any camping gear, but want to get some.
  • Three friends will be camping with you.
  • Costs will be divided among the four of you.
  • Everyone has a budget no higher than $200.
  • That means that collectively you want to stay within the $800 limit.
  • Getting ready – free of charge.

Being adequately prepared means you will be able to avoid over-spending on certain aspects of this nature experience. Watch videos on YouTube about outdoor knowledge and survival skills that could help you save money in the long run. Backpacker magazine often has ideas on which skills are the most important, how to set up and run a camp while out in nature.

Expert Village offers a variety of videos on preparation for a camping trip. You can learn about items to pack, what items to avoid, and how to tie knots. Bushcraft & The Outdoors Go Hand n Hand (they spell it this way) also offers video tutorials on survival in nature. You can learn about fishing and camping in general so the adventure does not turn into a chore. Wilderness Outfitters encourages people to rely on themselves, acquire simple skills they can use in the woods. They also promote Bushcraft.

These are only some of the resources YouTube offers for beginner camping enthusiasts or those who want to take up a new hobby. It’s free and has many budget-friendly options where gear is concerned. If you have a smartphone, The Survival Guide app is a great way to learn the simple skills you can use while out camping. You can do this in the comfort of your own home.

Buying the gear

Total Cost Per Person: Approximately $500.00

Tent (4 people): $92 – $180 (entry-level) or more

This is an expense you should not spare to avoid sacrificing comfort or quality. It seems attractive to save money, but a cheap tent could be less waterproof, the pegs could break and it could mean a much sooner end to the trip than anticipated.

Shoes for camping: $80 – $100

Walking boots or trainers that support your feet and keep them warm and dry is a must, and quality shoes will last you more than one trip.

Sleeping bags or blankets: $30 – $60

It is entirely possible to sleep with just using blankets rather than a sleeping bag, especially if you take a trip during summer. A couple of blankets, pillows and a mat should provide you with a good night’s sleep. Whatever you do, make sure that your sleeping bag or gear is rated for the seasons that you’ll be camping during. Nothing makes a camping trip more miserable or end faster than not being able to get warm at night.

Food and drink: $40

Including some trail mix and jerky in your weekend food pack will mean that you have access to easy snacks that won’t get damaged while outdoors. If you plan on building a fire and cooking, you could bring some hotdogs or even pre-make burgers at home and bring a cooling bag with you. A roll of tin-foil is another great tool when cooking outdoors. If you pick up fishing skills, catching your own dinner is a great way to save money and have a great meal while on your camping adventure.

A knife or a multi-tool: $25

Most people don’t go camping with the idea of hunting and field dressing their dinner, so there is no need to worry about an extensive list of tools you need to bring. A sharp knife or a multi-tool, however, is a must to slice meat, vegetables, fish, and prepare skewers for toasting marshmallows.

Lantern or a flashlight: $8 – $20

You can find a flashlight that won’t break the bank or you could even make your own. If you spend a dollar for a simple lighter from a gas station, you have a tool that allows you to start a fire. Watching some YouTube videos could give you the necessary tips and tricks so no additional firewood or coal should be needed unless it has rained.

Sunscreen: $8 – $15

Experienced campers recommend Banana Boat because it stays on longer and is effective even after swimming, extensive hiking, and outdoor sports.

Tinfoil: $8

Great asset for cooking a good meal while out and about in the woods. It’s inexpensive and can be recycled, causing less damage to the environment. You could also bring a plastic shopping bag with you to keep your items in and keep them safe as well as clean up after the camping adventure is over.

Camping Fees: Free

The US has an extensive list of camping grounds people can use. Woodall’s RV& Camping Copilot offers information about more than 12 000 campsite options. There is information about pets, swimming, Wi-Fi availability, location, and price. There is a list of free of charge campsites where the only amenities are a fire pit and an outside toilet.

Hunting camps are not often used during the summer months and could provide an inexpensive alternative to a campsite. If you know someone who owns a farm, they could allow you to stay on their grounds and maybe even join in on your adventure.

Gas: $60

This figure depends on how far the campsite is and how much gas your car requires. If one of your friends owns a car that needs less gas, they might be inclined to use theirs to keep the costs down.

Total cost: Works out to around $369 per person to get you and the group set up for your first camping trip. Next trip you will only need $100 or so on food expenses and gas. If camping becomes a tradition, you can add more gear to the collection and new tools to expand your skills, and maybe go to a nicer campsite.

If your budget is larger, the preparation could be a little bit different.

There are classes all over the country that teach you survival skills from simple fire-building to building a good shelter. Some classes teach navigation, hunting, and swimming health and safety as well as rock climbing. REI, Bass Pro Shops and other retailers specializing in outdoor goods run classes that wouldn’t cost more than $100.

Nicer campsites

Finding a nicer campsite means it could provide you with a full cabin that has a shower, running water, and even a nearby grocery store. Some campgrounds can cost more than 35$ per night, so it is important that you do some research and clearly know what amenities you require.

Tent near tree

Extra gear

If you decide to upgrade your gear or get some more, there are some items you should focus on more than others.

  1. Sleeping bags

A sleeping bag that will keep you warm in 30 to 40 degrees can be used during several seasons of camping. You can simply unzip it when it’s too hot. A standard sleeping bag of decent quality should cost you no more than $50 and work well for a long time. If you plan on camping in colder weather, this is definitely something you should spend more of your money on. Don’t forget to stock up on some thermals and nice wool socks!

  1. Camping accessories

People often decide to splash out on this category once all they purchase all the basics. Here are some ideas:

  • a lantern or a flashlight
  • first aid kit
  • a knife or a multi-tool
  • insect repellent, and
  • sunscreen.

You don’t necessarily need any other items, however, read some reviews and look for inspiration online or in magazines. A little radio could make the trip even more fun, but it is not necessary.

  1. Sleeping mat

A great addition to the tent in case the ground underneath it gets cold or wet. It will also provide some comfort and padding, granting you a good night’s sleep. A mat like this should not cost you more than 40$ and you can look for a used one or ask around for one.

  1. Camp stove

If the fire pit doesn’t seem like the cooking option, you could buy a portable stove for no more than 80$. This will also help preserve your cookware as it won’t get damaged by the fire.

  1. Cookware

Depending on the meals you want to cook while camping, a pot, and a skillet, as well as a pair of tongs, are on the

  1. Cooler

During summer months a cooler will keep your food and drinks chilled, and it can double as a container so you can clean the campsite up after using it.

If someone in your family, a circle of friends or colleagues owns camping gear, you could ask to borrow it. Another great option is to look online, for example, on discount sites such as Sierra Trading Post and The Clymb. Buying used gear on eBay or Craigslist can be very cost-effective even if it takes more work and time to find a good deal.

If you just want to try camping, campsites as well as REI and other outdoor stores offer camping gear rental. Non-members have to expect a charge of around $50 for two days. Buying the same tent could cost up to $300 in the store which works out as six weekends camping. Buying the same tent on eBay would reduce it by at least a half, but it really depends on whether you want to do more camping in the future.

Final thoughts

Once you own the necessary gear, camping costs decrease dramatically. The first trip for you and three friends might cost $500 or less, but once you have all the expensive parts of the kit, the next trips will cost about $100 or even as little as $20 per person. More cost-effective trips also mean you can then add other pieces of gear, making the trips even more exciting and comfortable. All in all, if you are looking into a new hobby and camping seems of interest, buying some gear and giving it a shot is the best way to find out whether you like it or not.

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