20 Tips for Camping On a Budget

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The idea of a cheap camping getaway into nature has long been forgotten, with its rise in popularity and price the concept of camping has become more of a wallet emptier than a fun weekend escape. Over time, campground prices have risen, in some spots you need to pay for a hot shower, and even bringing Fido along for the weekend will cost you extra bucks. But have no fear, we have put together a helpful list of tips and tricks to ensure you stay within budget this holiday.

A young man sitting in the tent with looking at the mountain landscape in winter.Light effects

getting started

1. Develop a spending plan

The first tip to saving money in any regard is to create a spending plan! Being able to see what you need to buy whether it be big investments like a tent or little frequent spending like petrol for the trip, a spending plan will help you calculate just how much money you need to put aside for your trip.

gear

If you know camping is your thing and you plan to take trips multiple times a year, it’s worth investing in some decent gear. A $500 tent might seem like a lot to begin with, but it will last you a good few years and you will get your money’s worth out of it. The same goes for a lot of expensive gear like good chairs and cooking appliances. However, you don’t need to buy these big investment items all at once, there are ways to save on camping gear for your budget.

Backpacking-Gear

2. ask a mate

Don’t be afraid to ask your friends if they have any gear they can lend you for the weekend. This is a great way to save money, and you also get to try it before you buy!

3. Buy second hand

Secondhand gear can be just as good or even better than brand-new stuff! Used gear has already seen the elements, and if you deem it to be in good nick then you know it will withstand the great outdoors. If you’re aiming to buy brand-new gear, save money by purchasing second-hand until you’re confident with what you want. Buying second-hand can also allow you to put aside enough money to go towards your new setup.

4. Don’t be tempted by the latest

We all like brand new shiny things, however, your budget doesn’t! New products come onto the market every day, and you will be tempted to ditch your maybe 5-year-old setup for a brand-new one. However, if it aint broken don’t fix it! If your setup has served you well and is still in good condition, stick with the old faithful. Your budget will thank you later.

5. Check out the op-shops

If you’re in need of cutlery or crockery for your trip, go out this weekend and venture to your nearest op-shop. They are usually filled with cheap, good quality utensils and crockery sets that will set you back only about $10 at most. This way you’re getting stuff for cheap whilst also giving to a good cause!

6. don't fear the trash pile

Now bear with me here, rifling through someone’s discarded camping gear doesn’t sound like something we want to do all the time, but you’d be surprised at the things people throw away at the end of a trip. If you see a pile of gear, don’t be afraid to have a look through, you could get lucky and find some gems that just need a little bit of TLC. This method can really save you some bucks if it’s a quick fix.

7. Sharing is caring

If you’re heading out with a group of friends, plan to share some of the gear you will bring along. things like sauces, milk, eggs, baking paper, aluminium foil, and washing liquid can all be shared amongst the group. This saves you from having to buy your own, and there’s no need to duplicate.

friends-camping-forest-together

Camp food and Cooking

Campsite cooking is a great way to bring the crew together on a camping trip, and it can be so much fun. Meals cooked on the campfire with friends are sure to be a memorable experience. You don’t have to fork out for meals either, follow these tips for some delicious and budget-friendly tips.

8. Bring snacks for the journey

Buying food and drink on the road can be significantly pricier than buying beforehand and bringing it along with you. Service stations and rest stops often hike up the price of small items to get the best out of travellers desperate for a quick snack. Dodge the small repetitive costs of eating on the journey by preparing some lunch for yourself. Make a drink at home and take in a thermos, bring plenty of water, make some wraps or sandwiches for the car, and pack some muesli bars for an extra snack to munch on the go.

9. Plan your meals carefully

Menu planning is essential for a budget-friendly camping trip. Choose meals that can be made in one pot and can go a long way so you have leftovers. Opt for recipes that use canned ingredients, this helps you avoid storing unnecessary items whilst on your trip.

10. Share the cooking

If you’re planning to head out in a group, suggest to your friends to do a bulk communal dinner for every one per night. Each person chooses a night to cook dinner for the others, and you all take turns cooking. This way you only have to bring the ingredients you need for the dinner you’re cooking, as you’re getting fed every night after that. This cuts the costs of buying ingredients for multiple different dinners for yourself, and it’s a great way to bring your friends together. Plus, you get a night off cooking to kick back and relax

Young pretty girl put an egg on pan while camping with her friends, cooking easy meal in nature park, They are enjoy to discussion and laugh with fun together, copy space

11. Have a crack at a campfire cook up

Save money on gas canisters and choose meals that can be cooked over the fire. This is a fun a new experience for most, so you’re learning a new skill and saving money at the same time! Do some bacon and eggs over the fire or try your hand at making a damper. The selection of quality campfire-cooked meals is endless! All you need is a good fireproof skillet, which won’t set you back much (don’t forget to look for second-hand).  

Camp fire and tea pot are foreground and focused, there is a tent in the background and defocused

12. Bring your own firewood

Why pay for something that you can easily collect yourself? Before you head off on your trip, go outside and hunt around for some sturdy logs and kindling that you can take with you on your trip. This saves you the cost of buying firewood and can also be a fun experience for the kids! Or set out on a firewood expedition once you reach your destination. But remember to be respectful of wildlife and protected areas. 

woman-chopping-wood-with-axe-bonfire

13. Forage or fish!

Foraging for fishing for your meal isn’t just a fun experience for all involved, it’s also a great way to save money on food. If you plan to camp near the ocean, a seafood dinner is obvious. Take a day to hunt around the rock pools for some fresh mussels to throw into a pasta dish or catch some fish to cook over the fire. Delish! If you spy some native fruit trees on your travels, grab some for your dessert or a fresh snack. Just be mindful of people’s properties and make sure the trees are out of any marked boundaries.

Entertainment

With some pre-planning, you won’t have to spend the big bucks on activities and entertainment this camp holiday. You can have some entirely free camping fun with these tips.

14. Do a group campfire cook

Make your own fun by encouraging your friends or family to all join you around the campfire to whip up some treats that you all can enjoy. Damper, smores or campfire pizza are some recipes that can be cooked in a big group, and you can all share the experience together and have a laugh while doing it. Cooking around the campfire in a big group is a surefire way (pun intended) to get the conversation going. Plus, it saves you some money on all going out to eat at a restaurant.

Friends sitting near bonfire, speaking, smiling, resting, playing guitar Camping grill marshmallow

15. Choose a campground with natural activities

When choosing your campground, ensure that it is surrounded by activities you can do in nature. Look for lots of hiking trails nearby or try and find a waterfall nearby for a freshwater swim. Try to find a campsite near a natural lake or river where you can spend the day with a picnic, enjoy fishing and swimming or get the kids onto a raft-building activity.  If you have paddle boards at home, bring them on the trip with you, this way you don’t have to rent a board to get out on the water.

Beautiful morning at Pang Ung lake, Pang Ung Mae Hong Son province in Thailand.

16. Play some campsite games

Unlock your inner child and play some classics like Bullrush or 44 Home. Big games like this are great if you are in a big group, it gets everyone involved and is sure to be a good time. Bring along the footy or soccer ball to play a match if you have some clear space nearby. A flying disk or dart is also a great activity to bring along. Even a simple deck of cards can open up endless opportunities for some fun games to play.

adult-men-having-fun-while-playing-frisbee

Timing and location are everything!

The timing and location of where and what time you chose to camp can really contribute to your savings. Follow these tips to save big and camp smart! 

17. Choose a campsite with basic facilities

A campsite or caravan park with a water park, tennis courts, a pool, and a general store sure is appealing, but it’s certainly not budget-friendly. The kids might love the sound of a water park with exploding water volcano, but these added perks bump up the booking price significantly. We recommend doing some research on campsites or spaces that are close to the beach or activities that you don’t have to pay for. This means that your trip will still be filled with fun and not break the budget.

tent-campsite-woods

18. Avoid public holidays

Most campgrounds are booked out during the public holidays, so unless you were super organised and booked months in advance, you will be forced to fork out extra to secure a spot last minute. It’s better to avoid this time period altogether to save money and stress.

19. Camp during the off-season

Popular campgrounds that offer those flashy facilities usually cost less in the off-season. Summer and Spring are the most popular times during the year for a camping trip, so planning your trip outside of these times like during autumn or winter is advised. This means you will avoid the hiked-up holiday prices and can still enjoy those added bonus facilities.

20. Try some wild camping!

Avoid camping costs altogether and try some wild camping! Camping out in the wilderness can be an amazing experience, you’re completely immersed in nature, and get to enjoy everything it has to offer. Go off the beaten track, pack light and hike to your destination, or scout out some clear space in the bush. We recommend this tip to only the most experienced camper, as the name suggests it can be wild out there. Always be prepared with a first aid kit and GPS/navigation equipment and be sure to check for wildlife and dead trees in the area that could be a falling hazard. If you find your perfect spot, set up and enjoy the serenity away from the masses. Research ahead and be aware of fire bans in your chosen area.  

Tourist tents are in the green misty forest at the mountains.

In addition to these tips, there are so many more things you can do to ensure you stay within your budget on this camping trip. A quick Google search for ‘camping hacks’ will uncover a multitude of penny-saving options to try. Writing a camping Christmas wish list is another smart way to save some bucks and get gifted the equipment you need. Don’t forget to always be prepared! If you forget any essentials you will have to buy them on your trip, which could mean you fork out $15 for sunscreen, and who wants that? So, make your packing lists and stick to them!

Happy camping and escape with confidence!

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