Excited about your camping trip this season? Camping is a frugal vacation but you can save even more money with these clever tips for camping on a budget!
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Cheap Family Camping on a Budget
Camping is a frugal way to travel and vacation for families of any size, but the initial investment in gear, sleeping bags, and tents can add up. Following are some tips for family camping on a budget.
Also check out my post on the BEST Dollar Tree camping hacks (plus 3 things you shouldn’t buy there)!
Camping on a Budget: 5 Tips to Save Money
1. Buy Used Camping Gear
Take advantage of families that are trading up or leaving their family camping years behind and are looking to get rid of their collection of tents, screen houses, and other camping gear.
Check out garage sales, eBay, Craigslist, and consignment stores for used camping tents and gear. Well, used tents should include all of the necessary poles and be free of rips in the tent fabric, signs of mold, and musty smells.
Don’t buy a used tent unless it is first taken out of its storage bag and set up. Motivated sellers will display the tent fully assembled to attract buyers. Missing stakes are no problem; they are easy to find on Amazon and sporting goods stores.
2. Buy Cheap Camping Tents and Gear
Camping tents are the ultimate in cheap lodgings. Late summer or early fall is the best time to buy tents, sleeping bags, camp stoves, and other miscellaneous gear, especially at sporting good stores that need to clear out their excess inventory to display the next season’s items.
Manufacturers often develop new tent and stove designs and offer closeout deals on last year’s models.
When shopping for an inexpensive tent, keep in mind that a low price doesn’t have to mean cheap construction.
Look for factory-sealed seams and a bathtub floor design, which means no seams come in direct contact with the ground. Both of these features keep campers dry.
An inexpensive ground cloth is another way to keep moisture out and prolong the life of a tent. A basic 6-millimeter-thick+ plastic sheet with or without grommets will do the trick. Make sure you get the right side to match the footprint of your tent (lots of tarp size options here).
3. Find Cheap and Free Campgrounds
These are some of my favorite camping hacks and tips if you’re looking to do cheap family camping!
Public campgrounds run by counties, cities, and townships often offer free campsites, usually for a limited stay. Some of these small campgrounds may request a donation.
Freecampsites.net compiles a searchable list of free, or nearly free, camping areas on its website. While geared toward recreation vehicles, tent campers can also find some suitable locations. Users submit campgrounds and descriptions, with honest assessments of the campground’s merits.
Other ways to find cheap and free campgrounds is to visit the websites of cities and counties near the camping destination and look for information on municipal campgrounds.
Useful government entities that offer cheap campgrounds are state wildlife management areas, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service.
4. Cheap Camping Stoves and Grills
Gas and propane camping stoves are convenient and come in a wide range of sizes and styles, but they also tend to be finicky and somewhat expensive for casual campers. I love this dual fuel Coleman camping stove that can use either liquid fuel or unleaded gas.
We actually have a very vintage Coleman stove and it still works and we love it. You’ll see it in some of my other camping posts. 🙂
If you are really going for cheap family camping and don’t already have a camping stove, cook right over a campfire.
Consider cooking with charcoal or firewood over the fire ring that usually accompanies most campsites. If you pick up a simple dutch oven like this, you’ll be able to use it for camping and in lots of baking and cooking recipes at home (like my cinnamon raisin bread recipe!) That dutch oven also has a lid that doubles as a skillet so you get a lot of bang for your buck!
5. Cheap Camping Food
You want to have lots of yummy food when you’re camping! It doesn’t seem to matter as much what you’re making – food just tastes better outside!
Here are 7 family-friendly camping recipes that are cheap AND easy to make – we love all of them. There is even a really unique (but easy) camping ice cream recipe that the kids will love to help make.
Also check out these 10 canned chicken recipes that are perfect for cheap camping food (or summer picnics!)
Camping on a Budget: Planning is Key to Cheap Family Camping
Look for end-of-season sales, cheap or free campgrounds, and scrounge for good, used camping equipment, and any camping family can have a fun vacation on a budget. I hope you liked these camping tips for families!
Now check out these 25 camping quotes to get you excited about your next camping trip!