Ah, camping. Where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person. 😉 Are you a camper? For me there is nothing better than spending a weekend outdoors. I love the sounds, the smells, the food, and the family/friend bonding. Camping is definitely one of my favorite frugal activities. Or at least, I always thought it was a frugal activity. But is it really? Here is what we recently spent on a camping trip, what you can expect to pay for the start up cost of camping, and the recurring cost of camping.
cost of camping


We drove about 4 hours south of where we live, near CAPITAL REEF STATE PARK  to hike (LOWER) CALF CREEK FALLS. Danny has been talking about it for the last 8 years practically, so we knew we had to do it before we make our big move to TULSA. It did not disappoint! You hike 3 miles in to this gorgeous waterfall. It was way bigger than I imagined. Most of the hike feels like you are walking on the beach– thick sand. And it was SCORCHING hot, especially carrying M. We got to the falls and I stripped down and jumped in. OHMYGOSH. The most freezing water I have ever happened upon. Like, maybe, maybe 50 degrees. It was cold. But it felt amazing when I got out. Very invigorating.

Even though we camped free and we were very careful with not overspending on food, this trip definitely helped make me more aware of what we are spending on our “little” camping adventures.

Here is exactly what we spent on our most recent camping trip. Our numbers surprised me a little.

Gas:              $49.70

Hiking Fee: $5

Wood:          FREE (left over from a friend’s party)

Campsite:    FREE (found one in nature)

Matches:         $1

Water:             $1.76

Food: $15.92 on food (snacks, dinner, drinks, and breakfast)

TOTAL COST: $73.38

+$3 cash back from a rebate for some of the food I bought using Ibotta. (Ibotta is super easy to use app that gives you cash back– all you have to do is scan your receipt for a qualifying purchase. I use it literally every time I shop! You can earn $10 free by downloading the free app here


Keep in mind, this calculation of the cost of camping is for two adults (who share money) and a toddler. You could save a ton by inviting some friends and splitting gas! (Just think, if we’d gone with someone else, our gas cost would have been $24.85! It makes it a lot more worth it that is for sure).

Not a total wallet crusher but 70 bucks is still 70 bucks. That is 70 Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers at Wendy’s. (Jk those are like 2 bucks each these days). Its like 2 nice date meals. Its a new pair of jeans or two. For us- its $70 of less debt we would have. Really hones in the importance of keeping track of what you are spending so you can be careful not to go outside of your budget, and know what amount to budget for the future. 


There are a few very basic things that you might need if your camping for the first time (aka don’t have any gear), including:

a sleeping bag (expect to pay anything from $15-$200, depending on how nice of a bag you want. If you’re looking at cold weather sleeping bags, those can get even pricier. Here’s a solid option for less than $50.

a tent (expect to pay between $50-$200 on a four person tent again, depending on how nice you want.) Here’ one for less than $100.

flashlight(s) (around $20 for a good one).

ice chest (between $20-$100)

camping cookware ($75 for a decent 4 piece set of plates, bowls, sporks, pots and pans)

a tarp (around $20)

camping chairs (around $20 each)

roasting stick: save money by using literal sticks at your campsite. (about $10)

On the high end, you could be spending around $1000 to get started with your camping gear, and a little over $200 on the low end.


In addition to the start up cost of camping, you’ll also have recurring costs for things that you might need each time you go camping.

campsite fees ($5 on the low end, $50+ on the high end)

recreational fees (i.e. a hiking fee, sometimes this kind of fee is included with a camp site fee, but not always. Can range anywhere from $5 or more like a national park entrance of over $50).

gas for traveling

food, ice, drinks

toiletries: paper towels, toilet paper,

firewood & matches or lighter

Camping can be a great frugal alternative to vacationing in upscale hotels. It really can be as frugal or as elaborate as you want to make it. Just remember, if you are trying to save money, then you need to be doing things to save money. It can be easy to get sucked into a lot of comfort items (#glamping) and gadgets for camping. (which is totally fine, if it fits your budget). Just be intentional and aware of what you are doing.

cost of camping
Found the best little camping spot ever, in the middle of nowhere. Literally. I could not tell you how to find this.
cost of camping
M was in heaven, so many rocks to climb, so little time. I had no less than 500 heart attacks watching him. He has such an adventurous little soul.
cost of camping
I was also in heaven, cuz we budgeted for Diet Coke

cost of camping


cost of camping


How do you save money camping? What are other cheap things you do for fun? We are always looking for new ideas!

Stay in the loop! Gain access to all of my money saving hacks I’m using to help pay off more than $600k of student loan debt!


  1. We’ve been having friends over and sharing home-cooked meals. I’m looking forward to having people over for grill-outs and pot-lucks this summer as well.

    We also found a great park near our house that we’ve been taking the kids to, and they have free live music every Thursday night during the summer. Woohoo for free activities! (And wearing out the kids when it stays light out most of the night…)

    1. Ah meal sharing is the best! Fun and cheap(er). I am LOVING all of the free things there are to do in the summer- like free park concerts! Good for you guys. So fun!

  2. Where to begin….

    First, happy to have found your blog. Your student loan debt is making me lightheaded, but at least it’s for a medical degree and not something nuts like Eastern European Art History. A few random thoughts:

    1. I love Utah — the photos I see on Instagram when I search #Utah are crazy beautiful.
    2. I’ve been to Capital Reef for a business trip/side hustle about 10 years ago! Would love to get back.
    3. I love camping, but it’s so wet where I’m at now that camping is a bit of a drag. Bummer.
    4. I glad I’ve got all my camping gear purchased though, but because accumulating it was expensive! I saw a meme not long ago that said “Camping – where you spend a small fortune to live like a homeless person” — made me chuckle.
    5. I just got back from the dentist. As in, I still have fluoride on my teeth and it’s bugging me. I feel like I can tell you that because of Dr. Red Two Green! 🙂
    6. Lastly, and probably most important: Diet Coke < Dr. Pepper!

    1. TY I AM DYING. Quite the wit you have there.

      1. Utah is amazing. We really do feel so sad to leave next month.
      2. I wish I could find a side hustle at Capital Reef.
      3 and 4. Bummer that you can’t put all that gear to good use where you are. Maybe a camp out in your living room and put on nature on Netflix?
      5. Danny was legitimately excited when I read your comment out loud to him. Way to take care of those canines especially because:
      6. Soda is terrible for your teeth. Diet Dr. Pepper or the real deal?

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