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.
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.
Hiking Fee: $5
Wood: FREE (left over from a friend’s party)
Campsite: FREE (found one in nature)
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.
GRAND TOTAL: $70.38
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.
START UP COST OF CAMPING
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.
RECURRING COST OF CAMPING
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.
How do you save money camping? What are other cheap things you do for fun? We are always looking for new ideas!