Traveling Cheaply: Think Camping!

This week, I’m going to do a series on camping on a budget. Welcome to Frugal Series: Camping! I hope to make the Frugal Series a regular thing, so let me know if there’s anything you’re interested in seeing: a series about frugal travel, work attire, beauty, home improvement, etc. Anything you have a question about, let me know and I’ll try to cover it!


Why Camping is the Best Way to Travel Cheaply

Frugal Series: Camping


camping for cheap

A few weeks ago, B. and I went camping. He had just finished up school, as a substitute teacher, and I was dying for a vacation/break from work. For us, camping has always been a cheap travel option. Between B and I, one of us already had:

  • A tent (me, a hand-me-down from my Dad)


  • Sleeping bags (one each)


  • A few coolers (both of us, but mostly B from his days in college)

We pack anything nonperishable in plastic bins, which most young people have from moving. We pack our clothes and any toiletries in backpacks, which most people still have from college or even high school. Yes, I still had a high school backpack lying around – Jansports really are indestructible!

Besides the tent, which we got for free from my Dad, the only other big necessities are a stove, which you may not even need, camp chairs (you can get cheap camp chairs for $10, so it’s not really a splurge), and food. By the way: camp chairs are a necessity. As someone who enjoys camping, not having your own place to sit (the sticky, hot, sometimes crusted in unidentifiable substances picnic table does not count) is hellish when all you’ve been doing all morning is hiking. You will want a camp chair to plop down in and relax, trust me!


The Cost Breakdown


Below is the breakdown for our most recent camping trip:

  • $30 for 2 night space rental ($15/day)


  • $40 for camp supplies (stove, more propane, and a first aid kit because our old one was almost empty)


  • $70 for food, including drinks (beer and wine). Some stuff was on sale as buy one get one free, and we ended up getting all the materials for s’mores for only $5 thanks to that deal!

Our camping trip came to a total of $140 for a 3 day, 2 night stay.

When you add up what it would have cost to stay at a hotel over a long weekend (conservatively $80/night = $160), plus the cost of breakfast/lunch/dinner for those two days (again, conservatively and assuming you didn’t split your meals to save money, $20 per meal x 3 meals a day x 2 days = $120 – and yes, that’s assuming each meal costs $10 for one person), that comes to $280 for a 3 day, 2-night stay. You can round up or down according to how much you eat and how much it costs to rent a hotel, but the end result is the same: camping is way cheap.

Just with food alone, it would cost us as much to eat as it did to camp, with meals and drinks included. And really, who can put a price on campfire s’mores?


Continued Savings


The best part about camping is, after a certain point, you start accumulating camping things (like sleeping bags, a stove, tent, coolers, etc.), which really reduces the amount of money you have to shell out to camp. The only things you end up needing to pay for are your space and food. It goes without saying that your food could even be cheaper than ours, if you chose to hunt or fish and cook your food.

Here’s a handy visual to keep in mind when you’re planning your next cheap camping adventure:

save money camping


  1. I recently went on a camping trip and it is amazing how much fun a person can have without spending a ton of money.

    • Melissa says:

      Yeah, camping has got to be one of the ultimate cheap traveling experiences a person can have. I love camping!

  2. I can’t wait to take my kids camping! We almost took them this year but the date we chose got rained out =/
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…It All Boils Down to YOU: A RantMy Profile

    • Melissa says:

      Oh no! Will you get to go this year, or has camping season passed for you all? I’ve never camped during a downpour (it doesn’t happen a whole lot where I live ;)), but I’ve heard stories from people who have. You definitely don’t want to be out camping with the kids when your tent is turning into a moat or a sinkhole! I hope you get to go this year or next year – camping is great fun (and very thrify) for kids! (and adults :))

  3. Loved this post! We’ve been talking about doing a quick weekend camp getaway before the cooler weather hits, so this has totally inspired me to get checking on some nearby camping spots! Excited to make real smores:-)
    Jess @UsedYorkCity recently posted…Visit The MOMA’s Sculpture Garden For FreeMy Profile

    • Melissa says:

      Thank you! Yes, s’mores are THE BEST, and they seriously taste better when you’re out camping. Everything smells (and tastes!) better out in the woods! I don’t know about where you live, but you might want to check out and request a camping spot a few weeks before your trip. Depending on when you go, camping spots near us fill up fast! If you go to one place often enough, you’ll find the ‘perfect’ spot (great view, near restrooms, far from other people, whatever you want) and learn to request that spot before anyone else does. :)

  4. I’ve never been camping, but I would really like to try it out. My boyfriend and I want to take a weekend trip to go hiking and explore a really scenic wooded area 2 hours away, and hotels want around $250 a night!! Unfortunately, we don’t have any supplies, and I hate bugs, so I’m not entirely sure I’m suited for it =).
    E.M. recently posted…My Frugal Makeup RoutineMy Profile

    • Melissa says:

      Well, the supplies thing might bring you down, but not by a whole lot – if you live near an REI, they rent out camping tents, pads to put your sleeping bags on, etc. I don’t think they rent out sleeping bags (although I could be wrong), but you really can pick up sleeping bags for cheap (and new) at Target. I don’t think I would be okay sleeping on a used sleeping bag, but that’s totally a personal preference (you can wash sleeping bags).

      Also – I hate bugs too!!! The secret is TARP. We have two tarps that we lay out under the tent. I brush them off really well before we set up the tent. The tarp smothers the bugs, and for the most part, they don’t crawl around even on the tarp. Beyond that, keep your tent zipped up. The one and only time we got a bug in our tent (a spider!) was when B left the tent unzipped. Never again. Also: bug spray. All that, and you’re golden! Trust me, I hate bugs too :)

  5. I love camping! I need to go a little more often. I forgot how frugal it can be. :)
    Kayla @ Shoeaholicnomore recently posted…2014 Final Tax NumbersMy Profile

    • Melissa says:

      SO cheap, once you have some of the camping gear! Especially if you don’t mind roughing it (i.e. no flush toilets). Then your camp fees are even cheaper!


  1. […] is the last post in my frugal series about camping, but don’t worry! I will have more frugal series posts coming soon, and I am certainly not […]

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