A Guide to Camping for the Cost-Efficient Family

Camping

The art of camping. In many ways the simple act of pitching a tent and sleeping under the stars has become a timeless activity and an integral part of American culture. This taste of Americana, has been tempered a bit in recent years by the economic struggles of the common family, and sadly has been exorcised by many as a cost-cutting move. For some, the thought of opening the wallet for supplies, food, transportation costs and camping fees have become a luxury that is not sustainable in this day and age. What many don’t realize is that with proper planning and execution, camping can be transformed into the ultimate family adventure full of fun and free of excess expenditure.

Don’t believe me? Here are some cost-controlled tips and advice that may come into play for your next outdoor expedition.

Get in touch with your primitive side

Primitive CampingOur ancestors had another word for camping: Living. Before the advent of Mountain Hardwear Space Station Tents, Patagonia Capilene layering garments with Arcteryx outerwear and SnowPeak titanium stoves and cookware, we relied solely upon on basic survival instincts to get by.

Now, more than likely you won’t need to go to extreme measures to tap your inner caveman. Start with a way to bypass the cumbersome fees that campgrounds charge nightly just to use their land. Instead of forking over the $25 minimum fee, check with your local state forest for public land that can be reserved for cost-free reservations known as “primitive camping”. Many campsites within these designated areas are strategically situated near a source of water, and come with much of the luxuries found on rented land such as fire pits, outhouses, and tenting space.

Avoid Buying Unnecessary and Expensive Camping Equipment

Much like any other family activity, equipment costs can accumulate at a substantial pace that can leave you feeling unequipped and unprepared. The fact remains, that many affordable options exist within the realm of the outdoor industry that will maximize your camping experience. For one, never buy new equipment. With

Camping equipmentmulti-person tents ranging from $100-500 dollars, the shelter vital to your family’s comfort and safety will be a significant expense. While there may be no true way to avoid this one simple fact, there are ways to ease the burden on your bank account. One idea is to check discount camping websites such Sierra Trading Post and Guide Gear for all your camping needs.

Often websites such as these offer high-quality tents at half the price of your neighborhood sporting goods store. If your budget still can’t handle such a heavy expense, look into joining a local outdoors club where members often operate a barter system where equipment is shared between members.
As experienced campers will tell you, purchasing and using sleeping bags can be the worst part of an outdoor getaway. There’s always an issue. Sometimes they’re not comfortable, or they’re not warm enough. They’re expensive, and often times don’t contribute to a good night’s sleep. Instead of investing in $80 sleeping bags for you and your loved ones, consider an alternative. Purchase a series of single air-mattresses that retail for around $30 each. The mattresses are guaranteed to provide a softer spot to catch some shut-eye, and combined with your own bedding material will provide the adequate rest and relaxation to make the most of your trip.

Stay Hydrated and Healthy

Perhaps the most challenging portion of any outdoor getaway, is insuring that you and your family consume the recommended amount of food and water while away from civilization. Although hunting and gathering cannot be advised, avoiding the pratfalls of expensive freeze-dried meals can be. Instead, opt for such camping delicacies such as hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches and various items that can be eaten with your hands to

Red Water Canteen

conserve water. Using an open flame, most easy meals will be able to cooked without much effort or expense.

If it’s not practical for you to splurge on a portable stove, make use of the fire pit by heating pre-made foil dinners over the coals and enjoying a hot meal of your own device.

Water is essential to our livelihood and a must for any camping experience. Some campsites come equipped with running water that can be used for cooking and basic needs, however it is always wise to come prepared with extra water for drinking in the form of gallon jugs that can be bought from your standard grocery store. To cut down on the cost of ice, you may consider freezing a jug and places it into a water cooler to preserve the liquid as it thaws out.
Above all, camping should serve as vacation for your family to bond over stories, and be time well spent. Strip yourself of the technology and stress of the modern world, and open your senses to the sights, sounds, and smells of Mother Nature in her truest form.
Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with the best savings account rate.

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