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The best tips online for having a fun yet frugal camping trip this year – so your family or friendship group can have an amazing holiday, while still staying on budget.
As summer approaches, many of us face the same dilemma: we want a well-deserved break from work and home responsibilities, but we don’t really want the added stress of budgeting and saving for a big trip abroad.
If you’re trying to stay frugal this year, a camping trip can be the perfect compromise: providing the perfect opportunity to enjoy the countryside of your own country, get a break from your day-to-day routine, while still being cheap enough to suit most budgets.
When it comes to camping, like all trips, you can go big, or you can go budget. It’s pretty easy to stay frugal camping, too – provided you’ve done your research and you’re prepared.
Below, we’ve covered some of the best ways to have a fun but frugal camping trip this year.
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Camping Gear & Equipment
1. Borrow from friends and family
If you’re going on a summer camping trip with no real intentions to make it a much more regular thing, the best way to stay frugal is to simply borrow essential camping equipment from people you know.
Shelling out for tents, sleeping bags, mats, and all the other gear can be extremely costly for a one-off trip, especially if you end up buying gear that’s not actually right for you. When it comes to tents, sleeping bags, a sleeping mat, camping stove etc, ask around and see what you can borrow.
2. Look online for second-hand camping gear
There are plenty of people before you who have made the mistake of buying brand new camping gear, using it once, and now trying to sell it on to make at least some of their money back.
The good news is that means frugal campers like you can take advantage of those mistakes and find barely used second-hand camping gear for a huge discount. Things like tents, sleeping mats, camping tables and chairs, stoves etc are all great for getting second-hand.
3. Use what you’ve got at home
There’s no need to buy specialist camping gear when it comes to things like cutlery, cooking equipment, and even bedding. Save money by just taking a few items from the kitchen instead – and if you don’t have a sleeping bag, a duvet and pillows on an inflatable mattress or padded sleeping mat can be just as cosy for summer camping trips.
4. Trade and recycle at the campsite
The campsite itself is a great place to find camping equipment that others have left behind. Things like camping chairs, windbreaks, tables etc are often up for grabs if you’re quick.
5. Share with your group
There’s no need for every person to have their own camping stove, set of cooking utensils etc. Instead, organise with your group beforehand who will take to save money and to save space in your car.
6. Pre-make some snacks before you go
Pre-made snacks are not only an easy way to keep costs down when you’re camping but also guarantees you’ve got healthy, energy-fuelling snacks to hand whenever you or your family get hungry. This is where meal prepping can come in really handy.
7. Bring your own food for the journey
Likewise, packing your own food for the journey to your campsite is a small but effective way to keep costs down. Service station food can be expensive (not to mention low in healthy choices), so pack some sandwiches in a coolbox and maybe even plan to stop at a scenic location to break up the journey,
8. Plan your menu before you go shopping
When it comes to planning your meals while camping, planning a menu can be a really useful way of helping you to avoid buying unnecessary ingredients that don’t get used. I’d recommend planning to cook one big one-pot meal for your entire group – things like veggie chilli, one-pot pasta, or a stew always go down well and can be made with ingredients that don’t need to be refrigerated.
9. Find non-refrigerated options
Linking to the above point, making your meals with items that don’t need to be refrigerated is a great way to stay frugal and avoid buying any items that could spoil before you use them. Things like canned chopped tomatoes, tinned beans or chickpeas, pasta, fresh vegetables like sweet potato, onions, carrots etc are all cheap and won’t go bad.
10. Make use of the campfire
If the campsite you’ve booked has a campfire, make use of it! Save money on camping stoves and gas by cooking your evening meal directly over the fire instead.
11. Go somewhere with lots of outdoor activities
Whenever I talk about being frugal, I always recommend people to find some outdoors hobbies – because they’re free! One of the best ways to spend the day when on a camping trip is simply exploring the area you’re in. Plan a hike that takes you on a tour of all the most scenic locations around you.
12. Do your homework before booking a campsite
Being organised is essential if you want to get the most out of your money for any holiday, including camping. Research several campsites before settling on one. A few things you might want to consider aside from the cost includes activities nearby, facilities, whether there are any shops or pubs nearby, and reviews from other people.
13. Bring games from home
Make sure you pack things like a pack of cards, a ball/ frisbee, and maybe some board games for your camping trip. This is a great way to spend the evening with your group – and is a totally free way to have a fun night!
Miscellaneous Frugal Camping Tips
14. Go during term time
Going anywhere during the school holidays is always going to be more expensive, so if you can, look into booking your trip during term time (this applies more to adult groups rather than families).
15. Look into Wild camping
In some countries, wild camping is perfectly legal. Wild camping is about properly getting into nature – rather than visiting a campsite, you pitch up your tent in nature, totally alone. Wild camping isn’t legal in England or Wales, although you might be able to get permission from the landowner. Scotland, on the other hand, benefits from the right-to-roam rules, effectively allowing wild camping anywhere (read up on the rules before camping, though).
16. The More basic, the better
If you want to be ultra-frugal for your camping trip, go for a campsite with super basic facilities. As in, maybe just a toilet block with showers and sinks for washing up.
Some campsites have pools, bars, gift shops, and a host of other facilities that can be fun, but really bump up the overall cost.
Cheap camping essentials to bring:
The following items can easily be found in your own home, or purchased very cheaply – but really make or break a successful camping trip.
- Chopping board
- Toilet paper
- Table cloth
- Long lighter
- Flips flops
- Plastic boxes for organisation
- Cutlery and bowls
- Tupperware (can also double up as a bowl)
- Lanterns/head torch
- Water bottles
- Packing cubes or mesh bags for laundry or wet clothes
- Hand wipes
- First aid kit
- Citronella candle for keeping mosquitoes away
- Tarp and cord for an easy make-shift shade
- Spices and oil for cooking
I hope these frugal camping tips have given you a better idea of how to prepare for a budget-friendly camping weekend this summer. Do you have any camping hacks that help you to keep costs down?