Roughing it on the Cheap

Part VI of the Vacation Savings Series. If you missed a segment, begin here.

Now, beyond the obvious of no hotel bills, you can save a boatload of money camping, if you are willing to rough it, plan and stick to it.

Location, Location, Location

A simple tented shelter.

Roughing It Image via Wikipedia

There are still plenty of places to camp which are free or cheap ($5 per night-usually environment impact fee). Rough it by camping in a wildlife area. If you absolutely must have amenities, keep it to a minimum, or you will be racking up the bonus points at $40+ per night.

Save at the Pump

Yesterday, we talked about how to save money on gasoline on a road trip. Apply all of those and add these:

no location

Image via Wikipedia

  • Know where you are going. Getting lost is expensive.
  • Camp close to home.
  • Try the tent, not the trailer.
  • Carpool
  • RVs are gas hogs. Drive the smallest car.

Stay within 50 miles (one hour) of home. Explore your own backyard. (Talk about cheap-literally no driving.)

The Ice Chest

Before you run to the grocery with your list, open the cabinets. If you buy a ton of chips and junk food you are wrecking your waistline and your budget.

Bring the fresh fruits (which are cheap in season) and meats you already bought. Food grilled on the camp fire tastes better than barbecue, but why splurge on steak when burgers and dogs are less expensive? Are you going somewhere the fish are free?

Did you know you can make your own ice? The recipe is really simple (email if you do not have it). Start making extra ice a week ahead, and you can forego the expensive bags of water.

Canteens hold more water than bottles and have handles or belt loops. Carry one and skip the expensive, plastic camp site waste.

Bring spices from home in baggies rather than buying small packages specifically for the camp out. Small Packages = Tiny Value

You are not going to be gone forever. Bring enough for meals and skip the million snacks. Less Food = Less Money = Less Waste

A one person pop-up tent.

Image via Wikipedia


Camping equipment is a $730 billion industry. (Shudder at those prices!) Unless you are planning to live in the woods until you find Big Foot, save your money. Buy from garage and yard sales. Pick up freebies on Craig’s List and Borrow (totally free).

Before you toss the tent, patch the hole, replace the pole or redneck the torn window screen with duct tape. Maintenance pays off. Store your equipment well to enjoy it on another camping trip.

Split the Difference

Make your camping trip a social gathering. Go with friends and reap the group discount from the campsite. Split the costs of food, and eat together. It is cheaper to make one meal larger than to make two separate meals. One day, you cook; Next day, they cook. Remember the carpool idea?

Bottom Line

Camping is one of the cheapest vacations you can take. A family of four can camp for a weekend for under $100. Plan and squeeze every nickel out of your trip.


NEXT: Final Vacation Savings Tips

The poll ends with the next post. Have you taken it? Look on the left.

What is your best camping adventure (or disaster) story?


(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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  1. James Parsons

     /  November 17, 2011

    I have done this many times as a child, and many times as a adult. It is very fun, and relaxing, especially if there is a pond or creek near to swim in.

  2. Money be damn . . . I still say roughing it is staying in a hotel without room service. 🙂

  3. My husband and I once camped for 11 nights at a total cost of $22.00. In addition to several National Forest Service campsites for $6.00 we found several free campsites on federal BLM and forest service land.
    Camping is the way to travel on a budget; it’s fun and you’re guaranteed many fond memories.


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