How to Go Camping on a Budget

By Matt Diehl, September 02, 2016

Camping can be a very economical getaway to spend time with family, friends or even by yourself. Whether you plan to unwind or be active, connecting with nature can offer a variety of health benefits both physically and mentally.

If this is your first time camping or you don’t plan to camp often, spending hundreds of dollars on gear and supplies may not be a wise investment. Here are some helpful tips to go camping on a budget and get the most of your experience:

Do some research

If you plan to “unplug” from technology while camping, do some online research beforehand to plan activities, set arrangements and finalize any details that require the Internet. Taking the time to explore your options could also help you find a great deal and budget the entire trip.

If you have a desired location or experience in mind, there are several websites that can help you choose a destination. In fact, you may even stumble upon some campsites and adventures you never knew existed. Here is a quick list of informative camping websites:

  • - a one-stop shop for trip planning, information sharing and reservations by 12 federal participating partners
  • - browse a deep-rooted list of campgrounds in all 157 national forests and grasslands
  • - search a vast campground directory, plan a trip and much more

Borrow from family and friends

Do you have family or friends who love the outdoors? If so, you could eliminate several large expenses by borrowing their camping equipment.

In addition to borrowing the equipment, it may be sensible to learn how to setup and use the equipment before your trip. Getting familiar beforehand could save you time and difficulty when you arrive at your campsite.

A typical list of items you could borrow to go camping includes:

  • Tent
  • Tarp
  • Ground cloth
  • Sleeping bags
  • Stove
  • Lantern
  • Rain gear

Bring what you have already

In addition to camping-specific gear, you could also save money by utilizing everyday items from your home. You may be “roughing it” in the great outdoors but many people still want to enjoy a hot meal and comfortable bedding. Basic hygienic products, sunscreen and insect repellent are also necessities that should be packed depending on the weather elements and location of the camp.

Here is a checklist of household items that could be repurposed to cut camping costs:

  • Pillows
  • Pot (for boiling and cooking)
  • Frying pan
  • Cooking/eating utensils
  • Bottled water
  • Cooler(s)
  • Flashlights
  • First aid kit
  • Matches
  • Saw and axe
  • Insect repellent
  • Sun protection
  • Toilet paper
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Soap (biodegradable)

Eat like an outdoorsman

When you’re out in the elements, quick and easy meals are the way to go. To save time and money, pack snacks for daytime cravings and bring prepared food for meals. Oatmeal, fruit and jerky are great examples of fast nourishment that provides on-the-go energy with little to no preparation.

When it comes time for a sitdown meal, packaged meals and instant foods can be prepared by fire or with an electric skillet. You can also boil water on a fire and use it for pasta, rice or noodles. Consider bringing your favorite spices and sauces to add some extra flavor to your feasts.

Free or inexpensive outdoor activities include:

  • Fishing
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Backpacking
  • Tree climbing
  • Sightseeing

If you’re looking for a relaxing activity to end the night, skywatching or stargazing could offer some amazing celestial shows. Take a gander at to see what astronomical events will be occurring during your trip.

See you by the campfire!

A memorable trip to the great outdoors does not require great deal of money. With proper research, preparation and a little improvising, you can enjoy some time in the wilderness without breaking the bank. Happy camping!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of OneMain. The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial, legal or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else. The author was compensated by OneMain for this post.

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