Camping on a budget – News

August 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

Fall is the perfect season to take your family or friends on a camping trip. Campgrounds at state parks, national parks, national or state forests and other public recreation areas make great destinations, but believe it or not, some of their campsites can cost nearly as much as motel rooms.

If you have the itch for a camping trip, here are some tips to make your outdoor vacation a little more affordable.

Buy or borrow used gear first

If your family or travelmates are new to camping, Alyssa Goldman — writer for the money-saving blog — says there’s no reason to invest in an activity before you know it will be a winner.

“Always ask family and friends about borrowing their supplies before you make any purchases,” Goldman says.

If there’s not much to borrow, search the News-Press Classifieds for essential but often pricey items like tents and camp stoves. Goldman says you also can check seasonal deals on sites like and or go to RetailMeNot to find coupon codes for camping gear. For cheap cooking supplies, visit several yard sales and garage sales, which also can be found in the News-Press Classifieds.

Carry your cards

Goldman says that those who sign up for a membership with a campground chain often earn loads of discounts.

For example, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) offers a value card that saves members 10 percent every time they camp at one of its properties. Members also earn points that can be redeemed for rewards and savings for each stay at KOA, whose campgrounds come with amenities such as wireless Internet, cable hookups and food service.

Another example is a $44 membership with Passport America’s Discount Camping Club, which saves RV campers 50 percent at more than 1,800 participating campgrounds in North America.

Avoid the overpriced restaurants

Campground restaurants and shops often are expensive because their owners know there’s not much of an alternative. What are you going to do — drive 30 or 40 miles to the nearest town?

Instead, pack frozen meals in a small refrigerator or cooler and bring along plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and snacks like cereal, oatmeal, jerky, raisins, peanuts and instant pudding. And be sure to pack lots of liquids.

“There’s no need to pay for pricey bottled water,” Goldman says.

A few more tips says you can save money on batteries and expensive flashlights by purchasing solar lights. Charge them while the sun is shining and use them at night to save both money and energy. You usually can purchase them for less than $4, and they give just enough light to make your campsite safe and easy to maneuver through after dark.

Dave’s Journey Adventure suggests that thrifty campers turn old vinyl shower curtains into tent tarps instead of throwing them away. This will help protect your tent floor against tears and prevent water from seeping into the tent when it rains.

And instead of buying bug spray, the site recommends that campers keep their orange peels. Experts have recorded that simply rubbing the inner peel of a ripened orange on exposed skin can work as a mosquito repellent.

According to, the little plastic tags from bread and bun packages are great for pinning up wet bathing suits and towels at camp. Plus, they take up a lot less packing space than clothespins.

Campers who can rough the terrain without the amenities can try camping for free. offers a database of areas where setting up an RV or tent costs nothing. There’s also a handy “Boondocking” app for the iPhone.

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