Tips For Tent Camping On A Budget

Tent CampingTent camping is a very economical option for a family vacation.  Did you know that you can find tent campsites with electricity from $17 and up per night in many National Parks and State Parks.  So don’t let the economy prevent you from enjoying a fabulous family vacation.  Follow these simple tips for tent camping on a budget.  And then get started making camping memories with your family.

Tent Camping On A Budget

  1. Find good deals on camping equipment by shopping at discount stores.
  2. Yard sales are a good place to look for camping equipment as well.
  3. Buy camping gear during the off season when it goes on sale.
  4. Get out of the sporting goods department and find products that may be used for camping in other parts of the store.  Many products are re-marketed as camping supplies, such as the camping broom and dust pan (see this article about foam floor tiles for your tent).
  5. Choose a campsite close to home to cut down on gas prices.
  6. Check websites for deals.  Even our National Parks and State Parks offer discounts occasionally.
  7. Buy essential equipment first and purchase other gear gradually as finances allow.
  8. Use a camping checklist so you don’t forget anything and overspend for a replacement.
  9. If you really want the name brand camping equipment, check online discount sites like The Climb.
  10. Prepare a meal plan before your trip and bring your food with you.  This allows you to shop for the best deals and use coupons.  And remember, hot dogs are cheap and kids love them.

You can rent tents.  I do not recommend this option, because you can purchase an inexpensive tent and then if you take care of it, you will have it for many years to come.

Tent camping can be a fun, economical family vacation.  Use the same financial common sense you use at home.  And remember, the first camping trip is the most expensive.  After you purchase your essential camping equipment, the cost of tent camping decreases substantially.

I’ll see ya around the campfire.

Tiffany

What other tips would you give first time tent campers?

Photo Credit: Our Tent by mbaylor via Flickr (license info).

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Tiffany loves tent camping and knows how to bait a hook.

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Comments

  1. One piece of advice I would give to first-time campers is make a detailed list! Write down everything you need for camping and for every step of your camp recipe and all of your toiletry items and clothing and make sure you pack them. Yeah, I’m speaking from experience. :)

  2. Great post Tiffanny. I would also recomend getting some boxes to put misc. items in, it is so much easier packing and unpacking. If you have the money buy some plastic storage containers, again it is so much easier packing and unpacking. As far as lighting at night, I picked up two oil lanterns for 5 bucks each at ace hardware, they work great and I filled them up with tiki torch fuel i got on sale at wal mart for 2 bucks.
    Randy recently posted..Nikon guided me to safety on the A.T.My Profile

    • Campy Mom says:

      Thanks, Randy. And don’t forget your Nikon camera with a strong battery, right? I read your post and wow, that is too much adventure for me!

  3. Dianne Edwards says:

    Take at least two tarps…one for a ground cover and the other to put over your tent if it rains (rain flys aren’t the best protection). A tarp over the tent will also darken it if little ones need naps. If you have really small children, take a “pack and play”. Older kids need appropriate sleeping bags.

    I can’t emphasize enough the need for a list and labeled boxes!!

    • Campy Mom says:

      You’re right. If you have small children/infants, you do not want to forget the Pack ‘N Play. Been there and done that! It was not good.

  4. Michael Douglas says:

    Make a test run of all your equipment at home. Many is the time we have seen first time campers becoming very upset and angry trying to set up a tent for the first time…nothing ever goes right! At home, if you get frustrated, you can always go inside…cool off…have a cold beer…then attack it again later. Setting up at home also gives you the chance to work with the rest of your equipment (can you say…’exploding propane stove’?).

    • Campy Mom says:

      There has got to be a story behind that exploding propane stove! But, you are right about setting it up your equipment ahead of time. We have had several instances when we were setting up our tent as fast as we could due to rain or it was getting dark. You don’t want to be in that situation and setting up your tent for the first time.

      • Michael & Donna Douglas says:

        Know how to set up your tent before going camping proved invaluable last spring. We made the mistake of camping in March (NEVER again!)…and the wind was really blowing. A tent flapping on the ground never works. But because we practiced at home…no problem. Might have added 10 minutes to our set up time.

        Exploding stove story. Many years ago, I was camping at Elijah Clark (glorious fishing!) and a group of young kids set up next to me. They had a boat and caught lots of fish. They decided to fry the fish with a propane fish fryer. They had the pot FULL of oil. It boiled…overflowed…and caught fire. What was left in the propane tank exploded. Fortunately, no one was hurt…scared…but not hurt. They ate hot dogs that night…they borrowed from me.

    • Michael,

      So true about knowing your equipment before heading out to the bush. Each spring, we set-up our tent, practice makes it easier and we go through our supplies, reload what’s been used and check for items that are damaged or in need of repair.

      We camp in a lot of “primitive” areas (nothing but you and nature) as well as “refined areas,” (state/national parks) and have seen people who are not prepared. We look at that as a “teachable moment” and help them get settled. Organization (labeled tubs) makes set-up a snap.

  5. Great article! I know many families think camping is not an option due to the gear and cost. Thank you!

    • Campy Mom says:

      No problem. You know, today on our facebook page we learned that Georgia has a First Time Camper Program. If you are a First Time Camper, they will let you borrow camping equipment (a 6 man tent, a couple lawn chairs, roasting sticks and more) and camp for 2 nights– all for $45. That’s a great deal. And they will even help the First Time Campers set up their equipment and answer their questions. I believe it is available in 6 of the GA State Parks.

      So, first time campers may want to check and see if their state has a similar program.

  6. jessica bartram says:

    Most important thing to remember when camping is: HAVE FUN!!! Setting up a tent can be frustrating, so doing what michael said is very good advice. Make sure to keep coolers either in vehicle or have a lot of weight on top of them at night. Raccoons can and will open coolers…past experience has taught me that.

  7. Angilena says:

    We only go camping a few times a year, but we try and buy our food in advance and on sale. That way we are not putting out a lot of money at one time. I’m not a good cook so it is always something simple and fast.

  8. I just found this site. Love it!!
    I would suggest taking a “freezer” cooler (I use my best cooler and lots of ice and frozen water bottles) that you don’t have to get into much for your meat and things you need to keep cold for use the last day of camping. (I camp for at least 3 if not 5 nights). Another cooler can be used for drinks, condiments, and food for the 1st night or 2. And try to pack them in order of what you need to keep from keeping them open for long.

    Also, every time I camp I think of something that would be nice to have along. I keep a notebook with each trips list ,menus. and notes. The next trip I just copy my previous list and add the things I thought of.

    I would live in the woods of my sewing machine would work out there! :)

  9. Most of our gear, except our tents, were bought used or were hand me downs. One tip I have: really figure out what you NEED. It’s a pain to sort through dozens of unused items to get the thing you want! We bought my parents’ “fully furnished” 20 year old pop up camper, but when it needed tons of repair, we went back to tenting. I packed up all the “stuff” from the pop up, but quickly realized that all the stuff my mom thought was essential really wasn’t necessary for me. She had serving dishes in the camper! I also don’t need 3 fry pans and multiple saucepans in many sizes.

    If you’re interested in camping for the first time, local colleges may have gear for rent. The college near us has an outdoor club, and they have tents, propane stoves, coolers, etc. all for rent very reasonably.

  10. Buy the dry goods for your meals ahead of time. Even a couple of grocery store trips. They keep. Store them in an airtight storage container. Shop the dollar stores. They shockingly carry alot the items you can use for camping. Latest idea I saw was using the solar lawn lights as tent stakes. Double duty and dollar store available. I also fill my first aid kit every year at the dollar store. MUCH cheaper. Then again I circle the clearance isles all year for camp stuff. I got small oil lamps in a 4 pack last year for 75% regular price this year! I am so glad I bought so many! Wish I had bought them all!!!! Plan ahead your menu, create a shopping list and stick to it. Creates less duplicate buying and more money to use for other things. The kids outdoor toys are much cheaper at a dollar store too. i am very frugal due to money constraints and I promise these tips help! Oh, also freeze water in ziplocks(lay flat) and used plastic drink bottles for hard solid ice and a drink when it melts!

  11. I tent camp with my toddler on my own and find that keeping things simple makes life much easier. One helpful tip is to go to the dollar store and stock up on bins with lids if possible. I keep everything labeled and ready to grab when we go camping. I purchased an inexpensive canopy and I use one of those over the door shoe racks that connects to the canopy and will hold all my essentials for cooking and such. I then just roll it up and place it in the camping bin so it’s ready for each trip. Also, my 2 year old is not a fan of the campground pay showers so I use one of the large bins that store my camping gear for her nightly bath. Just heat up some water to add to the cold camp water and you have a bath. She plays in it a long time and puts her in the mood for bedtime.

    • I love that you are taking your daughter camping on your own! I have found a group of single moms to camp with and we all started by taking our kids on our own, too. We still camp together at least once or twice a summer. Kids range in age now from 5 to 15!
      My kids are grown and are still avid campers, love nature and are pursuing educations in biology. Nature is healing and fun. Real air, water and sounds educate the soul.
      Now, with that said, I must say that you have given me an idea I never had before: the shoe rack! I love it! I like staying organized between camping trips, too. Using that item will do the trick on and off the campground!

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