27 ways to reduce your camping costs

Even though camping is probably the most inexpensive of family holidays (apart from maybe staying at home), costs can still blow the budget, especially if you are camping newbies.

Grampians NP

In this article, we have trawled through our entire website to list in this one place our camping cost saving tips, together with links to relevant articles and resources on our site. This list is long, but bear with us, there’s nothing here that doesn’t need to be here.

So, without further ado, if you are camping on a budget or simply want to reduce your camping costs, here are our tips.


Before you go camping:

1: Develop a camping spending plan

Camping cost calcrDevelop a spending plan of all of the things you need or want to buy for camping and prioritise each item. Armed with this list, you are less likely to be tempted by the latest gadget to catch your eye, and you can sit back and patiently wait for the store discounts.

2. Develop a packing checklist

A complete packing checklist is essential in ensuring nothing important is left behind, forcing you to either go without or pay top price at a local store for something you really don’t need to double up on. This includes first aid items, recipe ingredients, clothing, footwear and tools.

3: Plan and prepare for a camping tripTick

Planning, or lack thereof, is another area which can make a big difference to your camping costs. Establish a checklist to help you prepare for camping, including advanced research of your location to be ready for the expected conditions and to take advantage of the activities and opportunities on offer.

You will also be properly equipped to avoid the need to outlay money on items for a particular activity that you already have at home, such as fishing rods, wet or hot weather gear and sporting gear.

4: Choose lower cost or free campsites

There are numerous websites out there that can help you to find a campsite in the low-cost or free price bracket. Alternatively, premium campgrounds are also more competitively priced away from peak holiday periods.

Your camping setup

When building up your camping setup:

5: Stick to the basics

Camping is a pretty big business nowadays, and a far cry from its simple beginnings. When you are building up your camping setup, focus on what you need to be able to camp comfortably and safely, and forget the bells and whistles. We're not saying you shouldn’t indulge yourself eventually, but just not now if you want to keep your camping costs down.

Our camping setup for beginners article lists all of the items we think should be included in a good but inexpensive and basic camping setup. You can also find the items in the shopping guide denoted by the green * in the "item" column and ** in the "product example" column.

6: Avoid or defer unnecessary accessories

Product accessories can also significantly add to your camping costs, especially in relation to tents. Sometimes they can almost add up to the price of the item they are being accessorised with.

Accessories can really add value to your camping, and some might come in handy initially, but buy only what you need when you decide you need it. Consider cheaper alternatives as well, such as shade cloth off-cuts from the hardware store instead of a tent floor saver accessory.

And then there's all of the car, four wheel driving and RV accessories. Some if not many are important and necessary, but are they all?

7: Buy well and buy once

Avoid the cheap bargains that seem too good to be true and buy good quality and longlasting gear, especially in relation to key camping items, such as tents, sleeping gear and chairs. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive item choice either, as long as you are satisfied it will last the distance. Most of our kitchenware is sourced from thrift or cheaper department stores and is still going strong after many camping trips.

Good quality and durable equipment will also make camping more enjoyable, will serve you well for years to come and will also maintain a decent resale value.

8: Buy second hand

Secondhand sign Depositphotos 111713894 l 2015 1Some good-quality tents and other products can be purchased second hand at a significant cost saving. In fact, our current tent and accessories were purchased second hand at a $500 saving.

If you are aiming for a good quality tent in the long term, save money by starting with a cheaper second hand one until you are confident you have decided on the best setup for you, or if you are new to camping, whether you’re going to enjoy it at all.

9: Borrow gear

People can be pretty cagey about lending out their camping gear, at least the good stuff anyway, so don’t be surprised if they say no, are evasive or have suddenly expressed a desire to go camping at the same time as well. That said, if you are the reliable type, you might just get a yes and save some money.

10: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

As new items come onto the market, the temptation to ditch the old in favour of the new can overshadow all reasoning. Rather than buying the latest and more up to date model, if you have no good or practical reason to ditch your trusty old gear, then stick with it.

11: Check out the home and in thrift, department or hardware stores

Sometimes durable and long-lasting items are found where you might least expect it. Rather than shopping for everything in specialised camping and hiking stores, look around the home and check out cheaper thrift, department, hardware and charity stores.

12: Defray camping costs with Christmas and birthday gifts

Christmas giftWhether for your children, grandchildren, partner, friends or extended family members, gift giving is often a thankless undertaking and fraught with a certain level of anxiety. We’re always looking for great gift ideas for our loved ones that will be used and appreciated, and a contribution to their camping holidays would be an ideal solution.

Consider giving individual camping related gifts or making a contribution towards a larger one, such as a good quality tent or sleeping mat / bag. To make sure you get what you need, word people up on your exact wish list.

13: Establish a self-sufficient camping setup

Solar panelThe less reliance you have on campsites with a power supply, bathroom facilities and/or a water supply, the greater flexibility you will have to seek out free or low-cost campsites that don’t have these types of facilities built into their fees and charges. Even just self-sufficiency as far as your power supply goes can save you the added cost of a powered site.

Most fully self-sufficient camping involves some kind of RV (camper trailer, caravan or motorhome) but car campers can get close with a self-sufficient power setup, a portable shower pump, a toilet / shower tent for privacy if necessary and a campsite with a water supply and toilet facilities. Just steer clear of sites designated for “self-contained” campers who are generally required to carry everything into their campsite, including toilet facilities and water. They need to carry it all out as well, including waste water.

For more ideas on self-sufficiency, check out the following articles:
14: Avoid disposable battery powered items

Disposable battery-operated devices might be cost effective to buy, but over time the financial costs of disposable batteries add up, as well as the environmental cost. Where possible, choose items such as lighting and electronic devices that can be recharged, and if not, choose products that run efficiently on a minimal number of AA and AAA batteries.

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