Camping on a Budget

Two people seated on the ground outside of a tent.

Looking for a vacation that’ll provide immediate fun and lasting memories but not a ton of credit card bills? If you have a sense of adventure, tent camping might be for you! We’ve rounded up some tried-and-true ways you can experience the great outdoors, all without sending your budget out into the wilderness.

Planning Your Trip


A budget-friendly trip begins with planning. Mapping out your trip will help you determine the type and associated costs of your campsite, as well as what gear, food, and other supplies you’ll need.

There are as many reasons to try camping as there are people! Some camp to unplug and enjoy the calming environment nature provides. Some view camping as an inexpensive way to get close to a major attraction or attend a concert or music festival. What’s your reason?

Answers to that and these questions will kickstart the planning process:

  • How many adults are camping with you?
  • How many children and what are their ages?
  • What kinds of activities do you like?
Camping with other adults will make a huge difference in what you’ll need to spend. For example, solo camping means you’re responsible for 100% of the camp site costs and food. Sharing these expenses with friends helps everyone’s wallet. Pro tip for camping with friends: coordinate your kitchen supplies. No one wants to wake up for a delicious breakfast only to discover that you have five spatulas and no frying pan!

Now let’s look at three cost centers: camp site, gear, and food and supplies.

Site Costs

The cost per night will depend on whether it’s a private or public campground, like in a Pennsylvania state park. Public or private, campgrounds with amenities can bump up the cost per night. At state parks, sites start at just $16 for residents with a modest $4 upcharge for shower access. For full details, visit Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources page that includes a reservation link. If you’re family camping and want activities beyond hiking and biking for the kids, no worries. Plenty of state parks have playgrounds, pools, and similar amenities.

Gear

At the barest of minimums, you’ll need a tent, sleeping bag and pad, and a flashlight. But you’ll probably want a reliable heat source to cook, so that means adding a propane cooking stove, cookware, and plates and utensils. You’ll need a cooler, too. Borrowing any or all of these items is the least expensive option. If you can’t borrow, buying used gear can get you outfitted on the cheap. Thrift shops are a good place to look for camping gear.

Food & Supplies

First-timers will want to keep it simple where meals are concerned. You can’t get much easier - or inexpensive - than hot dogs on a stick cooked over an open flame. Bring as much food from home as possible to protect your wallet from camp store markups. Same goes for things like flashlight batteries, bug spray, and firewood.

About firewood, be sure to check if the campground permits you to bring your own. The reason some don’t is because you might accidentally bring along an invasive insect, like the spotted lanternfly, or a plant disease. Figure on a bundle of wood per hour of fire; costs range from $2 to $10 per bundle.

Before You Head Out

So you’ve made your plans to take in the great outdoors! Now, it’s time to start buying what you’ll need for your adventure. Choosing a cash rewards credit card, like our Founder’s Rewards Card, is the smart way to pay. Apply today!

 

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