Frugal Camping

August 4, 2009

Enjoying the Great Outdoors for Less

When we enjoy the outdoors there are so many options available that it is sometimes confusing. On a long weekend there are certain to be crowds in the popular areas and finding camping sites and space may become difficult. However, there are ways to enjoy the times outside camping and still keep costs fairly low.

The biggest cost for many people camping is likely to be the fuel costs for travelling, and the food. At least that’s for those who are frugal campers. The whole intent of being outside in a true camping environment is to enjoy the new scenery and the great outdoors, not to spend money on attractions. That is something else entirely.

Choosing a Camping Spot

Private camping grounds and the most popular government campgrounds tend to be more expensive. This is often because the have the best amenities (showers, hook-ups for trailers, and so-forth), and there is often a convenience store on site and sometimes even a place to buy gifts and souvenirs. These are all costly temptations that one doesn’t necessarily need.

If one chooses a more secluded camping site, even if it is a government ran site, there is a good chance that it will be less expensive. Often these sites are just as beautiful (and many tomes more so) as any of the popular spots. Sometimes they are even closer to the good site-seeing spots. So why would they be less popular? They don’t have the conveniences. It’s often as simple as that. They are often tent only or tent trailer sites. There is no running water. There is no shower. And while there is often firewood available that isn’t always the case. And they are not monitored as closely. But they are usually much cheaper, often as little as 25% of what one would pay for the more popular areas.

Choose a spot that will make everyone reasonably comfortable. Don’t choose anything you really don’t’ need. And try to avoid any shops that may be nearby, as this will limit the temptations associated with these.

Saving on Food during Your Trip

When travelling and camping it is easy to just pop into the roadside restaurant and buy whatever is there in order to have an easy meal. This can get expensive quickly! Instead of eating in restaurants (and yes, McDonald’s counts as a restaurant) or picking up convenience foods at a gas station while travelling pack your meals ahead of time. This means that you will have to do some planning. Each meal will have to be decided, as will snacks and drinks.

Get out your pad of paper and write out your plan (here’s a model, as I use):


Day 1

Day 2

Breakfast fruit & yogurt oatmeal  
drink milk juice  
Snack honey-bread granola  
Drink water water  
Lunch sausage, bread, fruit, veggies soup, bread, fruit  
Drink milk juice  
Snack fruit watermelon  
Drink water water  
Supper fire-roasted pizza potatoes, peas, turkey  
Drink juice    
Snack? kiwis honey-bread  
Drink water juice  

Now, of course everyone isn’t going to eat this way. Fresh food is, however, much less expensive than buying premade meals and from convenience stores and restaurants. And it is likely to be a lot healthier, as well.

Some meals can be planned to be eaten while driving, if necessary. This is when fresh fruit, granola, and even breads are good! I usually make heavy whole-wheat bread sweetened with honey for such trips, as then it doesn’t need to have anything put on it and the kids love it. I’ve also made other types of breads that are tasty and pack easy – always something heavy so it doesn’t get squished easily. You can use he recipe I have here for that and adapt as necessary.

Entertainment While Camping

Kids get bored easily, but so do adults. While watching a rainstorm might be fun for some people, it won’t be for others. Of course, everyone hopes that isn’t their real entertainment during a camping trip! So, again you will have to plan everything ahead of time.

Plan each of your hiking outings and sight-seeing excursions. But don’t be afraid to be spontaneous either! One never knows when a great opportunity for a side excursion will come along. There are some great things to see that often get driven right past by the majority of people. Keep your eyes open as well as your mind.

Also plan to bring things along to help with entertainment, including bringing a couple of games, cards, Frisbee and/or balls to play with. And if you plan on being on or near water, bring something for that, too! It’s amazing how much fun can be had with a simple inner tube.

Sometimes bringing a small amount of art supplies can be a great distraction and a lot of fun. Kids can then use these to catalogue or record the different things they see on the trip. Or even a journal to do a little bit of writing in can help. Yes, old fashioned pencil and paper style of journals! It’s pretty hard to pack up your laptop and expect the battery to work. And you won’t have electricity for a lot of the time anyhow. Sometime people can learn to have fun without gadgets and modern conveniences. Try it! You might be surprised.