Family goes camping in Alberta on a budget.

6 Tips for Affordable Camping

Camping season has arrived, and so has the need for affordable camping solutions. We expect this summer to be just as busy as last year, if not busier. With travel still up in the air, camping has become the go-to summer activity for families and individuals alike. But with so many people camping, how can you explore the great outdoors without spending more than your budget?

Here’s how you can go camping on a budget:

Camping gear is expensive! Borrow, rent, or buy second-hand

Camping gear is an investment and it may not make sense to purchase all of the gear necessary if you only plan to camp once or twice this summer. Rent, borrow or buy camping equipment like tents, sleeping bags/air mattresses, chairs, tarps, cookware, canoes, etc. as the cost of these can add up quickly. Instead, ask a family member, friend, or neighbour if you can carefully borrow their equipment. This is not only a good idea for those who don’t camp very often but also a good idea for those interested in getting into camping. It’ll give you a good idea of which equipment you truly need and which equipment you can do without. And if you don’t have anyone who can lend you their equipment, look to see if you can rent the camping equipment you need or browse your local consignment stores, Facebook Marketplace, or Kijiji to find what you need.

Plan your meals to save money

Plan meals to save money and prep your food before you go camping. The easiest way to ensure you don’t have too much food leftover or not enough food to fill the trip (leaving you to ultimately seek out a grocery store or restaurant) is to plan and prepare your meals before leaving the house. Make a plan of your daily meals and snacks, write a detailed grocery shopping list for the items you need, and then prepare and cook your meals to save you time later. And as you’re probably well aware by now, meat is expensive. Save some money this camping trip by eating more produce and dry goods, and then get creative with your meals!

Camp on Crown land

Gone are the days when camping was a cheap, less popular activity. Now, not only are you fighting for weekend campsites, but you’re also facing higher prices. Avoid these hassles by camping on Crown land. Sure, you might not have all those amenities campgrounds provide (like washrooms, showers, playgrounds, etc.), but you’ll be able to camp more affordably and with less planning ahead of time.

Buy camping equipment out-of-season

If there is any camping equipment you need, wait until the end of the season to purchase it. Just like with most seasonal things, the best deals happen when the season has passed. Make a shopping list as the summer progresses so you can keep a lookout for deals as they happen. Buying your items during the off-season will make your camping experience that much more affordable come next year!

Keep your cooler colder

It doesn’t matter how good your cooler is—eventually your ice will melt. Keep your cooler cold for as long as possible by placing it in shade. Tents, cars and trailers (unless hooked up to power and A/C) get hot and will therefore affect your cooler’s ability to keep its contents cold. Other great ways to make the most of your cooler is to freeze your meal ingredients and drinks a couple of days beforehand (like chopped up vegetables, meats, water, etc.) so they keep the cooler even colder and thaw as the days progress. Extending the life of your cooler will ensure no food gets spoiled, therefore saving you money in the long run.

Camp with friends

Coordinate camping with friends or family and keep it cheaper by splitting up responsibilities, sharing equipment, and planning meals together. Divvy up camping supplies and essentials to avoid overbuying or overpacking. Camping is always more fun the less you have to be responsible for!

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