Tips for family camping on a budget

The best advice for getting the most of your family camping investment: Plan to LOVE camping and GO OFTEN!

Camping is a wonderful, cheap way to spend a weekend getting some exercise and enjoying the outdoors with family and friends.

If you’re looking for ways to get started or get the most out of family tent camping while keeping to a budget, follow these tips.

Since camping equipment will be your biggest budget item, think of your gear as an investment. You get more value from it the more you use it.

• Find good deals on camping equipment by shopping at discount stores and yard sales.

• Buy camping gear during the off season when it goes on sale.

• Craig’s List and E-Bay offer bargains on camping equipment that sometimes gets used only once then sold at half-price or less.

• Find products that may be used for camping in store departments other than the camping department where they may be more expensive.

• Buy pots, pans and cooking utensils for camp at a second-hand store.

• Buy essential equipment first and purchase other gear gradually as finances allow.

• If you want the name brand camping equipment, check online discount sites like The Clymb, Sierra Trading Post, REI Outlet,, Steep and Cheap, or Cheaper Than Dirt.

• Take good care of your equipment so it will last for many years. Keep it clean and in good working condition.

• Save the cost of replacement by storing equipment in containers or in areas where it can’t get damaged, “borrowed” or lost.

Use household items you already own. Instead of buying a new sleeping bag, save money by packing old sheets, blankets, and pillows. These are fine for weekend camping, especially in good weather. Spend the money saved on luxury items such as an air mattress.

• Choose a campsite close to home to cut down on gas prices.

• Camp more days for less. Add two weekdays to a weekend at ARR and get 10% off your entire stay.

• Bring your own firewood. Keep an eye out all year for sources of wood or scrap wood. Bundle it with bungee cords for easy transportation.

• Use items that can serve two purposes. For example fill empty milk jugs with water and freeze. Use instead of purchased ice for your cooler and when melted, as drinking or cooking water.

• If you camp often, instead of buying items in small quantities each time you camp, purchase in large quantities for the entire season. Example: a large package of paper plates costs less per plate than several smaller packages.

• Think of camp all year long as you shop. When items you use both at home and at camp are on sale, buy extras and store with your camping equipment. For example, batteries, canned goods, plastic bags, picnic or first-aid supplies, hot dogs or other foods that will keep in the freezer until camp season.

• 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.

• Plan ahead and use two camping checklists (equipment and food) so you don’t forget anything and overspend to buy a replacement.