Wednesday, August 29, 2012

3 Budget-Friendly Ideas for Family Camping

Until our road trip adventure earlier this month, I’d only been camping beyond the backyard with The Explorers once – and then only for a night. And although the hubby and I have a lot of camping experience under our collective belts, we’re relatively new to camping with kids.

Which is why when preparing for our road trip, we found ourselves looking to purchase some family-friendly camping gear.

I was initially a little overwhelmed at this prospect. Thanks to the hubby for his ever-present budget-conscious approach. Here are a few ways we were able to cut down on our family camping expenses.

1. Test before you buy.
Before we purchased our tent, we borrowed two different ones from friends to find out which would be best for our family (turns out neither). Our backyard camping experiences were also a good place to test out our sleeping paraphernalia – sleeping bags, sleeping pads, blankets, pillows and whatnot.

Nice tent, but too cumbersome for our needs

This is where I learned that unless I wanted to wake up with severe back pain, I’d need to purchase an air mattress (sigh). We also discovered that neither of the kids stayed in a sleeping bag all night, but were content to use blankets we already owned.

2. Know your camping style.
We limit our camping outings to places we can reach by car, making us “car campers.” We camp during the summer – or at least when rain or storms aren’t on the horizon.  And we’re a group with pretty simple needs (aside from me needing an air mattress, that is).

Yes, we all fit inside there!

Knowing our camping style allowed us to opt for a single-season tent that sleeps four. (And luckily, we found a decent one on sale for less than $75!) For now, we can skip the kids’ sleeping bags in favor or having them use the sleeping pads we already have, along with their favorite blankets.

It’s certainly a cozy, no-frills setting, but it works for us.

Not sure of your camping style? Check out what a few other outdoor families have to say on the topic:
3. Recycle your pre-kid camping supplies.
In our pre-kid days, the hubby and I were anything but picky about our camp meals. On a two-week camping adventure in Alaska some years back, we survived on a combination of freeze-dried meals and a single-burner stove.

Turns out that much-loved single burner stove works just fine for our family of four. We planned simple, one- or two-pot meals and added salads. One night we picked up dinner (a roasted chicken) on the way to the campsite.

Yummy chili & salad

In addition to the stove, many of the items we had from our pre-kid camping days still came in handy – like our sleeping pads, camp towels and much of our camp kitchen equipment. Simply adding a couple more items here and there was less expensive than buying all new.

Now it’s your turn! What’s your best tip for saving money on family camping?

13 comments:

  1. Awesome tips. I think try before you buy is a great idea and helps you really understand what gear is right for you!

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    1. I know it certainly helped us find the right tent. :-)

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  2. Great tips. Look at that tasty looking meal. Picking up a roasted chicken is what we do sometimes too on the way to the campsite.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who likes to keep it simple sometimes. :-)

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  3. While it might not save you money right away, I try to think about our longterm goals.

    We have a GIANT tent that works great in a lot of car camping situations (that I got for free :) and a two person backpacking tent that three of us can fit in as long as those three are me and the boys.

    So, (this is a long lead up, isn't it?) we want something smaller. We considered a smallish four person tent, but decided on a super lightweight two-person tent. Two two-person tents will be fine for family camping AND (here's where I make my point) we can use it in the future when we are all backpacking together (along with the other two-person tent.) It's more expensive right now than a inexpensive four-person tent, but it will fit our family longer.

    And I won't have to carry such a heavy tent on my backpacking trip next year ;)

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    1. Great point, Mel. We'll actually be bringing out our previously used 2-person tent when the kids get bigger. Between the two, we'll be set for many years of car camping. (Not sure if backpacking is ever in our future ...)

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  4. My kids also prefer sleeping on blankets, too! And, sadly, I have to admit that I need an air mattress too. So much for camping with just the basics!

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    1. I blame the kids - or at least the affects of having bore children on my increased need for comfort. I used to be such a trooper! At least we're still getting out there, and encouraging the next generation to do so as well. :-)

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  5. If you live in or near georgia, the GA State parks has a first time camper program. http://www.gastateparks.org/FirstTimeCamper You can "borrow" a tent, stove, lantern, chairs etc and camp at selected state parks for $45 for 2 nights (the price of the campsite) It's a new program sponsored by REI and I think it's a great deal to get to "try out" camping before you buy anything.

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    1. This is a great idea for getting started camping - to see if it's right for you. Not heard of this before. It looks like there are a number of States running similar programs now for beginners.

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    2. How fantastic, Brian! Than you so much for sharing.

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  6. LOVE this! Just wanted you to know it was featured on our site today: http://www.thedatingdivas.com/food/101-camping-tips-ideas/ Thanks so much for sharing!!!

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    1. Thanks so much! I LOVE your post, too - such a wonderful collection all in one spot. :-)

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