Dirt Cheap Camping – How To Vacation on a Tight Budget

Last updated on September 18th, 2021 at 08:05 pm. Originally published on May 15th, 2015

We all dream of going on luxurious summer vacations, but reality rarely indulges our fantasies. If camping sounds like a great summer vacation, the money-saving tips below may be just what you need to extend your vacations, or finally go on one.

Free camping

Free camping

  • Your stuff doesn’t have to be new

Newbie campers, especially, lack essential items such as tents, sleeping bags, chairs, and sun shades. These items can cost a pretty penny at the store. Find a neighbor whose stuff you can borrow, or look for used camping gear for sale, on sites such as Craigslist and Freecycle.

Remember to always pick a quality tent and a good pair of boots.



If you are camping in summer weather, you may not necessarily need a sleeping bag. Grab a couple of blankets, and you have a bed.

  • Get your kitchen

Dried and canned goods are camping food staples. If you will need to go to the store to purchase some food items, create a list first, by making a camping menu. Remember to keep camping meals simple.

Hotdogs, s’mores, and fruit should always feature in your camping menu. Plus ground turkey can make burgers, sandwiches, tacos and even pasta. Shop carefully and don’t forget to take your drinking water!

  • Take friends

Camping with others will help you save money, as you can split the campground fees. It’s also much more enjoyable when you have a group of people to add to the excitement.

Camping in the backyard

Save on gas by going to a local park. “Getting away” is not synonymous with going as far from home as possible .

Campgrounds with running water and electricity are more expensive than primitive sites. Call ahead and find out what facilities are available and which ones you can live without.

  • DIY

Find great tips on how to make mosquito repellant, lanterns, and even candles. YouTube has several instructional videos that can be used to make great low cost camping gear.

DIY camp sink

Chop your own wood, or search Craigslist for free wood. Wood at campsites can cost you as much as $12 for a handful.

Re-purpose items, such as yoga mats for sleeping pads, to minimize you’re spending even further.

Penny pinching is not only possible for preparation, but is also possible after you have arrived at your campground.

  • Cover your wood

A random shower can ruin all your work in an instant. Keep it covered, to save you some money and frustration.

  • Put the cooler in the shade

If it’s really hot outside, expect to use more ice than usual. Keep your cooler in a cool or shady place, to get the most out of your ice.

  • Use free recreational facilities

When camping with kids, especially, you can easily find free activities to keep them occupied. It’s unnecessary to drive down to the water park everyday. Play volleyball or go on a hike.



If you don’t plan on going camping regularly, renting may be a cheaper option. These simple activities will end up saving you tons of money.

Do you have some money saving tips we could use? Tell us below!

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