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Camping On A Budget
The great thing about camping is that it is a family vacation activity that can be done fairly inexpensively. Once you get to your camp site and settle in, the costs of camping can be no more than it would have cost to stay home. America is blessed with a phenomenal national park system that has a well developed network of camp grounds that can be used for very affordable rates. While in camp, recreation can be found virtually for free and you can prepare meals for the same costs as cooking at home. So in that way, camping is one of the best vacation bets for the budget minded family.
To be sure, as with any activity, you can always find ways to make camping an expensive operation. You can find expensive campers and camp set ups that clearly cost plenty. But if you wish to make some investments in good quality tent and camp gear, you can put together a camp equipment setup that will last for decades and, with proper care and maintenance, serve you and your family for many camp outs.
When you are first learning to camp, it’s possible to explore your options by simply borrowing equipment. Most campers are evangelistic about their love of camping so if you know someone who loves to camp, they will no doubt be happy to loan you a tent, some sleeping bags and cooking gear for you to learn as you go. Another option for borrowing camp gear is to check with the closest Boy Scout troop. The Boy Scouts almost always have a well developed and maintained supply of camping gear. They may permit you to camp in with them on one of their outings and you can learn from an organization that lives and breathes camping. Or they may be willing to let you borrow some equipment. If they do that, a nice donation to the troop to help with their operations is appropriate.
As you go through your early camp outs, you can create a check list of equipment that you will want to own once you become a camping family. Now, this is not an advertisement at all but when it comes to camping, few companies make quality and affordable equipment that can beat Coleman. Their tents, lanterns and cooking gear are the de facto standards for the Boy Scouts and most experienced camping organizations that need quality, dependable equipment that is affordable.
You may need to invest a few hundred dollars at first to get your camping gear up to speed. But look at this as an investment in years of affordable and wholesome vacation outings in some of the finest parks in the country if not in the world. So include on that equipment list…
- Tents. Good two man tents can be had for under $150 and well made tents can easily last 5-10 years if you take good care of them. These tents are also easy to set up and take down and will virtually take care of themselves while you are camping.
- Sleeping bags. Be sure you buy sleeping bags that the kids can grow into. Think of the temperature ranges you will be camping in for the most part as sleeping bags are rated for the level of cold you can comfortable use them to camp.
- Lanterns. Propane lanterns can free you up to camp in many more camp sites than you would be able to visit if you must have electricity to camp. A good lantern is less than $30 and you can maintenance it year to year. Propane is also quite inexpensive and a $3 small propane supply can last for a half dozen camp outs. Also propane lanterns are safe to operate and can light up an entire camp site with ease.
- Cooking equipment. A good Coleman propane stove can free you up to a huge variety of cooking alternatives and releases you from having to cook in the camp fire every single time. By investing in good cooking gear, you can keep the family out of restaurants and save hundreds each year by cooking your meals in camp.
Beginning campers sometimes feel the need to use what they call “improved camp sites” which are sites that have available electricity and water. The primary need for electricity is for lighting which can be easily provided for with your Coleman lanterns. And by bringing bottled drinking water along, you can have plenty of water for drinking and cleaning needs for very little money. A gallon of water per camper per night is an adequate guideline and you will have plenty of water for your in camp needs. Typical drinking water sells for about 60 cents a gallon so you can take care of your water needs for under $5 and not have to drag hoses along which are bulky and limit the camp grounds you can use.
Once you have gathered good, reliable camping gear, you can keep that gear working for years. A typical camp out then will cost no more than the gas to get to the park, the cost of nightly use of a camp site, which for a camp site without electricity or water can be as cheap as $8 per night. Beyond that, the only costs of camping are the food and water you need (which you would have needed at home) and any recreation costs that may come up. And in that most state parks offer a huge variety of free recreation including fishing, hiking, climbing, playgrounds and tours by the park rangers, you can keep a family happy for a week while camping and not spend another dime doing so.
Camping is a terrific family activity because everybody can get into the act. It is a wholesome and healthy activity that improves family communications and bonds parents to children and children to each other. The fact that camping is also one of the most budget conscious activates there is serves as another huge bonus and makes it worth your while to make the investment in time and money upfront to learn to become an expert and frequent camping family.