Camping is a great pastime and hobby, offering many hours of outdoor fun. It is also relatively inexpensive once you have all the equipment required for such an activity.
Most of the gear you will need is mostly reusable, and if you purchase quality items, you use them for years.
Presuming you are a newbie and have no camping gear whatsoever, let us go through what you will need.
I will also attempt to give ballpark figures for each item so you can understand the economics behind camping as a hobby. The equipment cost I will be mentioning are by no means going to be “hi-end.” (Read Camping for Beginners)
However, neither will they be entry-level, cheap stuff that will not last and could fail you when you need them most. Let’s get started if you want to make the most out of your money.
The Camping Gear
$150-$250 average total
Expect to pay $150-$250 for a decent 2 person tent. A backpacking tent is the backbone of your shelter system. One would be foolish to cut corners and go for entry-level set-ups. Sure, a bargain tent under $100 might get you thru some camping trips in very controlled campsites, but once the going gets rough, such a tent might not be up to the job.
During camping trips into remote places, a good tent will be one of your most vital, if not the most important gear choice for comfort and safety. When nature shows its fangs such as when cold weather sets in, you will want to have the assurance that your tent can take it.
Substandard tents can be at best uncomfortable but under extreme conditions even dangerous. Look for a 4 season tent if you will be camping during winter, and a 3 season model if you like camping in less harsh conditions. (Learn about The Different Types of Tents)
Quality tents will have heavy-duty mesh, a strong bathtub floor, vestibules, double-sided entry and will resist rain that pours cats and dogs.
Quality backpacking tents also save time as they set-up and pack-up easily.
$100-$200 average total
A backpacking sleep system will consist of a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, a pillow, and a liner. This set-up will give you the most versatility. For summer, sometimes a liner will suffice (minus the sleeping bag) along with the sleeping pad and pillow.
A liner is used in conjunction with sleeping bags during very cold temperatures. Liners are usually a single layer of fabric, with a zipper that closes it. Sleeping pads serve as added cushion and insulation from the ground.
Once temperatures drop you will start to need sleeping bags along with a sleep pad and pillow. As it gets even colder, then you will need to use the liner as a double layer with sleeping bags. Look for temperature ratings of your bag to know its capability to withstand the cold.
This is the beauty of the sleep system I am describing here as it is very adaptable to various conditions.
$100-$200 average total
Good backpacks generally begin from a $100 price point, and you will likely be getting a first-rate one at $200. For good measure, buy one that has a rain cover so you are ready for any downpour.
I cannot overstate the importance of a backpack as this will be where you keep all of your gear, from shelter, sleep system, cooking equipment, food, water, and other supplies. A backpack with many compartments and pockets is always a good idea so you can organize and zone your equipment.
Variable Total Cost
Depending on your trip’s duration, you can buy food quantity that is ready to eat or needs cooking. Many food manufacturers make easy to prepare, ready-to-eat food specific for camping. Your cost will depend on how long you plan to be out in the open.
$100-$200 Average Total
If you plan to be cooking while on a trip, there are many portable stoves you can choose from. Just like all other camping equipment, the prices of camp stoves vary widely. You can easily shell out more than $100 on a camp stove, but for a novice, acceptable camp stoves going for $50-$100 will do the job. (Learn How to Keep Food Cold While Camping)
A fuel tank to power such a camp stove should not set you back more than about $10. You will also need to buy a mess kit to serve as both your cooking pan/pot and your eating container. Expect durable metal-based mess kits to cost between $30 and $50, and get one with eating/cooking utensils.
There is certainly other stuff you will need to bring, depending on the nature of your camping adventure. Flashlights, knives, water containers, a first aid kit, raincoat, sunscreen, and headgear are just some of the other things you will need to buy. Again, it all depends on the kind of outdoor trip you have planned.
Gas or Transportation
You will need to get to your campsite, and this will entail a gas or transportation budget. Make sure that you incorporate this into your funds as you plan a camping trip.
Campsites will vary in fees depending on the season and the amenities. Expect that these fees are on a per night basis. Also, check if you have to book a campsite ahead of time, especially in a very popular campground, state parks or a national park.
Typically, the more you get to backcountry types of trips, the cost goes down.
Tips To Save Cost in Camping On a Budget
Use Stuff You Already Have
Surely, you must have a backpack lying around in your house. Or perhaps you might have an old mess kit you set aside several years ago, or adaptable pots and pans and water jugs. Look around your house and see what you can appropriate for an outdoor trip to save money.
A tent, camping stove, flashlight, first aid kit, water supply, or food are all examples of what you can share with camping partners, and vice versa. Coordinate with your camping companions so you do not overdo supplies and have redundant gear.
If it is your first camping trip you can always borrow stuff. If you have friends that go camping frequently, ask if they have the gear you can borrow so you can save even more money. These folks will usually have gear that they have graduated from, and are just lying around.
The camping community is also famous for their enthusiasm, and love it when they can entice a new outdoor aficionado. Take advantage of their generosity during your initial camping trip.
Camp stuff for less are everywhere, and you just have to know where to look. There are so many second-hand sources, either on-line or in brick-and-mortar stores. EBay is a great place to look for bargains of otherwise expensive gear. (Read Camping In the Rain Checklist)
Have you been to your Goodwill store lately? Many camping gems are there too. Yard sales and pawnshops are also excellent places to go hunting for budget camping gear. You do not need to spend an arm and a leg.
The Economics of Camping
Just like all things, camping costs can be either expensive or budget-friendly. Take the middle ground and apply some good old common sense. The total cost does not have to burn a hole in your pocket.