With the hottest part of the summer finally behind us, camping (or at least spending the day out and about in national parks) doesn’t sound like such a tortuous idea anymore. Camping is a frugal activity in the first place; compared to going shopping or heading to the movies or even going on vacation to the beach it’s practically free. Just imagine if you stepped away from the computer you’re sitting at right now for a moment and found yourself outdoors. Imagine the space, the quiet, beautiful nature scenes…but if you aren’t careful, also hundreds of dollars of camping equipment, gas money, fees, batteries and food! There are ways to avoid spending a fortune before enjoying the outdoors, however.
First of all, when considering what equipment you need, look around your home. Too often, new campers will rush out and buy specialty outdoor gear and equipment. There is no need to buy specialty equipment for most of your camping needs. A pot is a pot! You can bring a pair of pliers for taking hot items off the fire. Almost anything you need for camping is probably lying around your house right now, other than a compass and a tent.
Consider renting your equipment. Renting is often a bad idea if you’re trying to be frugal, but consider renting items that you use infrequently. Maybe you usually go camping with your friends who own a large tent, but one weekend you go with a different set of friends who don’t have room for you in their tent. Rather than buying a tent that will go unused for a year or two at a time, consider renting one. You will pay a fraction of the price of buying new equipment – and as a bonus keep clutter out of your life!
Look online for “quitter’s goods.” As with many hobbies, many people leap with enthusiasm into camping only to wake up three years later with a giant tent they only used twice. Deals can be found on used camping equipment at all of the usual sites like eBay and craigslist. Their mistake can be your gain – and you are saving that equipment from ending up in a landfill somewhere!
Buy equipment off-season. Just like fashion, many sporting goods stores will be looking to unload their camping gear towards the end of summer or early autumn to make room for the winter items. Buy once it’s cold and you can get some significant discounts.
Join a club. REI offers a membership club that pays back 10% of your eligible purchases as a ‘dividend voucher’ annually. Many sporting goods stores will have ‘frequent visitor’ cards