Camping on a Budget

School’s out, and that means camping season is back in! Camping is usually a less expensive vacation option, but costs can add up. Here are some tips to help you save on your camping trips this summer. You can camp on a small budget.

1. Save on location 

Why pay a fee when you can camp free? Find a campground where you can pitch your tent or park your RV at no cost on or

Or consider camping at a national forest. You’ll pay an entrance and amenity fee, but you’re free to stay anywhere on the grounds as long as you follow park guidelines. If you’re a frequent camper, consider purchasing a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands annual pass. For just $80 a year, or $20 for individuals age 62 and older, you’ll have access to more than 2,000 national parks and national wildlife refuges. The pass covers entrance fees, parking fees, amenity fees, and more. If you’re currently a member of the U.S. military, you and your dependents are entitled to a free annual pass.

2. Consider “workamping” 

If you don’t live near a national park and you’d love a free stay, “workamping” can be a terrific option. Lots of campsites and RV parks are now offering this choice: For a bit of hard work, you’ll get free access to the campgrounds. 

image of a camper set up with chairs

3. Rent or borrow camping gear 

Are you a frequent camper? If not, it doesn’t pay to spend big bucks on specialized equipment you’ll rarely use. You can borrow camping gear from a friend, or rent from companies like REI Co-op. If you’d rather have your own equipment, check out sites like Switchback Gear Exchange for gently used camping items at great prices. Credit Unions offer low rates on recreation vehicles if you need a camper or trailer and do not want to rent or borrow one.

4. Skip the prepackaged meals 

Save on food costs by ditching prepackaged meals. You can find many ideas for easy camping meals you can cook over a fire with a quick Google search. Usually, all it takes is some basic food supplies and a roll of aluminum foil!

5. Share meal prep 

If you always camp as a group, take full advantage by sharing the meal prep. Divide the meals completely, with each family fully responsible for several meals, or create a master list of supplies and food, and then divide and conquer.

family hiking in forest on a beautiful trail

6. Pack like you’re being marooned on an island 

Don’t set out on your trip until you’ve triple-checked that you’ve packed everything. You don’t want to be forced to pay inflated small-town convenience store prices for forgotten items. Many sites offer camping tricks, tips, and hacks.  

Here’s wishing you the camping trip of a lifetime, from all of us here at Box Elder Credit Union!