Until our road trip adventure earlier this month, I’d only been camping beyond the backyard with The Explorers once – and then only for a night. And although the hubby and I have a lot of camping experience under our collective belts, we’re relatively new to camping with kids.
Which is why when preparing for our road trip, we found ourselves looking to purchase some family-friendly camping gear.
I was initially a little overwhelmed at this prospect. Thanks to the hubby for his ever-present budget-conscious approach. Here are a few ways we were able to cut down on our family camping expenses.
1. Test before you buy.
Before we purchased our tent, we borrowed two different ones from friends to find out which would be best for our family (turns out neither). Our backyard camping experiences were also a good place to test out our sleeping paraphernalia – sleeping bags, sleeping pads, blankets, pillows and whatnot.
This is where I learned that unless I wanted to wake up with severe back pain, I’d need to purchase an air mattress (sigh). We also discovered that neither of the kids stayed in a sleeping bag all night, but were content to use blankets we already owned.
2. Know your camping style.
We limit our camping outings to places we can reach by car, making us “car campers.” We camp during the summer – or at least when rain or storms aren’t on the horizon. And we’re a group with pretty simple needs (aside from me needing an air mattress, that is).
Knowing our camping style allowed us to opt for a single-season tent that sleeps four. (And luckily, we found a decent one on sale for less than $75!) For now, we can skip the kids’ sleeping bags in favor or having them use the sleeping pads we already have, along with their favorite blankets.
It’s certainly a cozy, no-frills setting, but it works for us.
Not sure of your camping style? Check out what a few other outdoor families have to say on the topic:
- Secrets Revealed – Outdoor Moms Share Their Camping Styles from A Little Campy
- A Tent on Your Roof? What? from Adventure Tykes
- Camping in Style with an RV Trailer from ColoCalders.com
- Learning to love camping: It’s all about style from Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies
- From Tent to Trailer, what did we do?! from Kid Project.org
- My camping style: no fees, no toilets, no people from OutsideMom.com
- Summer Reflections: Finding Our Camping Groove from PeekThroughOurWindow.com
- Public Use Cabins, Yurts, Fire Lookouts from Wilderness for Kids
3. Recycle your pre-kid camping supplies.
In our pre-kid days, the hubby and I were anything but picky about our camp meals. On a two-week camping adventure in Alaska some years back, we survived on a combination of freeze-dried meals and a single-burner stove.
Turns out that much-loved single burner stove works just fine for our family of four. We planned simple, one- or two-pot meals and added salads. One night we picked up dinner (a roasted chicken) on the way to the campsite.
In addition to the stove, many of the items we had from our pre-kid camping days still came in handy – like our sleeping pads, camp towels and much of our camp kitchen equipment. Simply adding a couple more items here and there was less expensive than buying all new.
Now it’s your turn! What’s your best tip for saving money on family camping?