My husband dreams of a world where he can rev up the camper on a Friday night, pack up the family and all of the gear, and head to the lake for the weekend. This world is not one that we live in and we savor those thoughts for retirement. We have some friends who love to camp. He and I vicariously live through them via social media.


The kind of camping that we would want to do probably wouldn’t entail just a few cute pup tents at a local camping site. It would be much more involved and include a RV of some sort. We have girls, one is very much a diva, and to make it a fun family event it would be necessary to have some escape of the elements. If for anything else, our sanity due to the ensuing drama from our youngest (seriously, you should see what happens when Daddy isn’t here to kill the bugs). So far we have made the decision not to venture down this road simply based on not wanting to spend the money on the RV. We also know it would be something we would have to tote around with us - and find storage for - every time we PCS. 


We don’t have to have an RV to go camping. We should probably see if it is truly something we’d like to do before we delve into that deep end of the pool. We’ve been considering just taking a few trips and testing the waters on our family’s commitment to this activity. After all, camping can be a very cheap alternative to a pricey vacation. There are quite a few startup costs associated with it though and I know that I am not prepared to stock up on camping equipment until I know my entire family is really going to get into it and make it a tradition/habit.


Whether you head out on your trip in a truck with a tent or in an RV, and whether you have done it once or three hundred times these tips from Bargain Babe are great ones to tuck into your gear – I know I’m packing these five for sure!


1. If you’re new to camping or have young children, consider camping in your backyard. This is a great way to give camping a trial run, and if anything goes wrong, you can run inside.


2. Stick close to home to save money on gas. Punch your zip code into ReserveAmerica™ to find available campsites nearby. ReserveAmerica™ can also help you compare campsite costs for your selected dates.


3. Invite friends to share the cost of campsites, gas, and food. Check the details of your campground, but many tent campsites can accommodate 6-8 people comfortably in up to 3 tents. Even if you only split the site with one other couple, your costs are halved.


4. Scour local garage sales, Craigslist, or eBay™ for gently used camping gear, or borrow from friends. For durable items (cooking gear, backpacks, sleeping pads), don’t worry if they’ve been in someone’s attic for a long time.


5. Consider staying in a National Forest, you are allowed to camp or backpack for free anywhere in the forest as long as you follow their established guidelines. Besides National Forests, there are four other places where you can camp for free, though most of them are more remote than typical developed, car camping sites.


Are you an experience camper? What advice do you offer to save money on camping equipment and activities?