Camping. It reminds me of ghost stories, wearing coontail caps, tending to campfires, drinking a fair share of cheap ice-cold beer, hiking, eating one too many tofu hotdogs (I am vegetarian after all), lazy sun-soaked afternoons and the chance for a one on one encounter with a bear where I tame it and ride it around the campground while all the little kids gawk and cheer.
I love camping therefore I make it a habit to visit the state or county parks for long weekends. Inevitably, with jam-packed activities in the summer, the reality is that I only make it out 2 or 3 times each year.
It would be great if I could increase that amount. Heck, when I reach financial independence and have all the free time I want I would consider being one of those “live-in” campground hosts. They have a pretty sweet deal where they set up camp for an extended time – typically 4 weeks – in exchange for a few hours of campground work every week.
Besides my fantasy of taming a wild bear the other reason why I like getting out into the wilderness and camping is that it’s a great way to save money over a traditional vacation. Here’s the 5 ways why camping is the way to roll.
1. Camping sites are economical
Spending less and saving are important tenets of becoming financially independent. And while the cheapest thing to do is to never leave your home to go anywhere, frankly, that would suck. There’s a whole world out there to explore!
But exploring that world doesn’t have to eat up your everyday dollars. So instead of dropping hundreds of dollars taking the family on a long weekend to, let’s say a water park and hotel, instead choose camping!
I checked the cost for 2 nights at a nearby water park/hotel and it ran upwards of $600! And that doesn’t even include food. A campsite for 2 nights will cost you about $33.70, which is what I recently paid. That’s a big difference!
You might say, “But Mr. Everyday Dollar, I don’t even have any camping equipment! I have to buy all that stuff.” Even if you don’t have any camping equipment – which I’ll cover later – the first time you trade a fancy pants vacation for a camping trip what you save will fund everything you need.
And from then on, whenever you choose camping over other forms of vacation, you have extra everyday dollars in your pocket, pure profit to invest!
2. Camping lets you disconnect
What you will find is that you may have to sit and actually talk with your family! Painful, I know. But in all seriousness, it’s a time to reconnect with one another because there aren’t outside influences vying for your attention.
It’s the way things used to be and the way things still are outside of First World countries.
3. Camp sites have incredible views
Besides enjoying the bountiful fresh air, there will be spectacular sunrises and sunsets. When was the last time you sat and watched one of those? I can’t say it’s a regular occurrence for me and that’s because I’m always on the go – working, staying in shape, cooking, blogging, investing.
For that reason, it’s important to take a moment to stop and be present in your life. Enjoy sitting in a camp chair, drinking a cold PBR and watching time go. It’s awesome and completely free! (Well, a PBR will cost you 53 cents, but besides that!)
4. Learn how to cook like your ancestors
Step back in time. Fire up some logs and do some cooking over a fire. It’s good to get the perspective that others in the world with very little still cook over an open flame. Every. Single. Day.
They don’t have the modern convenience of a microwave let alone a kitchen. And without Western conveniences they are still happy. This, I hope, drives home the point that there is no direct correlation between money and happiness!
5. Stay fit camping
What’s better than waking up to the sunrise, having some cold brewed iced coffee, fruit and a homemade granola bar and then taking off on a 3 hour hike? Nothing!
Or, like I did this summer, jumping off a rope swing into the lake which is great for the abs!
I’d venture to say hiking and swimming at a park beats riding noisy go-karts, waiting in endless lines for rides and shelling out $9 for a slice of pizza.
I’d recommend one of the camping guides to state parks for your state because they help you figure out what the best site is to reserve. I really like the Best In Tent Camping series that covers most states, for instance here’s the The Best in Tent Camping: Wisconsin.
I am always amazed at the amount of stuff people have when they camp – the 30+ foot motorhomes getting less than 10 MPG, the equally large towable RV accompanied with a shiny Ford F350, the tiki torches, the rugs laid down in the campsite and the screened tent to go over the picnic table.
I’m a minimalist camper, besides food, here’s my current checklist for camping:
- Tent (very important, I forgot this item once!)
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Pad
- iPod and Portable Speaker
- Pocket Knife
- Bug spray
- Tablecloth (I use an old blanket)
- Folding Chairs (I have my eye on this, haven’t purchased it yet)
photo credit: Randy Storey