I love camping and enjoy being outdoors in nature, the sounds, the smells, and the sights are just amazing and help to connect you back to humanity. Sometimes what a person needs is to be removed from most of the technology which drives us, away from the urban life and back to our more primal lives, today we cover how much does camping costs, for real so then, how much does it cost to camp?
Camping is not an cheap hobby though it may appear that way. Much of the costs will be incurred from travel and gear needs, though gear is typically a one time expenditure. On average most families of 4 will spend $1000 to $4000 for a week-long camping trip. After gear the costs are removed this become $300-$500 per week, depending on the food.
Since the costs listed above are very large and variable we will cover the costs and how you can find the right level for you which will allow you to prepare in advance to distribute the cost. There is many items which are required to camp, some consumables like food which are necessary, and then luxury items which can make camp life easier.
Cost of Camping Gear: A One-Time Investment
A typical investment for camping can be as low as around $300 to thousands depending on the equipment and quality being purchased.
For each additional person who will be with you, this cost will increase by $100 to thousands also, a lot will depend on the quality of gear you purchase and the comfort level you want it to provide.
Minimal Required Gear
This is the base gear that everyone who is camping should have in their overall camping setup. Each of these parts provides a demonstrable benefit to your safety and enjoyment of a camping trip.
While you may believe you won’t need them please think about your worst-case scenario in the packing as this will keep you safe and that is the most valuable thing!
When camping there are always days to explore the surrounding area and the trails and footpaths which show off some of nature. It is recommended that at least two people in the group would have a backpack as you need to carry enough water and snacks for a day along with some emergency supplies in case anything should go wrong.
The tent is your house on the go, you want to spend enough on your tent to be comfortable and to fit your amount of campers. So with your family size, this may be something you need to work out, I would suggest finding one with waterproofing and to not cheap out on this purchase.
Nothing in the world is worse than waking to find the water coming in and your clothes, sleeping bag and other stuff all wet and unable to be used.
Not only that is the hazard this could cause to yourself and your family, take the time to invest wisely and I listed a good high-quality tent below which works for a family as an example.
SLEEPING BAG / QUILT
You need one for each person who will be camping, this is more of a personal choice and you may not realize you want a quilt and not the sleeping bag!
If you move a lot in your sleep where the sleeping bag limits you then you will, like myself, probably really enjoy shifting to a EE quilt instead. This is due in large part to the quilt being open and not fully enclosed, though if you are a cold sleeper this may be too much for you.
In the last part of your main sleeping needs, many people may not know much about sleeping pads but they can mean the difference between comfortable sleep or restless painful, irritating sleep.
They provide insulation from the cold of the ground along with padding to ensure your body gets to find a comfortable position to sleep in. If you are a side sleeper finding a good quality inflatable sleeping pad will make sleep far more enjoyable, I know as I needed one!
STOVE OR COOK SYSTEM
Here you will start to have some options to purchase, if you know you will be backpacking or are camping by yourself you may want to look at choosing a more backpacking related option like an MSR Pocket Rocket 2 which is ultralight and easy to carry and use.
Since you will be at a campsite though you could choose to bring the bigger Coleman Triton or similar style multi-burner setup which will last longer but isn’t viable for backpacking but could be awesome for parties or for family camping.
Your cookware and cook set overall will be a personal choice, if you went with the MSR or similar from above then you want to look into a long-handled spoon or spork, and 750ml titanium container to cook in.
Otherwise, if you went with the Coleman or similar larger camp stove then you could choose many options to cook with as it will fit many pans, then you could use some form of silverware for the road, though the sporks and similar could fit well for camp use here also.
When you are camping you will want to store food for longer periods and may choose to have items which need refrigeration to stay fresh.
For this is always would recommend a high-quality cooler instead of a cheap one, this is a purchase which made once will last you 20 years or longer.
Since during camping, you may not have consistent water available having a good quality water bottle with a high volume can come in handy.
The favored overall water bottle is the Nalgene of any size, I prefer the 1-quart size to carry around. You should know about how much water you will drink per day to ensure you get the right size container for you and possibly family.
A rope is always helpful and can be used for multiple different purposes depending on needs that can occur.
I would suggest not carrying 100′ of rope but carrying a decent length of paracord or similar in your car can come in useful many times when you need cordage, like when hanging clothes to dry.
You may need to operate at night time and while flashlights are helpful they come at the cost of losing a hand to use.
A headlamp, like the Nitecore, is an inexpensive item that will help free up your hands to do whatever you need them for, and at night that is exceedingly helpful as well as being powered by an internal battery.
This is a need when at a campsite, especially if you like to go late into the night as it gets dark really fast when there isn’t external lighting. I love fire as much as the next camper but that doesn’t offer consistent light in the same manner as a lantern.
You want to pack extra batteries for any electronics you bring which require batteries. This may be a lot or could be none, you just don’t want to run out of batteries on that emergency bathroom trip in the middle of the night!!!
Building your own first aid kit can be as expensive as you want to spend or can be as cheap as $20. Though you can find many pre-built first aid kits at the local stores or on Amazon for around $75 for a well-stocked kit.
Your mileage may vary depending on your needs if your campground has safe drinking water, but a water treatment system is great to have if you go hiking or are backpacking into a camping spot.
I prefer to use the Sawyer Squeeze and it is one of the best available filters of its kind. There are other options too, like UV filters, water purification tablets, and larger filters.
This is not always a “requirement” as it depends more on the area you plan to be camping in. If there are bears in the area you don’t want food smells around the campsite at all, and you want to store the food far away from your and other campsites.
For most people, they will want to pack a set of clothes for each day or possibly every other day.
This will take up a lot of travel space for your trip to the camping area, you should choose clothes which are not cotton, like wool or high tech fabrics) as they will last longer and absorb less stink while in the campground.
Welcome to 2020, everyone today has electronics and if you are like me you love to listen to podcasts, audiobooks from Audible, or maybe even ebooks on your Kindle.
When in the woods for a longer trip you will eventually run your electronics out of energy and most camps don’t provide outlets to recharge your devices.
This is why a good solid Quick Charging 20000+ rated or higher battery can come in handy as it will give your devices multiple recharges.
Daily Camping Costs
This is where knowing the cost becomes a variable that is almost unable to be estimated. You have the camping food and other consumables along with the cost to stay in the campground.
Consumables will depend on when and where you buy the groceries as at a big store you will pay less then if you wait until you are at the local mini-mart.
Food and Consumables
This will most likely be your largest cost for most of your trips as you will be buying food for multiple days and without a cooler and the ability to buy in bulk you will be stuck buying pre-cooked and packaged meals.
These are typically around $5 each which means at least $15 per day if not more. Then add in snacks or additional foods which will be at least $10 per day and you see how this cost starts to add up fast.
I am a large proponent of cold soaking food which can help dramatically lower the cost of these things as you can prepackage everything in a ziplock prior to leaving and easily have a week worth of food available for very little cost overall.
This is where the costs can add up depending on where you choose to stay, the more amenities available the more on average the site will cost you to stay at.
This is why many will choose more primitive sites as the costs are typically very low to none, but you will typically have to backpack in with more gear and they won’t always have things like toilets.
How Much is it to Stay at a Campground?
Looking at most normal campgrounds you are looking at anywhere from $0 to $50 per night, though many will have a better rate the longer you are staying. There are a lot of benefits to campgrounds, especially for families or large gatherings.
The reason for large gatherings loving a campground is that they provide amenities like showers and toilets which allow for some of the modern-day convenience.
The cost of campgrounds will vary drastically based on their location and their popularity in most cases, the more people who want to stay at a campground the higher the rate the campground can charge.
How Much Does it Cost to Camp at National Parks?
I took a look around at prices online at many National Parks in the USA. I found that at a Yosemite campground, the standard camping cost comes in at $26 per night. From looking around most other National Park campgrounds are right around this range also.
One nice thing about paying to stay at National Parks is that they tend to have far more space for exploration, trails, and extras which many smaller sites and campgrounds will not have available due to fewer resources.
Miscellaneous Camping Costs
Next, we can start diving into the additional costs which will typically be charged or be required once you decide to go camping.
This will typically be at a minimum a Permit and related fees for park entry, the car costs to travel to the campground and luxury items like chairs or other entertainment-related equipment.
Permits and Entrance Fees
Depending on the park and location these may be free or they could be up to $30 or more per vehicle pass to get into the park.
These style passes will typically last 7 days so they will be good for the majority of your camping trips without having to be paid a second time.
If you think you can bypass this by walking in you may be mistaken also as many parks will have a cost for a pass for wakers that can be around $15.
I would suggest you take some time ahead to call and find out what this charge is and what is the cost per vehicle and if any additional charges will be necessary, this helps you make a clear decision before traveling.
Your transportation to the campground will be an expense that will vary and will matter greatly to your vehicle size and efficiency.
On average it is about a 200 mile trip for most people to the campground if you take the average of 25 miles per gallon and the average gas cost at $3.00 then this cost one-way cost will come out to about $24.
Though as many know over a 200-mile drive you will make stops for food or restrooms which will increase your costs if you aren’t careful. These little incremental costs are what drives the overall cost of transportation on a trip up.
Bug Spray, Sunscreen and Other Protection
These items will vary greatly on where you are traveling to and what season it is as to what will be a requirement.
Most people get irritated when being bitten by bugs and will want to bring along a DEET bug spray to, at a minimum, keep the mosquitos at bay.
Sunscreen is very important if you will be exposed to the sun for great periods of time, no one likes to be burned and be unable to move without causing themselves pain.
You also don’t want to miss your awesome camping trip due to the pain involved in a bad sunscreen, take the time and prepare for your sun exposure beforehand.
Optional Luxury Camping Costs
One of the benefits of camping at a car accessible location is the ability to carry nicer, more enjoyment related luxury items.
These can be trivial things like cards for card games or move towards higher-end luxury items like furniture and additional gear for activities like climbing, slacklining or other activities during downtime.
This will be the extra gear that isn’t required for your camping trip but adds to your overall enjoyment of a campground. These items will typically be from the following list:
- Chair: This will be needed in many of the more primitive sites as they may not have anything other than logs for seats.
- Table: Many sites will have a table, this may be good enough for you but this is good to know before you travel.
- Hammock: A place to lay and relax, possibly to listen to music or to read a book.
- Tarp: Provides a good rain protection over a larger part of your campsite giving you more ability to not be stuck inside your tent.
- Camping Shower: If the campground doesn’t have showers, some people want to have the option to take a camp shower to stay clean.
- Camping Toilet: Same as the shower above, if the site has no toilets and you don’t want to dig cat holes then you need to look into a toilet on the go.
- Camping Fold-Out Kitchen Station: Give you a better preparation station for preparing your foods for meals.
This will be for what you want to do once you reach the campground and can vary depending on your decisions, or tastes.
This could be rock climbing which needs a whole set of very specific gear or it could be bird watching.
These are things to keep in mind when you are looking at the campground and what options are available to you and your group.
Typical Items For Family Activities:
- Binoculars: Give you the ability to see things that are far away, check on birds, foliage or more.
- Maps: These will help you walk or hike on trails and find your way back safe
- Compass: Similar to the maps above, a map and compass can get you back to your campsite safely when you lose the trail and bearings.
- Guidebook: These could be on the area, birds or foliage or similar topics.
Final Thoughts on How Much Does it Cost to Camp
If you love the outdoors or are looking for a way to get some personal space away from the electronic intensity that is our normal, everyday issue then camping can be a tremendous release.
I love to go camping and enjoy the sounds of nature when I am out I love to go hiking and exploring the surrounding area.
I would highly recommend if you haven’t camped before to get some basic gear that I listed above which is very price friendly for a starter and take the time to go.
It can help you get centered and let your mind release all the stressors which are weighing you down, I would love to hear about your trips in the comments below and good luck!