Exploring nature and sleeping under the stars can be viewed as an economical vacation. But buying gear and booking campsites or renting an RV can add up. Try these tips to enjoy the outdoors free of technology, traffic and a big tab.
Search for free campsites
Don’t unplug just yet — before you leave, put your phone to good use by finding a campsite on sites like Campendium.com or FreeCampsites.net. Many campgrounds charge a nightly fee, but you will also find free camping options. Listings include user reviews, fees, photos, cell coverage and other details. Some sites have no nightly rate but may require a paid pass to gain access.
Check the weather
Look up the forecast for your destination, including nightly lows. Investing in good gear from the outset — even if it’s expensive — could save you money in the long run, rather than buying something that’s not quite right and having to replace it later.
Travel with less
Travel light. You don’t want too much to carry; 20 pounds not including food and water is a good guideline for backpacking, said Brian Easterling, co-founder and president of Campendium. Even if you are not backpacking, camping with less means purchasing less gear. For equipment deals, check out online sales. REI.com features REI Garage, foe example, where you will find discounted clothing and gear.
Find a place to rest
Whether you are camping by car or RV, plan the route you will take and the stops you will make to and from your destination. If you are traveling by RV, look for dump stations for waste disposal ahead of time. If you will need to get some sleep along the journey, search online for free overnight RV parking, such as at rest areas and truck stops. Be sure to check local rules, since policies on if and how long you can park can vary.
Make your own rules
Plan a trip that fits your budget. Skip the things you don’t need — like the latest camera if your smartphone will do. “Anything goes,” said Tom Lionvale, a backpacking instructor in California. “I’ve seen men and women with World War I army surplus doing a good job and having a good time, and I’ve seen men and women with ultralight equipment having a miserable time.”