The fun and appeal of camping is supposed to be getting out in nature and a cheap vacation.
But is camping really low cost?
They say the best things in life are free, but camping may not be as “free” as you think.
Sure, it may seem fairly simple to pack a bag and a tent and hit the road, but there may be several startup or unexpected expenses to camping if you’re not an experienced outdoorsy person.
We’ve spent hundreds of dollars on last-minute purchases because we realized we needed a bigger tent to fit us all, and one kid had outgrown his sleeping bag, and “Where do we keep the flashlights anyways?” and other such mishaps, etcetera.
Even if you’re “roughing” it you’ll still likely need some basic equipment such as a first aid kid, bed roll, pocket knife, hiking boots and the like.
Campsites aren’t necessarily cheap either, at an average of $30 to $35 per night, when you consider that’s a third or so of the price of staying in a clean, air-conditioned hotel. You’ll also need to consider the cost of firewood unless you’re bringing your own.
Then there’s the cost of any equipment you’ll need for any activities you want to do, such as rods, lures and bait for fishing, or a canoe or kayak as well as life jackets if you want to hit the water.
Then you’ve got to figure out how to haul all the stuff you need. Will you need a trailer or roof storage rack?
You may also want to invest in a portable battery pack or small generator if you have any essential electronic needs.
Food is another issue. Bringing enough for your whole trip can take up too much room in the family vehicle, so you may need to re-stock mid-trip or might wind up stopping in small towns to eat more than you’d planned.
Plus, you may want to visit a zoo or theme park, or other tourist attractions along your route and all that adds up.
Of course, if you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, there’s the expense of a sitter or kennel for any pets you have, and if their shots aren’t up-t0-date, there’s another added cost.
Some other things you’ll want to have some change for include tolls for traveling through provincial parks, parking meters, laundromats, and showers at campsites that are coin-operated.
And don’t get me started on so-called “glamping.” If you’re going to go out in a luxury RV or tent trailer I don’t really see the point. You’re not getting the full experience of true camping and you’d still be more comfortable at home.
It’s not all bad though. While the costs of camping might catch you off guard, the memories you’ll make, roasting marshmallows over a fire, freezing your toes in a frigid mountain lake, catching frogs, hiking trails and the view when you reach the top, are all priceless and beyond compare.
Still, next year I think we’ll save some money and book a flight to a destination vacation like Hawaii or Australia.