I love camping and it’s one of the things I enjoy with my kids. But sometimes, not everything is possible and things get in the way. The top 5 reasons for not being able to go camping are money/finances, gear/equipment, time, location and experience/know-how. All of these things do not necessarily have to be barriers and prevent you from camping and making those great memories. Most of these problems can be solved and there are some great alternatives, you just have to find them and get creative.
- Money/finances- Camping can be expensive between buying food and gas money and equipment, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. You don’t even have to go anywhere unless you choose to. You can either camp in your backyard, go somewhere that is within an acceptable driving distance or go somewhere that is outside your budget, that’s up to you. When we first went camping with our kids, it consisted of camping on someone else’s property and a bag of hotdogs, literally. You don’t have to cook steak every night or use a whole tank of gas unless you want to and can afford it. In order to reduce the costs of camping, I budget out my gas and food expenses. A lot of the times, I plan these expenses around what I already have in my fridge, whats on sale, what I can currently afford and what the current gas prices are. I limit what my out-of-pocket expenses will be based on my monthly budget. Currently, we are saving for a trip to Yellowstone and I put aside extra money every month.
- Gear- You do not have to have fancy gear. You do need to stay protected from the elements and remain warm, so make sure that is your top priority. You want functional and cost-effective. Most gear and equipment is made to last and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. I have obtained a lot of my gear at yard sales, thrift stores, online yard-sale sites, from friends, auctions and estate sales. Other good sources for gear and equipment are subscription boxes, give-aways, beta testing, and raffles. Borrow from friends and family if you don’t have it. Shop army surplus stores and Black Friday or clearance specials. Keep in mind it does not have to be new, just in good condition. When we first started camping, there were three of us with a small two person backpacking tent, one sleeping bag, a one burner stove and a headlamp. We still use all of that equipment ten years later, but we have added more over the years. I very rarely have to replace stuff because it has all been good quality. I was talking to a close friend the other day who for the first time went camping with us. He mentioned how much he loved camping. I was astounded because I thought he hated camping. Apparently, he never went because he felt he needed fancy gear. I thought how sad it was that he missed out on so much and the experiences he could have had with his son because he felt he needed expensive, brand-name gear. A lot of the equipment I have collected over the years hasn’t been always necessary, its just been more of a convenience such as a camp stove, a camp ware cooking set, an awning and a blow-up mattress, amongst other things. If it’s not a good bargain and if it’s not something I will use multiple times, I usually will not get it.
- Time- When my husband works, it is rough scheduling a camping trip. And I usually have to schedule time off at least 6 months in advance. Our two oldest are in different schools and have different schedules. We try to go every weekend in the summer months, but now that hes working out of town, it’s impossible. So instead of every weekend, we have planned out one trip per month June through September. We had one scheduled for May but it was still too cold and our camping spots were still covered in snow. We make time, even if it’s just for day camping. Once a month seems to be more feasible and has worked out really well for us this year. It’s been pretty accommodating with all of the different schedules. We have even combined some of our trips so that we are doing multiple things and have even campground-hopped. It’s about being flexible. Our September trip will probably be one day hike and one day-camping trip with no overnights.
- Location- Not everyone lives in the mountains or in areas where there are a lot of public lands. My sister-in-law was telling me that when she lived in Texas, it was so difficult to find camping areas because so much of where she was living was privately owned. I have lived in a city and I didn’t go camping because I had no idea where I could go. To find free or cheap local areas to camp, I recommend contacting your local Forest Service or you can also go online to www.nps.gov. Also check out your state website. For example, I can search at www.visitmt.gov for camping and it pulls up hundreds of options in our state. When we lived in New Mexico, we had to drive at least an hour to the closest camping area. Two of our favorite spots have been on private property that belonged to family and friends, but we had to drive about two hours to get there. We have never been to Yellowstone or Glacier or any of the big national parks mainly because of distance and money and that’s okay. They are on our bucket list.
- Knowledge- You do not have to be an expert. Not everybody is a boy/girl scout or survivalist. Food, shelter and keeping warm are the most important things. I have camped in my back yard with just blankets, in the back of a pick up truck, in a tent and in a hammock. A lot of it has been trial and error. Some of my ideas and information have come from bits and pieces I’ve gathered from books, movies, and even friends. The internet has not always been accessible for me and where I live, is not often reliable enough to use so that I can search online. Don’t let lack of experience stop you. If you can’t go online, go to the local library. Look for free in-person or online seminars. Read blogs. Some people camp in hotels or outside. There is no wrong way to camp. Camping is being outside, but doesn’t mean you have to be outside with just the bare minimum. Its okay to stay at a hotel and spend the day outside. To me, camping is being in a tent in the woods with the bugs, no toilet, being dirty and eating charred food. To my husband, camping is sleeping in a tent, on an air mattress, within five minutes driving distance of a toilet and steaks and breakfast burritos. Some people camp in campers. We have a friend that he and his kids use hammocks and sleeping bags. Do your research and find what works for you.
And most of all, have fun!!!!!! Try to find a way that works for you and plan it out. Even if you only go once a year, make those memories.