Compared to other activities and holidays, camping is seen as a cheap or ‘budget’ option. After the initial outlay on your caravan or camper, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on gear and campsites – once you learn a few tricks of the trade.
It’s easy to get caught up in having the latest and greatest gear and technology but, at its heart, that’s not what camping is about. The most common reason people put off that ‘trip of a lifetime’ is money or fear of the unknown costs. But all you need to do is go back to basics, do a little planning and be smart about your camping trip. Here are some top tips to help save you a few bob along the way!
1. KEEP YOUR VEHICLE COSTS DOWN
- Consider sharing a vehicle with friends or family – if you get along! It can make the trip a lot more fun, and means you can split the cost of fuel, servicing, etc.
- Slow down! By sticking to the peak torque range of your vehicle (and, remember, every vehicle is different), you’ll be driving more efficiently and, therefore, economically, especially when towing.
- Get your vehicle serviced before you leave home. It might seem like a big outlay at the time, but all the budget vacuum-packed meals in the world won’t save you when you have to pay big bucks to have your car and camper recovered and towed back to civilisation after a breakdown!
2. TRAVEL LIGHTER
- If you’re travelling with friends or family, get together before the trip and work out what gear each of you will take. This will stop the group doubling up and overpacking. Depending on the size of your group, you probably don’t need two camp ovens when one will do. So make a plan to spread the load across the vehicles.
- Install a good quality water filter to your infill system so you can fill up your water tank/s closer to your destination, saving 100-200kg in weight and, therefore, fuel en-route to your campsite.
- Only pack what you need! Save on space, weight, and fuel by only packing what you need for each trip. Don’t fall into the trap of taking the exact same gear every time you hit the road – as your destinations change, so will the required equipment. Obviously, safety and recovery gear is the exception but a good rule of thumb is – if you haven’t used it in the past couple of trips, leave it at home!
3. FOOD & DRINKS
- Cook up a feast before you leave home and pack frozen portions in your caravan or camper fridge/freezer. This means you can make use of your at-home pantry and avoid having to buy the basics like herbs, spices, flour and rice, etc, again.
- Pack healthy car snacks for the roadtrip and keep your wallet in your pocket at the servo food counter. All those potato cakes and ice-creams add up!
- Camping and barbecues go together like white on rice but swap your tasty T-bone a few times a week for some juicy tomatoes, corn on the cob and meaty mushrooms, and your hip pocket will thank you in the long run.
- Finding firewood at campsites can be difficult, and it’s not cheap to buy. To help your campfire go further, try cooking in bulk! When you’ve got the fire going to cook up tonight’s meal, why not throw on another pot and cook up some tucker for tomorrow, too?
4. FIND FREE CAMPSITES
- Be self-sufficient. Being able to sustain yourself out bush with reasonable power, water and food capacity means you can avoid costly campsites and even save on fuel by giving yourself more camping options closer to home. The cost of a portable solar panel and a camp shower will pay for itself in no time when you’re not paying $50/night for a powered campsite!
- National parks, as we all know, are becoming more and more expensive, which is not ideal if you’re trying to camp on a budget. There are plenty of cheap and free campsites available – the trick is finding them!
- State forests and crown land – they rarely charge for camping!
- Showgrounds and reserves – most towns have them and they’re usually free.
- Apps like WikiCamps have thousands of cheap and free camps listed
- Use a GPS like HEMA or Google Earth to scope out the local area for likely campsites, then navigate yourself straight there!
MEET THE AUTHOR
Michael “Borgy” Borg
Borgy’s one of those blokes who lives and breathes offroad adventure. He’s travelled to almost every extremity of the Australian continent, built 4WDs and camper trailers from the ground up and tackled some of the most epic adventures Australia has to offer.
Being a mechanic by trade, he’s customising both of his Toyota LandCruisers, ‘Toot’ the Troop Carrier and ‘Uncle Grump’, his big red 80 Series Cruiser. With plenty of tough low range kays under his belt, you can bet your bottom dollar he’s learnt the art of bush mechanic fixes. In fact, Borgy reckons relaxing around the campfire after an epic day on the tracks is what 4WDing is all about, not to mention that feeling of freedom you get when you lock in the hubs!