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Camping on a shoestring: our thrifty tips

June 2, 2011
by | guides

How the other half pitch upThere is a difference between being a cheapskate and being broke. Being a cheapskate involves things like wringing out teabags for a second use, scraping for spare soap in communal showers rather than buying your own, and doing the sniff test to see if that shirt can last another day without being washed. This is a state of mind and not desirable. At all.

Being broke, however, is just that. A state of being where you really don’t have enough money to do very much at all in your leisure hours, whether because of studentdom, unemployment or a whopping great mortgage (buy a motorhome instead). This is not desirable either.

This is why camping really is for everyone. Yes, you can spend hundreds or even thousands on a glamping holiday and designer wellies, but, in our humble opinion, one of the best bits about camping is that it can be done on the cheap if need be. Here’s how.

  • For the ultimate in cheap camping, take a tent, a couple of mates and head off on foot for a spot of wild camping. This should only cost you the price of your food and essential supplies – which shouldn’t even be that much if you’re sensible and raid the larder before you go. And yes, it might be nice to splash out on a good quality tents, but if you only camp occasionally don’t be put off if you’ve only got a £9.99 tent. You can also check out your local Freecycle group to see if anyone’s giving a tent or camping equipment away, as happens fairly regularly.
  • Once you’ve picked your site, use the Pitchup.com listing to see what’s on around the area, as a lot of it should be cheap or free. The listing for Ninham Country Holidays on the Isle of Wight, for example, shows there are two beaches of excellent water quality within two miles, a cliff walking trail, two National Trust attractions nearby and a link to finding local cycle routes with the National Cycle Network.
  • No car? No problem. Pack a small tent and sleeping bag into your bike panniers and hit the road. You can either wild camp every night so your only costs are food and fuel, or plan the route using campsites along the way. If you pick sites with caravans or lodges for hire, you won’t even have to bring a tent, just a change of clothes and a toothbrush. And, as with tents, while it would be nice to have a bells and whistles £300 bike, it’s still doable on anything cheaper – I cycled and camped from Sligo to Galway a few years ago on a bike that would probably have given proper cyclists a seizure if they’d seen it.

The moral of the story is that camping is possible on any budget, even a very small one. Cycling or walking to a wild camping spot for an overnight trip should literally only cost a few quid for food. We can’t make any claim about the booze bill, though...

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