Has the jittery economy put a crimp in your camping budget?

July 7, 2010 by Bob Difley · 12 Comments  
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By Bob Difley

deschutes_nf_century_driveWith camping season now  fully underway but the economy struggling to get a grip, joblessness refusing to fall, campground prices reaching motel levels, and gas moving above three dollars again, you may be thinking about cutting back on your camping trips this season to save money. But, you might be able to find ways to stretch your camping dollar, do just as much camping as you would like to, while not breaking the recreational piggy bank. And . . . explore some places you haven’t been to yet.

Some of the ways you can cut your camping expense are:

  • Camp closer to home to save on fuel and to spend more time camping than driving to the campground.
  • Keep your speed down to 55 mph to conserve fuel–10% to 15% savings from 65 mph.
  • Search online for camping or boondocking possibilities in local, regional, and county parks, on public utility and water district lands, at fishing access points,  fish and game department recreational areas, state parks, wildlife refuges, national grasslands, and at Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers properties that you may have previously overlooked.
  • Pull out your maps and search online for national forests and BLM locations near your home that you haven’t yet explored.
  • Try boondocking to save on campground fees.
  • Start camping in popular boondocking areas where there is help and advice if you need it.
  • Remember that boondocking areas do not have advertising money to let you know they are there. You have to find them, but once you do, they become your secret campsites.
  • Talk to other RVers about where they boondock–they might even reveal their secret camping spots.
  • Make meal preparation a fun family activity by enlisting everyone’s help.
  • Take hikes and go birdwatching rather than go to expensive theme parks or other fee-charging  activities.
  • Cook fresh veggies as well as meat on the barbecue, rather than expensive pop-in-the-oven prepared or packaged meals.
  • Turn your bathtub into a grape stomping pit to make your own wine. OK, maybe that one’s a bit over the top.

There are many ways to save money and have fun also, if you unleash your creative genie. But if your creative genie is on strike, (here’s the commercial) consider my helpful dirt-cheap, but loaded with info. ebooks : BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, and 111Ways to Get the Biggest Bang for your RV Lifestyle Buck.

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12 Responses to “Has the jittery economy put a crimp in your camping budget?”

  1. Jim G on July 7th, 2010 4:35 pm

    As I have come to expect, Bob offers sound, practical advice which should be a help to anyone who wants to maximize their camping pleasure without draining their wallet. I have found loads of boondocking opportunities available within a tankful drive and generally find it a more enjoyable experience.

  2. Ron Howes on July 7th, 2010 4:49 pm

    I joined “Passport America” at and have been camping at half-price at a lot of campgrounds. The $45 membership came back to me in about 3 nights, the rest of the summer I’m ahead of the game. A lot of good campgrounds participate.

  3. Robert on July 7th, 2010 5:32 pm

    Bob, good advice, but drive less that 55mph? If you do that on a major interstate like I-95 or I-40, someone is going to run up your tailpipe, especially 18wheelers. I drive 60-65mph which is slower than most, but less than 55…no way

  4. Bob Difley on July 7th, 2010 6:51 pm

    Robert – I meant to say “down to 55″ not below 55. Thanks for catching that. I corrected the text above. Probably the safest speed would be what the slowest lane is moving at. But I think you can cruise with an RV at 55 in the proper land without getting hum-bugged.

  5. Francis on July 7th, 2010 7:34 pm

    It depends on your camping needs/wants and areas of travel, but I have to agree with the Passport America recommendation. I saved over $500 during my recently-completed 2-1/2 month meander around this great country. It’s a great deal if RV parks are part of your plans.

    As it really was a meander, I didn’t go anywhere at greater than 60 mph and most of that time I was closer to 55. I had no problems whatsoever and encountered no great numbers of wrathful speedsters. It’s an entirely different deal driving an RV IMHO and the savings are just as Bob mentioned. I agree that much slower than that can amount to a road hazard, but 55-60 saves fuel and is very, very comfortable as far as I’m concerned. YMMV … literally.

  6. Pat on July 8th, 2010 8:47 am

    Bob D does it again…great ideas! Thanks!

  7. Thomas Becher on July 8th, 2010 8:48 am

    Maybe readers don’t know this but ST trailer tires are rated at 65MPH. You are not to drive faster. Nobody pushes me. Those that do get slowed down, I don’t speed up to accommodate idiots. Speed limit signs are not a SUGGESTION.

  8. Manuel Enos on July 9th, 2010 6:12 am

    55mph does not always conserve fuel. I have tried and I think it really depends on your vehicles gearing, engine hp etc…I have a 350ci 300hp Cummins and it gets 14mpg at 65mph and about 12 at 55mph. So, I drive 65mph on the I-states and that keeps most logical pay attention people from driving up my rearend. Of course you are always gonna have the exception to the rule..We recently joined up with KOA and have found them to be the most expensive RV parks on the road. We stayed at Gettysburg KOA (never again) 62 bucks per night and after paying an extra 2 bucks for cable and Penn. taxes total came to 78 bucks!! I was sticker shocked to say the least!! We usually stay at Artillery Ridge for 24 bucks a nite with same amenities!! One staffer at KOA in Gettysburg was very rude, never be rude to a customer it will cost you in the end!! It did!! We wanted to try out KOA and we did, now we will go back to camping where we use to in Corp. parks and nice private parks..Two other KOA parks we stayed at, Wade, N.C. and Smithfield, N.C. were very reasonable and we will stay there again. If you are planning on staying at a KOA make sure you ask them their rates since most of them do not post them on their web sites…Now I know why!! Have a great camping experience out their!!

  9. Ty on July 11th, 2010 6:29 pm

    i live in colorado. my wife and i just spent the weekend in fort morgan, a small town in north east colorado. we stayed at the city park – free. 20 amp electrical only and no water. it was very quiet and vey nice. there were about 6 – 8 other campers there too. we were in the shade about 90% of the day. about a half of tank of gas got us there and home. it was fantastic and yes we will go back. so yes you can camp and save money too.

  10. Art Stebes on July 12th, 2010 5:13 am

    The sweet spot on my GMC diesel is 55 but up through 62 it isn’t too bad. I just get in the right lane and let anyone who wants to pass go by. I agree with the comment that speed limits are not suggestions. I do find too many people in a rush and far too aggressive on the road.

  11. Geoffrey Pruett on July 12th, 2010 9:12 am

    Already follow the 55 asleep limit in no road maitenance Oregon and 60 in Washington but this is due to having a Chev P30 chasis. Anything over the 55-60 range is too tiring with distance. A slab sided box in any kind of wind means lane wander which becomes quite tiring quickly. The only change between boondocking and our usual square dance events and fairs is the number of neighbors. We bought to run without hookups and usually go that way. Carefull shopping is required but a range extender on a gas BBQ will prepare a lot of good tasting food with minimum fuss. The foil grill liners cut down on clean up time a lot.
    Washington has the higher speed limits and the most frantic drivers but most of the passing in uncomfortable situations is by the “new” generation truck drivers. Maybe I grew up in more courteous times? The truckers with poor manners are mostly box and extended vans, the semi rigs still seem to have some respect for the bow wave they create.

  12. Jasper on August 31st, 2012 3:30 pm

    I am so excited for the camping weekend. Has anyone tried the campgrounds in new brunswick canada? That’s where my family is headed this time.