Taking your family camping is a great way to take a vacation that everyone can enjoy. But just like any vacation there are costs to consider. You’ll need to buy a tent, sleeping bags, and other camping gear. We’ve broken down the average cost of tent camping, and ways to save so you stay within your budget.
Transportation and Campsite
One of the great things about camping is that you can stay close to home if you’re just going for a few days. If you have more time, you can pack up all your camping gear and drive as far as you want. This is the perfect way to see some amazing scenery and pitch your tent in some cool locations.
No matter where you’re camping, you’ll need to take into account the cost of fuel for getting there. You’re really not able to control this cost. It will depend entirely on the cost of gas where you live and how far you’re going to be driving. If you want to save on fuel, stay close to home.
Transportation cost: $40.00 – $300.00
Unless you’re going to be free-styling it and camping on the back roads, be prepared to pay an entrance fee to campgrounds. You’ll have plenty of camping sites to choose from, both near and far – national parks, state parks, and camping recreation sites. Costs will vary. Some national parks will have free camping dates throughout the year, so make note of these days and take advantage of them.
If you camp in the peak season, from May to September, you’ll pay $5 to $10 more per night. You can save by camping during the non-peak season, but you’ll have to plan accordingly for colder weather during those times.
When it comes to average prices, the cost per night for a campsite in most campgrounds is from $12 to $45 each night, depending on if you’re just using a primitive site with a fire pit or one that has full utilities. Many parks offer a yearly pass, so you can camp anytime you want. Cost of yearly passes is from $30 to $80.
Some campsites will charge per night for your entire family – others will have a base fee for up 6 to 10 people and charge additionally per person after that.
Campsite cost: $24.00 – $90.00 (for an average of two nights)
A Place to Sleep
When it comes to camping gear there are some essentials you’ll need to have. There’s always the option to rent some items, such as the tent, but if you’re going to be camping with your family in the years to come, it’s much more cost effective to buy your own tent.
Probably the most important item for your camping trip is the tent. But what type of tent should you get that won’t break your budget. For a family of four, you have a few options. One of the first things you’ll need to decide is the size. Be prepared – if you’re going to cram into a four-person tent, that won’t leave much room for anything else. Or do you want a six-person tent that allows the four of you a little breathing room? Your answer will depend on how much you’re willing to pay for a tent and what type you choose.
Another factor to take into consideration is how often you’re going to be camping. If you’re planning on camping regularly, you’ll want a tent that’s durable and well-constructed, so you don’t need to replace it every couple of years.
You can buy a basic tent starting at about $50 if you’re on a tight budget. A four-person tent will have enough room for you to lay out your sleeping bags, but that’s about it. These tents are okay for good-weather camping. The frame of these tents is standard and hold up well to wind and light rain. Look for ones that have a window at the back of the tent, so you get some air flowing for ventilation.
Dome tents will give you more room than the basic tent – for your family of four opt for a six-man tent. This way you’ll be able to store your clothes and maybe a few other pieces of camping gear inside. Dome tents will give you some head space, so you don’t have to crouch down low all the time. Most dome tents have vents in the door, walls, and roof…so you’ll get lots of ventilation. A dome tent will run you anywhere from $80 to $300.
Top quality premium tents
If cost isn’t a concern, you can buy some top of the line tents that provide standing room – and lots of room for four! Long-lasting, durable, and good for all weather, a premium tent is almost like sleeping at home. Expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $700 for a reasonably priced premium tent.
Tent cost: $50.00 – $700.00
Sleeping Bags and Pads
You’ll need sleeping bags and pads for comfort, one for each family member.
At first glance, sleeping bags look like they’re really expensive – but you can buy some good affordable sleeping bags. If you’re not going to be camping in cold weather, a lightweight sleeping bag will work just fine. A basic polyester fill sleeping bag starts at about $25. The cost goes up from there. For $80 you can buy a lightweight goose down sleeping bag. Easy to pack and carry, this sleeping bag is good for cooler camping weather.
Sleeping bag cost per person: $25.00 – $80.00
Sleeping pads are necessary for some padding between you and the ground, and to add some warmth on those colder nights. As with a sleeping bag, you can spend as much or as little on sleeping pads – it all depends on how much comfort you want. A basic sleeping pad that provides just a touch of cushioning starts at about $30. If you want one that’s more durable, thick, and that will help to keep you warm, prices start at $100.
Sleeping pad cost per person: $30.00 – $100.00
For the most part, you won’t need to spend any extra money on clothing. However, you might want to put rain gear on your list. Even if the forecast is for sun, sun, and more sun…expect it to rain. At least once! You won’t need to spend a lot on rain gear. A slip-over poncho will only cost you about $12. If there’s a chance it’s going to be raining a lot, spend a bit more on a rain jacket so you don’t have to spend the day in the tent. A rain jacket with matching protective pants is about $20 to $70.
Rain gear cost per person: $12.00 – $70.00
Cooking and Food
You’ll need to factor in the cost for food…and this total will vary on how many are in your family and what types of foods you bring on your trip.
Food and Water
You can eat quite cheaply when you’re camping by preparing some foods and bringing them along. And if you stick to hot dogs instead of hamburgers and steak, you can save even more. On average you’ll spend from $10 to $40 per person, including the bottled water that you’ll need to bring for drinking and cooking.
Food and water per person, per day: $10.00 – $40.00
Unless you want to cook everything over an open fire, you’ll want to invest in a cooking stove. You won’t need to spend a lot for a good stove that’s functional enough to heat up a can of soup and boil water – $23 for a one-burner butane stove. If you want more than one burner, expect to pay up to $100 for a good quality stove with two burners.
Camp stove + fuel: $30.00 – $110.00
A food cooler is optional, but certainly much more convenient. You’ll be able to pack it with ice and save on some food costs when you prepare some food at home. Most coolers are quite durable, so consider this an item that you won’t have to replace in the near future. Coolers start at $20 for a simple, basic cooler chest all the way to about $180 for one that has a removable liner.
Food cooler: $20.00 – $180.00
Flashlights and Lanterns
It may not seem important, but you’ll need some way to light up the night when you’re camping. Make sure your camping gear includes flashlights and lanterns…as well as batteries.
No need to spend a lot on flashlights…just be sure you have at least two. Good flashlights can be found for $10 or spend a little more and get a water-resistant flashlight for $20.
Flashlights and batteries: $15.00 – $30.00
At least one or two lanterns are essential – perfect for having at night in the tent. Costs will vary from $20 for a basic LED lantern up to $180 for one that has panels that fold open for even more light.
Lanterns: $20.00 – $180.00
First Aid Kit
Buy a first aid kit that you use just for camping. This way it’s always stocked with any supplies you’ll need. You could put together your own kit, but it’s more affordable to buy a first aid camping kit that has everything you need starting at $24. If you want a few more extra first aid items in your kit, expect to pay around $50.
First aid kit: $24.00 – $50.00
Optional Camping Gear
Other than the essential camping items that you’ll want to have, there are some optional items that can make your trip a little more comfortable. Don’t feel that you need to buy all or any of these items when you first start camping with your family. You can buy the basics and then start adding to your camping gear each year.
A nice to have camping item is at least one tarp. Ideal for laying under the tent to keep out the damp and cold – or over the tent for added protection from the rain – a tarp is one way to make camping life a little easier.
Tarp: $15.00 – $45.00
Most campgrounds will have picnic tables and some logs for sitting around the fire. Having your own camping chairs is not only a bit more comfortable, they’re convenient as well. You’ll be able to set them up wherever you want and sit back to relax.
Camping chairs: $24.00 – $140.00
Another convenience is a camping table. Even when there’s a picnic table in your campsite, having a folding camp table is ideal for additional space for prepping food. And if you arrive at your campsite to find you don’t have a picnic table, you’ll be glad you have your own.
Camping table: $30.00 – $110.00
Average Camping Costs
You don’t need to have the best of everything to enjoy a camping trip with your family. Buy the basics and spend as per your budget. Once you’ve been on a few camping trips, you’ll be able to determine what other camping items are important for you and your family – then you can buy as your budget permits.
Low cost camping for 4 for two days
If you budget on the low side for your camping trip for a weekend, with all costs included (and assuming you don’t have any of these items already), expect to spend about $655.00:
- Camping fees and gas – $64
- Food and water – $80
- Essential camping gear – $442
- Optional camping gear – $69
Higher cost camping for 4 for two days
If budget isn’t a concern, you can spend up to $3,285.00 for your first camping trip:
- Camping fees and gas – $390
- Food and water – $320
- Essential camping gear -$2280
- Optional camping gear – $295
It’s hard to beat a family weekend away in the wilderness, enjoying nature and taking some time to relax together. There’s not much that’s better than waking up to the sound of birds singing – with your family sleeping beside you in the tent.
Even if you’re on a budget, camping is completely affordable for your family (especially during repeat trips after you’ve already purchased your gear). We’ve provided you with a guide of the average cost of tent camping and ways to save so that you can prepare for your first family camping trip.