This weekend, I’m heading off on a frugal vacation (and no, I’m not talking a staycation- those aren’t even real). Chef Dan and I are off camping in the great North Maine woods!
First of all, camping is an excellent way to test any relationship, romantic or otherwise. Bugs, low blood sugar, temperature variations, lack of sleep… the whole thing really puts everyone on their best behavior. Second, you get to battle the elements and otherwise work harder than you normally do at tasks like cooking meals and keeping your living area clean and bear-free.
OK, I’m done joking now. I do like camping for real, else I wouldn’t be going. Here are a few money and sanity saving camping tips that will be in effect this weekend:
1. Go during off-peak times. Notice we are not going camping on a major holiday weekend? Actually most campgrounds only open towards the end of May (at least my neck of the woods) so before that, a lot of places end up being free or really cheap. Dan and I are headed towards Katahdin Iron Works, which is a historic site close to Gulf Hagas (self-titled the ‘Grand Canyon of Maine’), Moosehead Lake, and two state park campgrounds.
2. Borrow equipment. Why buy all the fanciest equipment? Unless you go regularly, do you really need a lantern with ten light settings or a three ply Gortex tent rated for 50 below zero? Borrow things you might not own like a tent, portable grill, cooler, or even tarps from people you know. Just remember to return it in good condition and send a thank you note or email after. It’s just the nice thing to do.
3. Stay multiple days and look for other discounts. Sometimes staying a few days, taking a certain campsite, or otherwise doing something you’d normally do anyway could save you money. Look into it, you might be surprised. One campground we looked it would have let us stay for free if we helped them with site cleanup to help them get ready for their season. (Note: this was ok with us but the drive was a bit far for long weekend.)
4. Cook your own meals but don’t overbuy food. Nothing like standing in a grocery store aisle wearing flannel, knowing that you’re headed out of civilization. You get in total gatherer mode. This is where coming up with a list of needed ingredients for each meal and snack, and sticking to it, will help you out. Bonus is you won’t have to haul the three kinds of Oreos into the woods and then the two bags you have left home and into your house. Sure, you can justify the extra calorie consumption while hiking but you don’t want these kind of prepackaged, fattening, and relatively expensive food items as leftovers.
5. Be safe. Please, in the name of saving money, don’t do anything stupid. Have emergency supplies, a contact person on the outside you can check in with, and a buddy.
And now campfire story time: What’s the stupidest and or biggest money wasting thing you ever did in the name of the great outdoors?