Tips & Guides | April 2021

How to Car Camp on a Budget

Whether it’s your first time car camping or your hundredth, everyone can find ways to cut excessive spending on gear. There’s nothing wrong with wanting this season’s next big thing or investing in a luxurious car camping setup, but sometimes you just need a way to make it work without dropping the big bucks. We believe car camping should be accessible for everyone, no matter what your budget is. Here are some easy tips and tricks to save cash on your next adventure.

Camp on Public Lands

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers the use and protection of over 245 million acres across the U.S. These wilderness acres are free to access and owned by you, the people. Take the road less costly into BLM lands and National Forests. As much as we love National Parks, they are not the cheapest places to camp. Campsites at the country’s most popular parks can be upwards of $60/night. Outside most National Parks, you can find both BLM and National Forest land where you can enjoy access without the hiked-up prices. You can stay at your site on public lands for up to 14 days without having to move on to your next adventure. Visit the Bureau of Land Management website to find BLM land near you. National Forest Land and Grasslands are also public lands available for free camping. You can find National Forest Land and Grasslands on the National Forest Service website.

Keep in mind that public lands sites are primitive and require you to bring your own firewood, water and bathroom essentials. If it’s your first time camping on BLM land, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with Leave No Trace. Since you’ll be out in the wilderness, you’ll also need to know the ins and outs of bathroom etiquette on public lands. For other tips on how to use BLM land for free camping, visit here.

Stay Warm for Cheap

Save cash without sacrificing your comfort. There are many ways to stay warm and cozy in your car without buying top-notch, pricey camping gear. One of the easiest ways to warm up your sleep space starts with boiling some water. Fill your nalgene or water bottle with boiling or hot water and place it inside your sleeping bag or sheets to preheat your bed before going to sleep. By the time you’re ready to crash for the night, your bed will be preheated for your ultimate comfort. Try to avoid any excess moisture in your sleeping bag or sheets, like blowing your breath into them or your gloves, jacket, etc. The condensation can trap cold, damp air, which can be extremely difficult to warm up.

The next essential rule is always pack layers. Your base layer is going to be your most important, alongside solid socks and a good beanie. Look for water-wicking materials like polyester, nylon, or rayon to avoid any dampness in your clothing. Read our Top 10 Tricks to Sleep Warm for more tips.

Borrow From Home or Get Thrifty

When you’re getting your camping preparations together, it doesn’t hurt to look in your own cupboards. Grab a plastic storage container with a lid and create an on-the-go kitchen kit with old knives, cutlery, pots, and pans. Don’t have anything at home you’re ready to take on the road? Visit your local Goodwill, thrift store or dollar store to scout out cheap, reliable options. If you’re working on saving up for a nice sleeping bag, or aren’t in the market for one just yet, pack up a set of old sheets and bedding for your four-wheeled chateau.

Go shopping in your own kitchen first before going through the drive thru or the grocery store. For easy cooking and cleaning, check out these 5 one-pot wonders for your recipe inspiration.

Budget-Friendly Car Camping Gear

Not all budget-friendly gear is reliable, but there are actually more options than you think. Head over to your local REI or Walmart to find affordable options for campers everywhere. Here are some of our recommendations for economical camping gear!

  • Camping Stoves — Easily powered with portable Coleman propane, these camp stoves are an affordable staple. You can purchase a two-top burner stove for around $40. If you’re looking for something more compact, check out the Eureka SPRK Camp Stove for $40. 
  • Coleman Cooler — Although they’re killer gear, you don’t need a Yeti cooler to keep your food and drinks cool. This Coleman 62 quart Hard-Sided Cooler with wheels is only $43 and can keep ice for up to 5 days in temperatures as high as 90°F.
  • Coleman Camp Chair — If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, reliable camping chair, the $34 Coleman Camp Chair with a 4-can Cooler built in is perfect for your comfort and convenience.
  • Petzl Tikkina Headlamp — Compact, reliable and with a washable band, the Petzl Tikkina Headlamp rings in at $20.
  • Aqua-Tainer — If you’re traveling to public lands, you’re going to need an efficient water supply. Skip buying water jugs at the gas station and start packing your water from home. This Aqua-Tainer holds 7 gallons of water and has a screw-on vent and spigot perfect for filling up containers and flowing a steady stream of water.

Invest In What’s Important

Car camping on a budget is more than buying what’s cheapest and hoping for the best. You want to put money where you need it and save money where you don’t. One of the most important investments a camper can make is where they’re resting their head. A reliable sleep setup is a key part of a successful car camping trip. If you skimp on that, you’ll be sore and exhausted for the rest of your trip. That doesn’t make for a fun, stress-free adventure. Sure, you could use an old foam mattress pad in the back of your car, but what happens when your hips and shoulders fall asleep, your back is killing you and you can’t sleep through the night?

There are more reliable and convenient ways to avoid sleepless nights on the road. The Luno Air Mattress is the ultimate sleep setup for car camping. For $279.99, you’ll receive Luno Air Mattress (both sides), Two Base Extenders, 12-V Air Pump, Carrying/Storage Bag and a Repair Patch Kit. The mattress inflates in just minutes to create a comfortable sleeping surface in your vehicle, big enough for two campers. It’s durable, packable and adjustable. Invest in your future nights’ sleep.

Whatever your budget, there are ways to make camping accessible and comfortable. Investing in reliable, quality equipment and creating your own on-the-go kits can help you have worry-free camping that doesn’t break the bank.

Ready to hit the road? The Luno Air Mattress is perfect for your next car camping trip, whatever the season, whatever the adventure. Follow us on Instagram at @Luno.Life and tag us in your next car camping adventure.


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