So you’ve decided to go camping? It’s a cheap holiday, right? £20 a night for a bit of grass, much cheaper than Airbnb, but is it really?
If you’re not going camping very often, the initial set up can be quite expensive, but if you’re planning to go a few times a year, then camping might work out to be a really affordable holiday.
How much does a camping trip cost?
Assuming that you already have all of the basic kit you’ll need, a camping trip for a family of four sharing one tent will average at £25 per pitch per night. A 10 day camping holiday will cost £250 on average in the UK.
If you’re starting from scratch, an estimated basic budget is around £700 for all of the basic requirements for a family of four, plus the pitch fees (£25 per night on average) and travel costs. The great thing about a camping holiday is that as soon as you have all of your kit, you’re only paying pitch fees and travel costs from then onwards.
Why is Camping So Expensive
I know what you’re thinking, ‘camping is supposed to be cheap! That’s nearly a grand for a family holiday, I could go to Spain for less!’ and you’re right, camping CAN be an expensive activity, BUT it doesn’t have to be.
I will admit right now, I am an absolute cheapskate and will always try to find the best prices as far as possible, but I will only ever recommend something that is good quality. As far as I’m concerned, if you buy something that is completely rubbish, you’ll end up needing to replace it which will cost you extra. You may as well buy something that will last and save money in the long run.
So, why is camping so expensive? Well, it depends on the gear you buy. More specialist gear is always more expensive, and decent gear is generally more expensive than single-use gear, although that’s not always the case.
This article will be a long one, and I plan to do videos for each section, but we’re going to break down the costing of camping into six distinct sections to allow you to budget a little easier.
I’m not including daily activities or campsite fees in this list, purely because the cost varies so much depending what type of sites you like, whether you want electricity, a pool, lots of activities, etc. The average price is around £25 per pitch which usually includes one tent per pitch, with electric, 2 adults, kids and a dog.
Tent and Tent Gear
The very first thing you’ll think about when you decide to go camping is to buy a tent, kind of useful especially if you don’t want to get wet!
There is a tent for every family, every person, and for every type of trip, and there is a tent for every budget.
Primarily there are three types of tent construction: poled tents, air tents, and canvas tents. Most families won’t be using a canvas tent so we’ll discuss that in another article, we’ll discuss air tents and poled tents here instead.
Poled tents are more traditional types of tents, they came in all shapes and sides but always have rigid poles. Poles can be made out of aluminium, steel, or the most popular material, fibreglass. Some tents will have most of their poles made from fibreglass and poles that are used to hold up doors made out of steel or aluminium.
Poled tents are generally more difficult to put up than air tents and the bigger tents may need two of you, but certainly smaller pole tents are fine for one person to put up. They are generally much lighter and smaller when packed away than air tents but cheaper poled tents won’t do so well in the wind.
Air tents replace the traditional pole gullies with air instead. These tents are much easier and much faster to be put up and can be put up by one person in under ten minutes, but they are generally very big and bulky, even when packed and very heavy.
Air tents are known to be better in the wind than traditionally poled tents, but this will depend on how the tent is put up (as it would with a poled tent). Air tents do have a habit of rupturing in the sunshine if they get too hot.
Which tent should I choose?
Here’s a table of a few popular tent choices, and what they will be good for, this should give you a good overview of what to expect and how much camping tents for a family will cost
|Tent Name||Size||Berths||Bedrooms||Pack size||Weight||Construction Type||Good For||Price|
|Inflatable Arpanez 4.1||6.5 sqm||4 man||1||75 x 35 x 35 cm||14.5 kg||Inflatable||Beginner Family||£249.99|
|Self-standing 2 Person Tent – Trek 900||205cm x 125cm||2 man||1||39 x 12 x 12 cm||1.95 kg||Poles (dome)||Lightweight||£179.99|
|Quechua Arpenaz 4||3.9sqm||4 man||1||57 x 13 cm||6.7 kg||Poles (dome)||Beginner Family||£69.99|
|2 Seconds Fresh & Black XL||2.1sqm||3 man||1||85×9 cm||5.3 kg||Poles (Pop up dome)||Regular Camper Singles/Couple||£109.99|
|Arpenaz 4||4.85m x 2.8m||4 man||2||60 x 26 x 26 cm||11.7kg||Poles (hoop tunnel)||Family Weekenders/ Friends Sharing||£119.99|
|Arpenaz 5.2 F&B||5sqm||5 man||2||60 x 36 x 36 cm||16 kg||Poles (pop up dome)||Family/Friends sharing Regularly||£239.99|
|Trek 900 Ultralight||205cm x 130cm||2 man||1||39 x 12 x 11||1.75 kg||Poles (lightweight tunnel)||Single Backpacker tent||£179.99|
|Air Seconds 6.3 F&B||7.1 sqm||6 man||3||85 x 38 x 38 cm||25 kg||Inflatable||Family regular camping||£499.99|
|Vango Casa Lux||7.25m x 4.5m||7 man||2||74 x 40 x 42cm||32 kg||Poled||Family regular camping||£800.00|
|Eurohike Genus 800 Air||6m x 2.5m||8 man||2||73 x 38 x 36cm||12.8 kg||Inflatable (tunnel style)||Regular family camping||£600.00|
|Berghaus Telstar 8 Nightfall Air||4.7m x7.5 m||8 man||3/4||90x 66 x 67cm||51.9kg||Inflatable||Regular family camping||£1,500.00|
|Vango Icarus Air Vista 600 XL||7.5m x 3m||6 man||4||73 x 47 x 48cm||32 kg||Inflatable (tunnel style)||Regular family camping||£1,000.00|
Do I Need A Footprint For My Tent?
Footprints are like an extra groundsheet for your tent. They can help to protect the groundsheet of your tent and prolong the life of it, but in all honesty, I’ve never used one. Tents are designed for the groundsheet to be right on the ground, mud and all, so you don’t need one.
Should you get one? That depends, if you are going to be camping on a really muddy field then I’d suggest it might be a good idea. If you want to keep your tent for as long as possible, then yes consider a footprint.
Many footprints are designed specifically for the tent you’ve purchased, but you can get some generic ones. The prices seem to range from around £30 up to around £80 with the average being around £50.
Do I Need A Tent Carpet For My Tent?
This is another type of ground saver, but it goes inside your tent rather than underneath it and, as the name suggests, it’s a carpet feel rather than a plastic groundsheet feel.
Tent carpets can be a good idea, and I would actually suggest they are. We’ve always used some kind of rug or blanket on the floor because they help to keep any spilt water or mud contained, especially in the porch area.
Proper tent carpets (soft top, waterproof, slightly rubbery backing to hold it in place) will set you back anything from £25-£90, the average here seems to be around £30-£40 depending on the size of the tent area.
Tent carpets and footprints are not necessary at all, but they might be a nice addition and may help to prolong the life of your tent.
Second to your tent, nailing your sleeping gear is vital, and there are two main parts to get right: bed and sleeping bag.
Sleeping bag size and shape
There are, broadly, two types of sleeping bags; mummy sleeping bags and envelope sleeping bags. Envelope sleeping bags usually give more room and come in a variety of sizes, colours, and warmth, but mummy sleeping bags are usually good for lightweight camping and come in a bigger range of weights and filling material.
A newer shape on the market is the ‘pod’ shape. These pod bags provide extra room for movement as envelope bags do, but a tapered end like a mummy.
Sleeping bag shape is a really personal choice, and some sleeping bags can be zipped together to create a double sleeping bag for a couple (or a singleton who just wants that extra room!). Personally, I prefer envelope sleeping bags as I like to sleep starfish, but it’s something you need to decide for yourself really.
As well as two distinct shapes, there are also two distinct fillings for a sleeping bag; synthetic and down (feather). Both have their pros and cons, synthetic bags retain their insulating properties if they get wet, but down sleeping bags can be much lighter and pack up much smaller.
Down is usually more expensive than synthetic, but you really shouldn’t scrimp. Get a good 3+ season sleeping bag and make sure it’s comfortable, a cold night will make for a miserable morning!
|Arpenaz 10°||Envelope||Synthetic||10 °C||£34.99|
|Arpenaz 0°||Envelope||Synthetic||0 °C||£64.99|
|Forclaz Trek 900 0°||Mummy||Down||0 °C||£119.99|
|Berghaus Transition 300||Mummy||Synthetic||2°C||£69.99|
|Pod Adult Sleeping Pod||Pod||Synthetic||0 °C||£45.00|
|OEX Leviathan EV 900||Mummy||Down||-16°C||£240.00|
Do I Need A Sleeping Bag Liner?
No, you really don’t need a sleeping bag liner, BUT they do give an extra layer of warmth to your sleeping bag. I would suggest taking one if you are camping in very cold conditions. They are very lightweight, easy to snuggle into and make a big difference.
Cotton sleeping bag liners will cost between £6 to £30 with the average being £10. Silk sleeping bag liners are more expensive (averaging around £60) but they will keep you warmer on cold nights.
Which Bed Should I Pick for Camping?
We actually did a whole blog on this topic which goes into a lot more detail, but generally, you’ll have a choice between a camp bed, an air bed, or a self-inflating mat. You can also get a foam mat, and these are always the cheapest option, but they are so hideously uncomfortable that I’m not even going to cover them!
Here’s a quick overview of each bed type and their average price:
- An air bed – available practically everywhere, very comfortable, around £10 for a single and £20 for a double. Warning: they are not very reliable, and they will go flat usually after the first or second trip.
- Self Inflating Mat (SIM) – Generally comfortable, can vary greatly in price and weight, retailing at around £15 to £50 for both singles and doubles. Usually very reliable.
- Self Inflating Mattresses – Generally very comfortable and much more reliable than air beds. Many come with memory foam tops and they are usually warmer than airbeds, but they are very heavy, very bulky and can vary wildly in price. Usually priced from around £40 to £150 for a single and around £100- £150 for a double.
- Camp Beds– Raised bed with feet, they can damage floors, and I personally find them quite uncomfortable. Many people use them with a self-inflating mat on top. Beds usually retail around £10 to £40 for a single and £30 to £75 for a double.
Food is important! It is also one of the things I really look forward to when I’m camping!
Preparing for camp cooking requires you to decide which type of stove to use. For most family campers, I’d suggest going for the portable aerosol gas stove, but if you’ll be doing more hiking style camping or you’ll be camping via public transport, then go for a cartridge stove instead.
You’ll also need to get the right gas, portable stoves need aerosol gas (around £2 to £3 per aerosol, all are 220g) and cartridge gas retails at around £2.99 for the smallest 150g up to around £6 for the biggest 470g cartridges. Cartridge stands are around £3.50 and you can swap them between cartridges easily.
It’s important that you get a fire extinguisher for your camp, and ideally a fire bucket and fire blanket too. A fire extinguisher will cost around £20 for a 1kg powder extinguisher and buckets come in all shapes and sizes (even a washing up bowl will do). Just be sure to fill it with water and leave it out so it can be easily grabbed if it’s ever needed.
Cooking Pots and Pans
For most people, you’ll be using a gas stove or a barbecue, but some sites will allow you to have a campfire. Campfire cooking is it’s own skill and requires its own gear, like cast iron or titanium pots, so we’ll park that option right now.
There are a few options for cooking pots and pans, and if it’s your first trip there is nothing wrong at all with taking a few pots and pans from home, saving you money!
Usually, I’d suggest getting a nesting set though, as these are easier to pack and designed for portable and cartridge gas stoves. They’re not very good on fire pits though! A nesting set of pots and pans does vary in price and many now come with plates and cutlery which is really useful!
You can pick up a very simple cheap 2 pan and 2 lid set for around £10, but we’d suggest spending a bit more and going for a full set for two or four people.
A cooking set for two people that includes bowls, plates, cups and cutlery costs around £35, and a 4 person cook set will cost around £45. It’s worth noting that most of the sets that include plates, cups and cutlery usually only have one pot and one pot lid that can be used as a frying pan, they don’t usually include a kettle but you can pick up a whistling kettle for as little as £6.
Food Cooling Options
You’ll want to pick up some kind of cool box or bag. Cool bags are definitely not as good as cool boxes, and within the realms of cool boxes, the quality varies wildly.
£20 will get you a standard cool box (cooler) that will keep things cool for a couple of days, but £60 and above will get you a 2 in 1 cool box that will act more like a fridge!
Check out our blog on how to keep milk cold when you’re camping without electricity for some great tips on improving the cooling abilities of your cheaper cool box.
Other Cooking Gear You May Want
Cooking can be done simply with just pots and pans, but it makes it a lot easier if you have a few utensils and some knives. I’d always suggest going for some sheathed knives as these will be safer when you’re packing up.
Here’s a quick rundown of how much these things cost, but remember most of these can be brought from home on your first trip so they may not be completely necessary.
- Camping utensils set– £16
- A collapsible colander and chopping board – combo – £10
- A sheathed knife set – £16
As we discussed above, you can get nesting cooking sets that include plates, cups and cutlery, but sometimes you want to pick up your own.
I’m really on the fence with these bits, I tend to use Sistema stuff because they are really durable and most of the bowls and cups come with lids, however, I am moving more towards recycled plastics, bamboo and wheat straw rather than straight plastic as it’s more environmentally friendly.
Here are a few options for eating gear you may want to pick up:
- Cup with handle (hot or cold drinks) – Around £2
- 25 piece picnic set for 4 people (4x cups, 4x plates 4x bowls, 4x knife, fork and spoon in 1 large bowl with a lid, all eco-friendly plastics) – £14
- Reusable coffee cup with silicone sleeve and lid – £5
I was debating whether or not lighting needed its own section, but I think it really does.
You’ll need to take a torch with you, that much is fairly obvious, but there are a LOT of torches, lanterns, lights, garlands, and lamps to choose from, so I thought I’d give you a quick overview of each type.
Lighting Power Options
Torches and other lighting options usually run off of either replaceable batteries (usually AA or AAA size) or off of USB power, you can also get lights that are dynamo (wind up) or solar-powered too.
Personally, I like the USB powered lighting, but I like to have one dynamo option on me too just in case my USB powered light goes out of power and I can’t charge it. Traditionally, dynamo and solar torches haven’t been particularly reliable for ongoing light, but they are good in a pinch!
This is a brief introduction to the type of lights you can get, some of these lighting options will be battery powered, some USB and some dynamo or solar, and some you’ll find are a hybrid of the two!
- Torch – Torches (or flashlights for our American friends) are usually handheld and usually fairly small. They provide a beam of light wherever the light is shone. You can pick up a torch for around £8.
- Headlamp/head torch – I really like headlamps! They are so useful! Essential, they are the same as torches, just stuck to your head, which makes them a great hands-free option! You can pick up a simple head torch for around £10 or less, but a better one will be around £15 and upwards of over £100 for a very specialist one.
- Lantern or lamp – I advocate having at least one lantern in your camp or your tent because it gives a nice ambient light and means you don’t need everyone sitting there with a headlight on! Lanterns vary wildly in price but you can pick up a simple lantern for around £2.50 right up to £50 for a specialist version. The average price is around £5 to £15.
- String Lights or Fairy Lights – String lights or fairy lights can be lovely for ambience but don’t usually give off a lot of light. I’d suggest picking up some solar-powered or battery-powered ones and using them inside your porch area. They can be really good for finding your way when you need a late-night loo trip! You can pick up fairy lights from all kinds of shops, they cost anything from £1 right up to over £20.
- Decorative Lights – decorative lights are really up to you. They range from solar lights to guy rope lights (not a bad idea!) and 10 foot LED rainbow lights. All that I’d say here is consider your fellow campers, turn them off at a reasonable time if they are really bright and don’t shine them into other people’s tents.
For most camping trips, I would suggest everyone have their own headlamp, either battery-powered or USB powered, and you pick up one or two lanterns. Lanterns are good for a nice ambient light when you’re sitting around the tent in the evening.
If you’ve got everything listed above down on your list or in your car ready to go, then you’re in a great place to go camping.
Here are another few bits that can make a camping trip more comfortable, but these are definitely not required but they can make your camping experience a little more comfortable.
- Camping Pillows – There are a few camping options, inflatable pillows retail for around £5 to £15, and flannel non-inflatable pillows retail anywhere from £2 right up to over £30, with the average for a decent one being about £15.
- Sunscreen – Up to you, we recommend Jason’s, £14.99
- Insect repellent – We HIGHLY recommend Smidge, £8.50
- Water bottles/carriers – Any bottle will do, supermarkets usually sell 5L bottles for around £1 to £2.
- Washing up bowl – Free (take it from home)
- Washing Up Liquid – we recommend Ecover, £1.75
- Tea Towels – Free (take them from home)
- Can Opener – Free (take it from home)
- Extra Batteries – 12 pack for £6
- Portable batteries – We recommend Xiaomi portable batteries, go for a 10,000mah (£15 to £20) or a 20,000mah battery (£20 to £50) as it will last for weeks and keep everyone’s devices charged!
- Table – Always useful around camp, you can usually pick one up for around £15 for a small table (suitable for 2 people) and £30 to £35 for a larger family table.
- Chairs – Camping chairs are notoriously rubbish. You can pick up the rubbish ones for around £9 each and slightly better ones retail for £50 and over. We’ve never found any camping chair to be particularly good to be honest and tend to just buy the cheap ones and use them until they inevitably break. If you want a really good chair, go for a fishing chair, but they will usually cost you upwards of £50.
- Bin – Any will do, at the very least take a black bag.
- Inflatable sofa – Absolutely not a requirement, but lots of people seem to love them! The only one I’ve found is around £125, but I know some people who got theirs from Aldi’s Special Buys isle for as little as £30!
How To Save Money On Camping Gear
If you’ve read all of this way (well done you) and you are sitting there thinking “this is so expensive!” then please don’t be put off. There are lots of ways to save money on camping gear, but it might mean being a bit creative with your purchasing!
The best way to save money is to borrow! Ask around your friends and family to see if anyone goes camping and wouldn’t mind lending you some gear. This is perfect for your first trip because you can try it out to see if you like it first (and we think you will!).
You might want to buy your own sleeping bags at minimum, especially as these can be versatile anyway such as for sleepovers or to leave in the car during the winter.
Using Things From Home
Don’t be afraid to use things from home, everything from pillows to duvets, even chairs and cooking pots, pans, plates, utensils and cutlery. Camping specific things are all well and good, but not entirely necessary.
There really is nothing taking things you want to from home and this will save you some money in the short term.
Shop In The Sales
Finding bargains in the sales is a GREAT way to save a small fortune on your camping kit, especially if you buy end of line things or end of season things. If you’re reading this article in the late summer or early autumn then get out there and go shopping!
Most camping stores begin to reduce their prices around mid-August, but many supermarkets will have a brief collection of camping gear for only a few weeks so it’s worth checking. Aldi and Lidl are great places to get bargain camping supplies (especially things like tables, cutlery, outdoor games, etc) but their special purchase areas only stock camping gear for a few weeks at most.
Buy Second Hand
eBay and Facebook Marketplace are great places to pick up bargain camping supplies. If you’re going to get your tent from either place it’s really recommended that you see it up first, and the same with self-inflating mats and air beds, but most other gear you should be ok with.
The best time to look for second-hand stuff is either at the end of the season (September time in the UK) or after a particularly rainy horrible weekend in the summer!