How Much Does Camping Cost? From FREE to Fancy

Wondering how much does camping cost? Examples provided with a FREE option. No Excuses. How much does the camping cost in 2020? If you’re new to the outdoors or maybe took a long break off as life got busy, you’re probably wondering, how much does camping costs these days?

I have some good news and I have some bad news regarding costs. The good news, you can literally camp for free. Yep, free. From where you sleep to what you eat, camping can be totally free. Now, is it the most comfortable and tasty way to camp? No, it’s not. However, if that has you worried or money doesn’t matter, then camping for you can also be luxurious. I’m talking about luxurious celebrity status.

But what about where most of us stand? You know, somewhere in the middle?

Let’s take a look, in this breakdown we will go over camping costs, from free to fancy, let’s pack it up and go!

What We Will Look At:

  1. Free Camping
  2. Average Joe Camping
  3. Fancy Camping

So, How Much Does Camping Cost?

Free Camping: 

When looking at options to see how much camping costs, let’s start with the best, in my opinion, free camping. Free camping is honestly my favorite. Now don’t get me wrong, you’re gonna miss out on some basic camping fun. Free camping starts with a free tent sitting in front of your house. Yep, go take a look, it’s out there right now. You know it, it’s your vehicle! I have slept many great camping trips in the camper shell of my truck. Just toss in some bedding and a pillow, you’ve got your sleeping setup, complete with walls, a roof, and its even lockable!

Food won’t be fancy, just grab what in the pantry of your house, leftovers, a bag of chips, some granola bars, some water filled at home and your set! Food done, and free(ish) you bought it at some point, hopefully.

How to Locate a Free Camping Area

Choosing where you camp is one of the most fun parts of free camping. Free public Land camping will be the way to go. Download the Ultimate Campground App or Campendium App to your phone and you can filter mapped results by how much camping costs, amenities, and more.

From the Bureau of Land Management to State Lands and National Forests. Almost all of these have what’s referred to as a “dispersed” campaign which essentially means it’s raw land and you can sleep there, well, camp there. Sometimes, there will be guidance about how far of the designated path you can park your vehicle. In addition, some public land will only allow camping where there are fire pits established (but still free!) More on how to locate these campgrounds here on How To Locate Free Public Land Camping Area.

Activities: Go for a Hike, Mountain Bike, observe wildlife or just hang out at your camp and relax. You’ve gotten away from it all back in the city, time to enjoy it.

ShelterVehicleFoodGrab what already have at homeCampgroundPublic Land Free Dispersed CampingActivitiesHike, Bike, Observe Wildlife and RelaxHow Much Does Camping Cost: Free 99 Baby!

Middle of the Road, Average Joe Camping:

This is the category where most of us fall into. We’re not rich, we’re not looking to sleep in our vehicle and we want a damn S’more before we rack out for the night. For this setup, you will have the most options.

Your tent/shelter set up will most likely be a Tent. Tent camping is the tried and true camping experience. If you didn’t know, most tent ratings for size are not accurate. A good rule of thumb is to reduce the rating by 1 from the advertised rating. For example, a “4 Person” tent will likely fit 2-3 comfortably, 4 will be very cramped.

The average price for a decent tent will run you around $100-$300. This one is a good option with over 3,000 positive reviews on Amazon that I think would be fine for most, check it out. Can you spend more or less? Yes, but this is the pretty standard price to expect to pay for a tent that will get the job done for the recreational family campers.

Camping Food On A Budget

A quick run to the grocery store beforehand to grab basics like burgers, hotdogs, buns, ice for the cooler and S’more ingredients will run you around $50-$100. Again, you can really spend more here on alcohol, steaks, and pre-packaged firewood.

However, the average run for “basics” will run you around $50-$100. Campgrounds are plentiful for the average joe camper. From private campgrounds with pools, to state park campgrounds with limited services. In this range, you can expect to pay around $15-$30 for a tent site per night. Again, the apps mentioned above are a big help in narrowing out local options.

Activities are also fairly open here. Most will do the free ones mentioned above. However, if you feel like spending in this category, you have options. If you spend a little, you will have some great options. For example, can take a guided tour of a National Park, Rent a UTV for some epic off-roading, grab some camp games from the store, or toss that money into other activities like seeing how many beers you can down before someone calls the Park Rangers on you.

The world is yours champ!

ShelterTent: $150*
FoodGrocery Run: $100
Campground FeesPrivate or State Park: $25/night
Paid Activities (Optional)Vary: $100-$600
How Much Does Camping Cost: Average Joe

* Tent fee is a ONE Time fee, you won’t pay that the next time you’re out, you own it, baby!

Fancy Campers: 

I wouldn’t know what this is like, but some of you reading this can do as you please and money isn’t an object. For you, let’s take a look. Really, this gets crazy if you look into options. How about shelter, whats a fancy camper using for shelter?. Ever heard of an EarthRoamer? I fantasize about these things and I’ve passed by a few on trails out in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah. These beautiful beats are true luxury “RV’s”. I hate to even call them RV’s. A traditional RV you think of is a boxy white trailer pulled behind a pickup truck.

Traditional RV’s run around $25-$50K and give you basic home-like features (bed, bathroom, shower, fridge, etc). Also, RV’s can’t really go off-grid due to ground clearance and other size issues, that’s not much fun. An EarthRoamer on the other hand is a masterpiece of looks and capability.

However, these bad boys will run you around $400-$500k, therefore, its a rolling mortgage. But again, if you’re looking at getting one, you’re probably not worried about the price. Maybe you’re not the RV type, maybe you want to AirBnB a luxury cabin. There are several luxury options for example, cabins on AirBnB, but they will run you a few hundred a night.

Food: Well, again, how far do you want to take this? You could have meals delivered to your campground for around $75 or you could bring along your personal chef. I suppose there’s really no limit. Activities are also endless, rent horses at a dude ranch, take a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon and bring along a photographer to capture it all. The bottom line, if you want to go fancy, you can go FANCY. 

Shelter$500/night to $500K for a EarthRoamer
Food$500 to $5,000
CampgroundSee above at Shelter.
Activities$3,000 to $$$
How Much does camping cost: Level Fancy

One group in the middle we didn’t go over is the average family RV camping. However, that’s a whole other series (coming in hot soon!) because it ranges from used to new, popups to 5th Wheels and everything in between. Well get to that category soon, I promise.


In conclusion, you don’t need to have money, it’s truly anyone’s hobby and as it should be. That’s it! Excuses are over! Get out there and camp. No matter what your budget is, you can go camp!

Mike is a Colorado resident, a combat veteran, and a former Police Officer, and an avid outdoorsman. Mike has camped, hiked, and Overlanded all over the United States. From backpack Elk Hunts on Public Land, solo truck camping to Multi-week Overlanding adventures with his family, Mike is very familiar with these outdoor topics.

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