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Camping is itself an affordable way to have a holiday, but if you're investing in all the latest gear, it can still work out on the pricey side. Save your cash with these money-saving tips and tricks, and you can enjoy the great outdoors without breaking the bank.
Most campers will tell you that the one thing you shouldn't scrimp on is the tent. It's advisable to get one that's bigger than you need, and if you're going for a week or two, one that you can stand up in. High quality tents don't come cheap, particularly if you're taking the whole family, but you can save money by buying secondhand. Try your local free ads paper, or the likes of Gumtree or Trade-it and see what you can find, or go to a specialist site such as recycleoutdoorgear.com, where campers can buy, sell or trade used gear that's in good nick.
An idea for seasoned campers or those that can do without the facilities of your average pay-for campsite is to try wild camping. There are many glorious spots throughout the UK and Ireland where you can simply turn up, pitch up, and enjoy all nature has to offer, provided you stick to the designated areas and are considerate and careful about your surroundings. From the Lake District to Dartmoor, wild camping allows you to get away from other campers if you so wish, so try Pitchup.com or Thehappycampers.co.uk to see where you're free to pitch your tent.
If you're heading off for longer than a weekend, it's important to be as comfortable as possible, and that means taking some essentials to make life easier. A large storage box can be brought reasonably cheaply from the big DIY stores, and means you can keep all your cooking gear, cutlery and crockery in one place. Similarly, they're perfect for getting all the washing up together so you don't have to make several trips to a water source.
A roll mat is another key comfort item, and in this case it pays to either pay a little extra, or opt for an airbed, which can be bought for as little as £9.99 for a single from Argos. A decent night's sleep will mean you can fully enjoy the holiday, after all. Reflective foil blankets placed underneath your airbed or roll mat will add an extra layer of insulation and a cheap addition to your kit at just £4.29 for five from Amazon.
Part of the fun of camping is doing without all those creature comforts you might have at home, and with a little imagination and creativity, you'll be amazed at how you can come up with DIY solutions to make life that bit easier without the bulk or expense.
For instance, if you have some candles you can melt down before your getaway, dip some cotton pads in the melted wax and let them dry to create a small but effective firestarter. If you want to play music but don't want to splash out on portable speakers, hold onto that styrofoam takeaway coffee cup you picked up on the way, and simply pop your mobile phone inside to pump up the volume a little.
In the comfort department, find some old bedsheets and sew them together to form a sleeping liner. Not only are they small to and light to pack, they'll keep the washing of sleeping bags to a minimum, and add an extra layer of insulation.
And finally, if you're tired of the same old beans and sausages over the campfire, be sure to pack tinfoil. You'd be amazed what you can cook up on the fire with a little foil knowhow. Search online for recipes for inspiration.
Apps for entertainment
These days the majority of us take our smartphones everywhere, and they can prove useful for family campers who may have to deal with bored children. For example, Geocaching Intro is free to download, and this real world treasure hunt will keep the whole family occupied for hours.
Project Noah is a great one for the kids, as it allows them to snap pictures of any interesting wildlife they see. Upload the picture to the app and you'll get a message identifying and telling you more about the critter or creature within 24 hours. And if you're lucky with the weather and get a few clear nights, why not check out the Planets app, which guides star-gazers through the solar system in 3D?
Are you a thrifty camper? What tips have you got for saving money on a break in the great outdoors? Leave your comments below...