Start Camping for Under $150!

Posted by: | Posted on: June 3, 2015
Car Camping

Car camping means you can easily access gear from your car and can splurge on the amount of supplies you bring camping with you.

When I first dove into camping as an adult, I was shocked at how much money I was told I would need to invest in camping gear: tent ($250), sleeping bag ($150), sleeping pad ($120), etc, etc…

This just did not make any sense to me. How could sleeping in the outdoors cost more than staying in a 5 star hotel? How did all of these hippy camping types afford it? I knew there had to be a more affordable way. What I discovered was that when you ask incredibly experienced upper middle class campers what you need to camp, the answer tends to be much different than if you ask a 19 year old college student what you need to camp.

I’m going to approach this from the 19 year old point of view.  These items are also assuming you are car camping and not backpacking.  This means you can easily access gear from your car and do not need to concern yourself with getting the lowest weight gear.  As our article “Rule #1 to Enjoying the Outdoors” promised, I’m going to get you out in the wilderness and camping for under $150. Are you excited? Let’s go!

Keep in mind that these recommendations are based on warm weather camping. You obviously will need some more intense gear if you are striking out on the trail in the Rockies during November. The specific examples of gear I refer to in this article can all be purchased at Academy Sports and Outdoors. You can purchase these items in store or online at You can find similar items at or at other low cost outdoor supply stores.  Each item name is linked to a webpage with full specs and pricing shown.  You can also find all of these items on our Pinterest Board: Start Camping for Under $150.

We will be starting out with the essentials mentioned in our article, “Top 5 “Must Have” Items for your Camping Trip.”

  1. Examples of tentsShelter:  Academy Compass 3 Dome Tent ($26.99):  This tent can hold 2 adults and up to a queen size airbed very comfortable.  It comes with a rainfly, but you will need to purchase a tarp or footprint to lay under the tent.
  2. Footprint:  Academy 8′ x 10′ Polyethylene Tarp ($6.99):  This will help to protect the bottom of your tent from being damaged by rocks, twigs, or other debris that may be under your tent  You will want to fold the edges of the tarp under to fit just within the perimeter of the tent.  This will keep water from collecting on the tarp and pooling under your tent.
  3. Sleeping pad/airbed:  Intex Classic Downy Twin-Size Mattress ($8.99):  This is a great mattress for a single camper that will have access to an electrical or manual air pump.  It can be pumped up quickly using an inexpensive electrical pump.  A queen size airbed can be purchased for just $15.99.
  4. Air Pump:  Intex Quick-Fill Battery Air Pump ($9.99):  While this pump uses C-cell batteries, there are other options that plug into your vehicle or a wall outlet.  These pumps come with multiple nozzle sizes and can be used to pump air in as well as take air back out of your mattress, making setup and packup of your mattress very simple.
  5. Sleeping bag:  Timber Creek 3 lb. Sleeping Bag ($9.99):  This is a very basic warm weather sleeping bag to get your started camping.  Eventually, you will want to upgrade.
  6. Cooking sausage on a camp stoveCamp stove:  Magellan Outdoors Single Burner Stove ($19.99):  This simple stove system comes with a basic fuel canister.  While this is not the fastest model out there, it will get you going with a simple warm meal and some morning coffee or evening tea.
  7. Cooking utensils:  Texsport 24 oz. Enamelware Cup ($1.99) and Grip-on Tools 3-in-1 Camping Spork ($1.49):  Enamelware can withstand high temperatures and can be used directly in a campfire or on a stove.  The entire cup will become very hot, so be sure to protect your hands when removing the cup from the flame and to let the cup cool enough so that you don’t burn your lips.  The 3-in-1 spork is extremely versatile and inexpensive enough that you don’t miss it too much if you lose or break it.
  8. Daypack/Hydration Pack:  BCG 100 oz. Hydration Pack ($39.99):  This is a great pack for just about any dayhike you can plan.  It comes with plenty of room for snacks, first aid items, and sundries.  It also comes with a 100 oz. water reservoir that holds 3/4 of a gallon or 3 liters of water.
  9. NEO members showing headlampsHeadlamp:  Cyclops Ranger XP Quad Mode (126 lumens) LED Headlamp ($16.99):  A great headlamp is a must.  Headlamps are preferred because you can use them hands free when necessary.  When shopping for a headlamp, don’t cheap out.  Yes, you will find various options for as little as $5, but you get what you pay for.  You want something with at least 90 lumens so you can see more than 2 feet in front of you in the dark.  Also, choose a model that has red or green light modes to protect the eyes of those you share camp with.
  10. Camp Chair:  Academy Logo Armchair ($5.99):  Sitting around a campfire is a lot more enjoyable when you’re in a comfy camp chair complete with cup holder.  You may want to upgrade eventually, but this simple seating solution will get you started.

Get these items in your outdoor arsenal, and you will be all set to start camping.  You’ll also be well on your way to becoming an outdoor superstar!  Take it step by step, learn as you go, and make sure you concentrate on having fun…not keeping up with the people who always have to use the latest and greatest equipment.

You can always update your outdoor gear piece by piece as you get a few extra dollars to spend.  However, I can honestly tell you that these items are still exactly what I use when car camping.  Don’t break the bank.  Just get outside and enjoy some quality time with nature.  Now, come out and play!

NEO members playing in Fern Valley


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