We went camping last weekend for the first time in a few months (and glamping on Orcas Island back in May hardly counts). It is one of our favorite ways to travel frugally, and we actually tend to go more often over the winter. The weather isn’t as nice, but off-season travel means lower costs and fewer people.

July, though, is just about peak season for camping and for heading over to the Olympic Peninsula on the ferry. My husband ended up working Thursday night late and got Friday off in trade, so he and my son hopped in the truck and got to the ferry line in late morning while I took our dog to another follow up vet appointment.

I was able to meet them over at the ferry at about 12:30pm, right before they got on the boat. Even showing up that early they had an hour wait, which had ballooned to three hours by the time I arrived. My friend Purple and her partner joined us on the trip as well, and they also met us at the truck right before we loaded onto the ferry. We headed home early on Sunday, and were able to catch the next ferry home.

There are no reservations on the Edmonds – Kingston ferry run and they load on a first come, first served basis (and the run some of the largest boats in the ferry system). We had to plan ahead for the ferry waits – something we don’t have to do over the winter – but it was nothing like our last experience leaving Orcas Island.

The ferries and the crowds are definitely something to contend with for summer camping, but the weather was glorious and there’s something about not needing to bundle up or dry out to go to sleep that’s pretty great. Plus we were able to get up to Hurricane Ridge for the first time ever, and it was every bit as magical as I had hoped.

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Hurricane Ridge is magic

Friday’s Frugal Five

1. As always when we go camping, we prepped meals ahead of time and packed the cooler for the weekend. We cook up bacon and sausage up ahead of time to eat for breakfast along with some yogurts and we brought some cheese and other easy snacks as well as some steaks from our annual quarter cow purchase earlier this summer.

Since it’s summertime and the garden is producing in earnest, the kiddo and I also picked a good amount of blueberries, tomatoes, snap peas, and green beans to take on the trip to pad out the meals.

On our way out last minute, my dad offered us an eight pound king salmon that he had caught that week. I’ve since learned that they retail for $32 – $42 / pound, which blew my mind a little bit. Everyone else ate well that night; too bad I don’t like most fish, including salmon.

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Forgot the cedar plant, so no charcoal grilling

2. Since there were five of us along for the trip, we all packed into the truck and carpooled in for the weekend. Whenever possible, we try to cut down on the number of vehicles we take out for a weekend, which saves both the monetary and environmental cost of gas. When we’re taking a ferry, it saves even more because each vehicle is charged extra.

3. We knew the campground we were staying at had free firewood, so we didn’t bring any along with us. We had a campfire Saturday night and roasted marshmallows, but we didn’t have to pay for the cost of the fire since everything was provided.

When we are going somewhere that doesn’t provide firewood – which is most places – we bring a couple bundles of our own. Firewood purchased in small amounts usually costs anywhere from $5 – $7 per bundle, and one night’s fire will take one or two of them. Planning ahead saves us a bit more by bringing our own, which is usually given to us from different sources.

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View from the fire pit

4. We bring all reusable cups, plates, and silverware when we go camping as well as cloth napkins. Disposable kitchenware might not be terribly expensive, but the cost does add up if you camp with any regularity, and environmentally we camp just like the way we do regular life, with as little waste as possible.

Oftentimes, you have to pack out your own garbage anyway, so reducing the amount of trash you create in the first places helps a lot when you’re getting ready to pack up and go home.

Even if the campground does have trash cans for full garbage bags, they usually aren’t very large and get full easily, so it’s best to create as little trash as possible to support the continued operations of the campground. And then of course, if we are dispersed camping, we have to pack in and out everything because there are no facilities at all.

Ultimately, many of the same tips I have for traveling sustainably in an Airbnb or hotel transfer over to similar advice when camping.

5. This isn’t exactly a frugal win perhaps, but we like to fully unplug when we go camping. Many times a camp site won’t have cell service or WiFi, but if it does, I like to put my phone onto airplane mode and pretend. Since we had last been to this campground, they added WiFi, which I purposefully ignored (I’m not perfect though, and did hop onto Twitter a couple of times through the weekend). Otherwise, my phone was used to read a book on my kindle and take photos only.

Much like being offline means you can’t make any online purchases, camping removes us from the temptation of spending money in general. Once we pack in our food, we are set for the weekend in terms of spending. Again, except for lunch in Port Angeles after Hurricane Ridge on this trip, but we all made a purposeful choice to stop instead of heading all the way back to camp. On weekends we don’t leave the camping area, we don’t spend any money at all.

Exercise Update

Friday was the day out to the campground, and I easily got in a decent amount over my 12,000 step goal that day. Saturday was our drive out to Hurricane Ridge and a hike while we were up there, so I ended that day over 20,000 steps.

Sunday was a walk with my grandmother and sister when I picked up my car on the way home from camping. Monday I ended up getting home before my husband and the kiddo after my dog’s vet appointment, so I jumped on the chance for a short run.

Tuesday was our carpool in day, so I walked to and from preschool to work and ended the day north of 25,000 steps. Wednesday morning was another run, which was a lot cooler and more pleasant than the one Monday afternoon.

Do you go camping? What’s your favorite frugal hack when you go?

14 thoughts on “Friday’s Frugal Five (Summer Camping Edition)

  1. I like your husband’s shirt! We go camping a lot when there’s not snow on the ground – got an RV to be able to escape the PNW summer wildfire smoke. Now that we’re in Wyoming, we’re able to camp in the nearby Medicine Bow National Forest and enjoy clean air every day 🙂

  2. I loved seeing your photo from Hurricane Ridge! Definitely gave us hiking envy, in the best way possible, of course 🙂

    We love camping for a more frugal family adventure, but we have been surprised lately by how steep camping prices have gotten! Many campsites in California are often now as expensive as staying in a cheap motel. My brother decided he wanted to get married in Carmel this summer, where every hotel room is at least $200+ per night for the bare minimum. We thought we would be genius and grab a cheap campsite somewhere along Hwy 1, and everything we found was listed between $75-100! At that rate, it’s better for us to just find somewhere to park our SUV and sleep in the back on a mattress, or find a cheap motel far away. Are trends going the same way up in Washington?

    Either way, glad you got to enjoy a lovely little getaway! Marshmallow roasting is the best!

    Elise

    1. Wow, that is PRICEY! I’d say the average around here is about $35-$50, with a few places cheaper and almost nothing over $60 for a fancy resort type campground.

  3. Wow! Looks like a beautiful camping trip! Thank you for sharing photos. I am glad you all enjoyed yourselves and had delicious food to boot! My boyfriend lives on a farm and I love to visit him, enjoy the outdoors and the animals and avoid any temptation to shop, too!! 🙂

    1. Camping is definitely our favorite way to do a cheap vacation. And the kiddo would LOVE to live on a farm 😉

  4. My favourite frugal camping hack is one you touched on — bringing meals. It took us SO long to get in the habit of actually doing this but man, does it ever make a difference! We went for a little cabin getaway last weekend and planned all our meals so they would work in our regular grocery budget — made a huge difference! We’re heading on another trip in the fall and while we will do some eating out, we’ll also plan to pick up items at the grocery store and prepare some meals on our own.

    Re: firework. Is it normal for a place to not provide it? Mostly curious, as most of my camping experiences have been in places where bringing your own isn’t allowed, mostly due to concerns about introducing non-native inspects and pests. It’s very possible, though, this is an Atlantic Canada thing.

    1. We definitely took some time getting a routine down and figuring out what were the best meals to bring with us. And some places have firewood you have to buy (or require you buy it in the area), so bringing our own is really dependent on where we go.

  5. Thanks for the read, Angela! Always enjoy your writing and story telling. After reading this post, I realized I do miss campfires and being in those outdoor environments. I haven’t been camping in nearly 10 years, but you offer some great suggestions here. Admittedly, the disconnecting from my phone would be challenging now. But I would just resort to using it for photography like you mentioned.

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