Frugal Traveler

Camping makes for thrifty travel

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceDecember 8, 2012 

It may be getting a bit cold in northern climes, but camping is still a comfortable option in many parts of the world. Paired with bargain air fares, camping can make an extremely affordable accommodation option for independent travelers. Here are a handful of things to take into consideration.

Lists: With all of the bits and bobs necessary for tent assembly, power access, cooking and on-the-road problem solving, having a checklist or two can keep camping chaos from spiraling out of control. For instance, knowing how many tent poles and stakes are in the kit, and making sure you double count them as you’re packing up to head to the next camping location can save you significant travel stress if you arrive after the camping and hardware stores are closed for the night. Other helpful lists to have on hand include cooking equipment, food supplies, clothing to accommodate temperature changes and navigational aids.

Lots: For vacations where remote waterfall access, wildlife photography and wilderness are the intended focus, plenty of free and affordable back country permit options exist. However, if you will need to stay wired for work and family communications, choosing a campground with developed lots is probably a good idea. Charged cell phones and laptop batteries are worth their weight in gold when you’re operating professionally from the road, and those are only possible on camping vacations when utilities are available. Many venues can offer both running water and electricity at each site, with Wi-Fi becoming more prevalent as well. If your site has a picnic table, fire pit and nearby trash receptacle, that will greatly reduce the number of items you need to bring along, such as a place to set up your food supplies and a portable campfire stand. It also helps if your location is somewhat wooded, as shade can be a sought-after commodity when you are roughing it in hot weather.

Luxury: It doesn’t take more than a single night on rocky ground to remind me that I no longer have the spine of a 20-year-old. Fortunately, air mattresses with easily-activated inflation devices are available in the camping sections of most basic department stores. My husband and I recently purchased one from Coleman that came with one fabric-coated side to reduce the stickiness factor that comes with skin-to-plastic contact. We also never camp without our French press, which provides a smooth gourmet coffee with nothing more than grounds and the hot water we’re able to boil on our camping stove.

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