For the most part, adventuring in nature is FREE! You can find open air, green grass, and hiking trails almost anywhere. Yet, there seem to be a lot of accessories and extras and bonuses that make adventuring, especially travel, cost more than a pretty penny. I'm a minimalist and also nearly debt-free; I have not used credit cards in two years and pay for everything with real money and savings. Suffice it to say, I'm pretty mindful about where I spend my money. I've put together some tips on how you can enjoy all that the great outdoors has to offer without breaking the bank.
1. Research. The best tool you have at your disposal to save money is by far research. Use the interwebs to find free trail systems, free campgrounds, low-cost travel options, and scenic locales nearby famous attractions that are a fraction of the cost to enjoy. Research, research, research!
2. Join Facebook groups. There are Facebook groups out there for all types of activities "___ with your dog." I'm in the group Hiking With Dogs, and the knowledge base is huge! Find local meetups, get insider tips on destinations, and save money by splitting costs within a community. It's a great way to meet people and get quality information very quickly. If you like hiking with your pooch, I lead a free guided hike in the Twin Cities MN area every month.
3. Buy an annual parks pass. Yes, I'm going to recommend you buy something. Buying an annual pass vs a day pass has huge savings when you look at all the visits you'll have in a year. For example, my Minnesota State Parks and Trails annual pass is $25 whereas a day pass is $5. Five bucks may seem great, but what if you want to go camping later? Or go hiking again? It adds up fast. Plus, what I've noticed about getting an annual pass is that I'm giving myself permission to adventure more! I end up hiking and camping and exploring more than if I get a day pass every time because it's already paid for!
4. Camp vs Hotel. WAY cheaper! Make it a real adventure and do some good old-fashioned camping in the great outdoors. At most, you're looking at around $25 for a well-developed campground with showers and facilities. A hotel is going to be $100/night on average. Plus, camping is fun!
5. Tent Camp vs RV. It may be cushy to camp in an RV, and maybe you say I'll rent one rather than buy one, but if you want to save significant dough go with a tent instead. You can make tents VERY comfortable. Heard of glamping?
6. Explore State/National Forests vs State/National Parks. Here's a fun tip. State and National Forests are almost as prevalent as State/National Parks, but they are a fraction of the cost. You can usually enter most state and national forests at no charge, and if you choose to camp it's significantly less than staying at a state or national park. The reason being there are fewer amenities, but it also means there are fewer people, kids, and noise. Highly recommend finding a map of your state and exploring some forests! Here's an article comparing the two types of campgrounds.
7. Used Gear Websites & Craigslist. There is no bigger investment than gear, and this can easily be the place where most people slip in their budget. I know that if I walk into REI, it's going to take a lot of self-control to walk out with only what I planned on getting. There are some awesome used gear websites out there where you can get very high quality, expensive gear for half off since someone used it for a year. I also recommend checking craigslist before making a big purchase. Usually, people buy outdoor gear and never use it! They want to get it out of their garage, and that means ridiculously low prices for like-new items! Win win. This goes for dog gear too!
8. Rent vs Buy. Renting an RV, or a canoe, or snowshoes, or a GPS is a completely viable option these days! People are realizing that buying equipment is a huge investment, and rental options are popping up everywhere. Most state parks offer equipment rental for a small fee. Outdoor Retail stores are another good place to look. I know REI often rents kayaks, paddles, and other equipment for adventures. The other bonus to renting versus buying? You don't have to store it!!
9. Embrace Community. Beg, borrow, or steal. Ok, don't steal. But you can definitely borrow! Borrow from neighbors, borrow from community groups, borrow from the good people of your Facebook groups. I bet if you put an inquiry out there, somebody will have a canoe in their backyard not being used, or a backpack in the garage gathering dust. You can probably borrow it for free! The other part about embracing community is going on group adventures. You will learn SO MUCH by going on a group camping trip, canoe adventure, or backpacking excursion. Many local county parks & rec departments, REI, and state parks offer group and guided services so you can experience something new without having to learn everything before you go. Excellent programs are out there for not much money! Want to try out an activity before investing in equipment? This is definitely the way to go. And you'll meet some friends along the way :)
10. Buy Quality. Yep, I'm suggesting that you spend MORE. When it comes to outdoor gear, quality goes a LONG way. Literally. Miles and miles or years and years. It lasts because it's built to last. If you want to buy, spend the extra and get the good stuff. Now, that doesn't mean go to the extreme and buy every ultra-lite backpacking item you can find. Choose the pieces that are significant to you (like boots!) and take your time making the purchase. When you get the good stuff, you'll be ever so thankful on the trail when they perform exceptionally well.
There you have it; my useful tidbits on savings money on adventures. There are so many more ideas out there! What other tips do you have? I'd love to hear in the comments below. Always looking for creative ways to save a dime!
want to get more involved? want more detailed info on adventuring with your dog? check out the Adventure Puppy Club here.