Now that the economy is well into a downturn, Families are looking towards the annual summer vacation with some changes from the usual Disney trip or Cruise or whatever may have been planned in the past. Camping as a family vacation fits into almost everyone's budget and you don't have to travel that far do do it with style and with some creature comforts. Most of all, a great camping trip can bring the family closer together like other vacations can't. You have to rely on family members to help get things done around camp like collecting firewood or setting up the tent, and for some reason, everyone likes to cook around camp. Nothing relaxes the body like a little fishing trip or making smores around the campfire. So you wonder, what is this initial camping purchase going to cost? Here are some costs for equipment you will need for a family of four.
First off you are going to need a tent. Most large retailers like Target or Walmart carry some decent family sized tents (8 person tents sleep 4 and leave ample room for clothes and other camping items) around $100. This may be one of the items you may not want to skimp on. A good tent can last for a years and usually you get what you pay for. Also, don't wait until you get to the camp to set up your tent for the first time. get the family into it early and set it up and break it down before you go on your trip. This will give you a better idea of how much room you will have when you get it set up at the campsite.
Check out REI's Expert Advice on buying a family tent before you buy.
Cost $140 ~ Total Cost $140
Most people camp during the summer months in Arizona to escape the heat of the valley. Night temperatures aren't too much of a concern during the hot months but a good sleeping bag can be the most important thing that you buy if you camp in the winter or early spring or late fall, so do your homework on this one. You can get a good sleeping bag for around $40 - $50 at most retailers.
Check out REI's Expert Advice on choosing a sleeping bag before you buy.
Cost $200 ~ Total Cost $ 340
When the sun goes down, you are going to need light around the campsite. Flashlights just don't do the job. You are going to need a lantern. There are many types of lanterns including propane, kerosene, white gas, electric or hand crank rechargeable. Your average lantern should run you about $35 - $40 including mantles. Add another $8 for camping gas that also can double as fuel for your camping stove.
Check out REI's Expert Advice on choosing a Lantern before you buy.
Cost $48 ~ Total Cost $388
You can make a judgement call about the size of the stove you might need (2 burner or 3 burner) but take this into account. If there are fire restrictions, and that happens quite often in Arizona, I would recommend a 3 burner stove. You can't cook on the fire grill at a campground when there is a fire restriction in place. So let's say you are planning breakfast for the family and you are getting some coffee going (1 burner) cooking bacon or sausage (1 burner) and then scrambling some eggs (1 burner). this simple breakfast will keep you from having hot coffee if you only have a 2 burner stove. I personally have a 2 burner and use it creatively when prepping meals and do something like cook the bacon or sausage into the eggs and make breakfast burritos. Any way you look at it, if you plan on camping often, go ahead and buy the 3 burner, you will thank me later. You can find the legendary coleman 2 or 3 burner stove at any outdoor gear retailer for about $60 for the two burner or $140 for the 3 burner. If you want some serious cooking power, try out the CampChef Deluxe Outdoor Cooker at Cabelas for $270.
Cost $140 ~ Total Cost $528
To keep things cool, you are going to need a cooler. For a family of four, the size of your cooler will depend on how long you are planning to camp. If your trip is going to be a week long adventure, go for the big one. You should be able to find a great 100+ Qt cooler for around $80 at Target or Walmart. I always bring two coolers, one for food with "Blue Ice" freezer blocks and a chunk of dry ice wrapped in cardboard (you can usually get dry ice at your local grocery store) to keep things cold and another to keep soda, beer and other beverages that I fill with ice. The key to keeping your food cold is don't open the cooler unless you have to. Another trick is to freeze some 16 oz. water bottles and put those between items. Also, pre-chill beverages before you put them into the cooler. This will extend the cooling life of your cooler.
Cost $80 ~ Total Cost $608
So, for around $600 you can get most of your essential gear for a great camping adventure. The best thing about this is that if you keep your equipment in good condition, these items should last 5 years or more.