By the time I finished my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2013, I had come to think of my tent as a home. I had also gotten really comfortable with the idea of sleeping on the ground and going without a shower, but still showing up for an event as if nothing were amiss. So from that point on, I’ve searched for campsites wherever I travel. The amount I’ve saved has already paid for my tent and then some.
Case #1 San Bernardino Wedding, August 2016
My friends John and Jen were having a Sunday wedding at Arrowhead Lake, a beautiful location in the San Bernardino Mountains of California. A bunch of my friends wanted to share a rental house that was a short drive from the reception… at $75 per person Saturday night and $125 per person Sunday night. Yowza. Craig and I decided to compromise by partying with our buddies on Saturday, but finding a campsite for Sunday night. We paid $23 for a campsite at North Shore, California and, unlike the rental house, it was walking distance from the reception! Hello headlamps, goodbye designated drivers! We set up our tent before the ceremony, found a place to stash our hiking clothes and shoes at the reception, and boogied into the night. Then we had a starlit stroll back to the campsite, which saved us $227 and allowed us to leave a sense of wonder and confusion among the other wedding guests.
Case #2 Trip to Hawai’i, Hawaii, March 2018
Craig racked up a bunch of airline miles in 2017 by traveling for work, so we decided to take a 4 day trip to the Big Island. We landed at 10 PM on a Wednesday and opted to stay in a hotel room that night after picking up our rental car ($230 plus parking – Boooo!). We had some beach and hiking time on Thursday, then set up our tent at the Namakanipaio Campground in Volcano National Park for $10 + park entrance fee ($25 if you left your annual National Parks pass at home like we did). When it got dark out, we strapped on our headlamps and walked a half mile to the Kilauea Crater for a nighttime view of the hot lava lake. What a unique experience that literally no hotel can offer.
We climbed Mauna Kea on Friday, then drove down to Hilo for dinner and a place to sleep. Once again, we looked for a spot to set up our tent and found one at Arnott’s Lodge for $35. This time we even got to take a shower! We’re so fancy.
On Saturday we climbed Mauna Loa and made use of our camping gear a final time by obtaining a permit to stay in the cabin on top of the mountain, which cost only $10 for both of us (808.985.6178). Once again, I can’t express how special it was to spend the night on top of Hawaii, with a beautiful display of stars in the evening and a breathtaking sunrise in the morning. You simply can’t find a hotel that provides this experience; not even for a thousand dollars.
All in all, we spent four nights in Hawaii for $320, and 75% of that price came from one night in a hotel.
Case #3 Idaho Wedding, June 2018
Guess who already has a camping permit at Buttercup Campground for $22! *high fives myself*
Anyone else have thoughts on how to turn backpacking gear into a money saving machine? I’m all ears!