Here's your guide to camping on a budget

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

During plague outbreaks in medieval times, rich folk would flee large cities for the relative safety of the bucolic countryside. Thankfully, these days you don’t have to be loaded to escape the Twin Cities for a weekend of trees, lakes, and pretty views. Whether you’re running from the coronavirus, the zombie apocalypse, or student loans, here are some tips to help you enjoy camping without taking on more debt.

Timeshare or rent the pricier items

Spending $200 to $500 on a tent that you’ll use once a year is no way to live. Instead, consider organizing a timeshare. Round up a few nature-loving friends willing to put down cash for some collectively owned equipment to be used throughout the year by reservation. Four couples willing to drop $100 each on gear means you can rough it real nice.

Another option is to rent the spendier things you need for each excursion. REI offers a variety of stuff for rental, including tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags, and they even have things like hiking boots, ice axes, lanterns, and stoves. (Be prepared, though: You will need to fork over a $100 to $200 deposit.)

Other places worth checking out: Hoigaard’s has cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals, and you can score deep discounts on new items at Midwest Mountaineering in the Thrifty Outfitters section.

Do some thrift shopping and fix your busted gear

The Repair Lair on East Lake Street has lots of name-brand secondhand camping gear for sale. It’s also a great place to go if you have busted items. They’ll fix anything from messed-up zippers on backpacks to a neglected tent that needs a hole patched up.

Play It Again Sports is another spot to hunt for gently used stuff. While the inventory is always changing, you can often find cold-weather clothing, fishing rods, sporting equipment, shoes, camping setups, and pretty much anything else your excursion might need.

Online, you can often find deals surfing through Craigslist ads or Facebook Marketplace. NextDoor has a “for sale and free” section, though you’ll have to wade through some delusional markups or barter hard in order to get actual cheap stuff.

DIY the shit out of everything

This is your chance to get hella creative with your survivalist skills. Do you own a Nalgene water bottle? In the evening, fill it with hot water and shove it in your sleeping bag. Boom! Now it’s a bed warmer. Use your growlers to carry beer and clean water. Got some of those joke birthday candles laying around? You can use them if you’re struggling to make a campfire, and the wax can be used to smooth out snaggy zippers. Extra garbage bags can work as a tent liner or a rain poncho. You can even wad up this newspaper and use it as a firestarter. You’ve got this, MacGruber!

Invest in tomorrow

Sometimes spending a little more upfront can save you a lot. While most year-round parking passes will set you back $30 to $40, they can be used at a variety of locations throughout the state—and right here in the Twin Cities. Imagine being able to use the patron lot at Bde Maka Ska. Crazy, right?

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