How much does camping cost?
- How much does it cost to go camping?
- The cost of equipment
- How much is a campsite per night?
- Final thoughts
- About our magazines
Words by Iain Duff
How much does it cost to go camping?
(Photo by Iain Duff)
One of the main reasons people go camping is because it allows you to enjoy memorable family holidays at a relatively low price. It is perfectly suited to families wanting a cheap getaway for a couple of weeks or a few days away that won't break the bank. But exactly how expensive is camping?
At a time when everyone’s budgets are being squeezed, camping holidays still offer great value for money. Shop around and you can get fully kitted out for less than the price of a package holiday and, even though site fees are increasing, a night in a tent on a top-quality campsite is still likely to be less than staying in a budget hotel.
But how much does it actually cost to go camping in the UK and is it still cost-effective compared to other types of accomodation? To work out how expensive it will be, you have to take into account several factors – the initial cost of buying a tent and camping equipment, the cost per night for a campsite pitch, the cost of travelling to your destination and the cost of day-to-day living during your camping trip.
For just a few hundred pounds, a family of four should be able to get fully kitted out for a fortnight’s fun in the sun. And remember, the spend on equipment is a one-time only outlay... until you inevitably decide to upgrade!
We’ve based the guide prices below on typical costs for equipping a family of four for a two-week break in summer, but you may decide to invest a little more in your camping kit if you want to use it for spring and autumn breaks.
The cost of equipment
How much does a tent cost?
The first thing to think about – and by far your biggest outlay for family camping – is your tent. You can buy a basic four-berth family tent for less than £100 but we’d suggest spending a little more than this (£300 – £500) to get something that will be better quality and ensure you are warm and dry.
A six-berth model will provide extra living space and take the cost up again – you could spend anything between £400 and £1,500 depending on the features and the materials used.
Traditional poled tents tend to be far less expensive than inflatable models, although the cost of these is coming down. You can now buy a six-berth inflatable for as little as £600 but the average price tends to be nearer £1,000.
Expect to pay: £300 – £1,000
What should you spend on a sleeping bag?
A good-quality single sleeping bag for a family camping holiday is likely to cost between £50 and £80 depending on the materials used. A kids’ sleeping bag can cost as little as £10, with very basic adult bags costing only a little more, but it’s worth spending more to ensure the better quality that will be warmer and last longer.
You will pay more for a down-filled bag rather than one with a synthetic fill and, for spring, autumn and winter use, it’s important to get bags that provide enough insulation. You'll find more information about buying a sleeping bag here.
Expect to pay: £150 – £280 (family of four)
How much do camping beds cost?
Airbeds are more comfortable than the lightweight mats favoured by backpackers, but are cheaper – and easier to pack – than camp beds. Prices for airbeds begin at around £20, but a good-quality model, such as Coleman's Maxi Comfort Raised bed can cost between £90 and £100.
An even better option is a self-inflating mat, which can be even more comfortable than an airbed, although they tend to be more expensive, especially if you want to go for an extra-thick version for more comfort. A single self-inflating mat starts at £30, with the price rising to more than £300 for a 16cm-thick double mat. Visit our guide to camping beds for more information.
Expect to pay: £80 – £400 (family of four)
What do you pay for a camping stove?
A basic single-burner stove is enough for boiling the kettle and heating up simple meals and they will cost as little as £15. If you fancy being more adventurous, look for a combined two-burner stove and grill, which will cost about £100.
Disposable gas cartridges start at around £10 for a pack of four; returnable cylinders cost around £50 upfront, but work out cheaper in the long run if you get through a lot of gas. You can find out more about stoves in our guide to choosing a camping cooker.
Expect to pay: £25 – £150 (including gas)
What does camping kitchen equipment cost?
Most camping shops sell traditional whistling kettles and nests of cooking pots, which are ideal for camping. Plastic or melamine crockery is light, durable and kid-proof, and don’t forget some serving utensils, a sharp knife and chopping board, tin opener and, of course, a corkscrew and bottle opener.
Our guide to kitchen equipment has more details on what you will need.
Expect to pay: £75 – £125 in total
How expensive are fridges and coolboxes for camping?
A basic coolbox is adequate for short weekend breaks, but a three-way fridge which can be run off gas, mains or 12V power is a better bet for longer stays – if only to keep perishables such as milk, butter and eggs fresh – not to mention chilling beer and wine!
A compressor fridge with a freezer is the most expensive option, costing between £350 and £650. See our guide to keeping food and drink fresh for more information.
Expect to pay: £15 – £100
How much are camping tables and chairs?
What does tent lighting cost?
A simple battery-powered lantern can cost as little as £10 but you could spend up to £25 for something with a little more oomph. Consider a couple of head torches, too; these can be picked up for a tenner.
Expect to pay: £10 – £45
Total cost of camping kit
£730 – £2,300
How much is a campsite per night?
(Photo courtesy of Pixabay)
Tent pitch fees vary enormously from site to site in the UK, and are usually related to the facilities on offer, as well as the time of year you visit. The last few years have seen a significant increase in campsite fees overall, although it's still possible to get a bargain.
Some small farm sites may ask for as little as £10 per night, while campsites and holiday parks with lots of facilities may charge upwards of £40 for a family of four in peak season. The average UK camping trip cost around £25 per night in 2022.
Some campsites have a straightforward pricing policy, where you pay a flat pitch fee for a tent, with no extra charges. However, with others, working out how much you will need to pay can be tricky. What can, at first, seem a fairly cheap site, can soon become much more expensive when you start considering all the extra charges.
On top of the base price for your tent, car and two adults, there may also be charges for extra people, electric hook-up, dogs, additional cars, awnings, etc. The size of your tent may also affect the price of the pitch, with some campsites charging more for bigger tents. Some campsites have introduced meters for electricity use – and, while this might seem more expensive, you only actually pay for what you use, so it could work out cheaper. Make sure you take everything into account before booking, as the costs can quickly mount up.
Find out more about picking the right campsite for your needs in our guide to choosing a family campsite.
The cheapest way to camp is wild camping, where you don't have to pay any fees at all. The cost of a wild camping set-up varies depending on the type of kit you want to use. To find out more, read our guide for a camping kit list for your backpacking adventure.
Expect to pay: £140 – £560 for two weeks
Total outlay for a family camping holiday, not including food and drink
£870 – £2,860
(£15.53 – £51.07 per person, per night)
Based on two adults and two children taking a 14-night holiday
This will be reduced dramatically for the second or subsequent holidays
Camping offers a rewarding and budget-friendly way to reconnect with nature and escape the daily grind. As we've explored the various aspects of camping costs, from essential gear and pitch fees to optional extras, it’s clear there’s a camping style to suit every budget.
While initial investments may vary, camping’s long-term affordability shines through with reduced accommodation and dining expenses. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a novice eager to start, the flexibility and beauty of camping make it a cost-effective choice for outdoor enthusiasts of all backgrounds.
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