Camping is a great way to unplug, get some fresh air, and reconnect with nature.  There’s something about falling asleep to the sounds of crickets and tree frogs that is so soothing.

My first camping experience was when I was a Girl Scout.  My memories are spotty, but I DO remember a few things:

  • Putting up our tent, which was quite a feat back before the easy pop-up tents we have today.
  • Baking a cake in a “forest oven” – a cardboard box lined with foil and filled with hot coals; a very practical skill…NOT! ( I mean, who needs to know how to bake a cake in the forest?!)
  • Sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows (I like mine really burned on the outside so they’re gooey on the inside), making S’Mores, and telling ghost stories. 
  • Returning to the tent to go to sleep and FREAKING OUT over the thousands of Daddy Long Legs spiders that seemed to cover the outside of our tent (ok, there were 10, but it seemed like thousands at the time).

 

Luckily, I lived to tell about it and I’m not too traumatized. LOL.  Anyway…

fire in firepit with chairs around them

With the hurried pace of everyday life, getting away for a quick overnight, weekend, or longer is good from time to time.  I know I get antsy if I don’t. 

Although spiders still freak me out, everything else about camping has become more appealing to me as I’ve gotten older, especially the price. 

Camping is a budget-friendly lodging alternative to a hotel room.

forest with fall leaves
 
= BUDGET-FRIENDLY CAMPING OPTIONS
=

There are several types of camping and costs will vary depending on the amenities you want.  Another factor that affects the cost is the time of year. 

DISPERSED CAMPING

If you’re looking for a true camping experience away from noise and people, consider “dispersed” camping.  

This type of camping takes place outside of a designated campground.  It doesn’t usually cost anything, making it very attractive to budget travelers who love the outdoors. 

However, since it’s free, amenities such as restrooms, showers, water, or trash cans are not provided.  It’s the true definition of “roughing it.”

If you opt for this type of camping, there are some rules you must follow:

  • You can have no more than 10 people in your group
  • You can stay up to 21 consecutive days
  • Your campsite must be located at least 200 feet from any stream or other water sources
  • You must follow the “Leave No Trace” rules:
    • Camp on bare soil if possible, to avoid damage or killing plants and grass.
    • Do not camp in the middle of a clearing or meadow.
    • If you are going to an area where others have camped before, pick a site that has been used before.
    • Clean up all trash and take it and all belongings with you.
    • Use existing sites and fire rings for your fires.  Completely extinguish your fire before you leave.
  • You must be aware of the possible threat of bears (no joke!)

To find a camping area like this near you, Google “dispersed camping in [geographic area].”

Recently I went camping in the Little Fort Campground within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.  The campsite is referred to as “primitive” in their literature and it offered a flat area for our tents, an area with a fire ring, room around the fire ring for chairs, and 2 picnic tables.  There were no water, restroom, or shower facilities. (COST: FREE!)

Sometimes, the term “primitive” campsite will be used.  Although in some instances they may be free like the one mentioned above, others may cost money depending on the location.

When I went camping at the Outlanders River Camp just outside Luray, VA, I rented a primitive campsite along the Shenandoah River.  It was a walk-in site, meaning I couldn’t park near the campsite; I had to use a cart the campground provided to transport my gear from the parking lot to my campsite.

Although the campsite itself was primitive, the campground also offered sites for campers and RVs, a bathhouse with hot showers, and a camp store with some food and basic provisions available for purchase. I loved camping by the water but still having access to bathroom and shower facilities. 

Our campsite at Outlanders River Camp near Luray, VA
Our campsite at Outlanders River Camp near Luray, VA.
 The river is just on the other side of those trees.
The view of the Shenandoah River a few feet from our campsite
The view of the Shenandoah River from near our campsite. So beautiful. 
My campsite right by the water. Got the breeze and could hear the waves crashing :)
My campsite right by the water at Camp Merrylande.
Got a nice breeze and could hear the waves crashing 🙂
A beautiful sunrise I caught one morning. Great way to start the day!
I woke up early to watch the sunrise. It’s one of my favorite ways to start the day on vacation.

CAMPSITES WITH WATER & ELECTRIC HOOKUPS

These types of campsites are usually for regular campers or RVs, but you can opt for a site like this if you are camping in a tent, too.

It costs a little more than a basic campsite.  However, having water and electricity readily available can make your camping trip a little easier.

CABIN RENTAL 

Although dispersed or primitive camping can be fun, I have to admit that sometimes I prefer a comfy cabin to a rustic tent.

Most places that offer camping usually offer cabin and lodge rentals in addition to regular campsites.  Cabins can be just a little building with a bed and a few other pieces of furniture or they can offer a lot more.  But remember the more amenities you opt for, the higher the price. 

A while back, I camped at a KOA Campground in Fredericksburg, VA.  The cabin I rented had a double bed (I had to bring pillows and linens), a ceiling fan, AC/heat, an overhead light, a small flatscreen TV with cable TV, and WiFi.  Although they offered cabins with bathrooms, I opted for one without since it was cheaper and the campground had bathroom/shower facilities about 50 feet from my cabin.  The KOA also had a store, a playground area, a pool, bike rentals, and laundry facilities. 

A glimpse inside my simple yet comfy cabin
A glimpse inside my simple yet comfy KOA cabin

I know, camping in a cabin isn’t “roughing it” but the type of camping you do depends on your comfort level and just how rustic you want to get.  

GLAMPING

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (yes, glamping is now an official word), glamping is “outdoor camping with amenities and comforts (such as beds, electricity, and access to indoor plumbing) not usually used when camping.” This option is right up my alley and I’ve bookmarked several places I’d like to try.

glamping
Glamp and commune with nature in a yurt at Green Acres. | © Sean Mathis / Green Acres

CAMPING RESOURCES:

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