I’m a complete trip logistics nerd. I especially love the challenge of planning trips to be as accessible and affordable as possible. Recognizing that many folks are looking for cheaper ways to travel right now, I’ve compiled a few recommendations for navigating your outdoor adventures on a budget: COVID-19 edition!
1. Keep It Local
There are ways to get outside that don’t increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 anymore than going to the grocery store. Magically, choosing to explore your local parks and green spaces means you’re minimizing contact with others AND cutting down on travel costs at the same time. Do a search of your nearest public lands, and you may find hidden gems and little pockets of nature that don’t receive the same attention as national parks.
Why is staying local extra great right now? Besides saving on gas money, tolls and entrance fees, you get to discover new spots near your home that you might have overlooked before. While traveling hundreds of miles to get lost in some far unknown wilderness is my idea of a good time, I’ve realized how rewarding it is to spend my weekends expanding my knowledge of the place I live.
Minimizing the number of stops you make in other towns decreases the risk of spreading COVID-19. Just remember to gas up before you leave, and have everything you need with you already. You can also reference this article for information on camping etiquette during a pandemic.
2. Get Creative with Your Gear
Ultra-lite Trekking poles. Backpacks with all the best pockets. Hand-held camping stoves. Fancy sun-protective shirts. Long-lasting GPS devices. Stuff sacks. Stuff sacks for your stuff sacks…
There’s no getting around it—outdoor recreation requires a great deal of gear. And while it’s important to be fully prepared when hitting the trails, there’s a lot of unnecessary goods at high prices out there. Don’t get me wrong, I do love me some form-fitting, moisture-wicking hiking capris, but I’ve found that there are many options that are better on the bank account.
Repeat after me: Getting the fanciest sleeping bag on the market isn’t a requirement for having a great experience in the outdoors.
Here’s what you can do instead of going out and buying new gear:
- Check through your own closet. You just might have an old pair of shorts or sturdy sneakers that will get the job done.
- Ask to borrow gear from friends. Be sure to clean and disinfect the gear before you return it.
- Rent gear from local outdoor retailers or REI.
If you do have to buy something, I’d recommend starting at stores like Goodwill and Target, and working up to local outdoor retailers, REI and name-brand shops only when necessary.
Remember, decreasing the risk of spreading COVID-19 is important to consider when shopping, so try to be cognizant of the number of shop stops you make.
3. Eat Cheap and Easy
Whether you’re headed out for a day hike or a week-long expedition, feeding yourself in the backcountry can be its own fun adventure. I personally love making food the centerpiece of my outdoor excursions, though I understand that some see it merely as fuel to get themselves to the top of the mountain. Whatever your style may be, it’s very possible to eat like royalty in the backcountry on a budget.
Usually, I would recommend purging the bulk aisle at your grocery store, but right now many bulk sections are temporarily discontinued due to the risk they pose with spreading COVID-19. Have no fear, backcountry staples are still readily accessible! Here are my top choices for cheap, nutritional, and tasty meals in the backcountry:
- Instant oatmeal with raisins and nuts
- Crackers, cheese and summer sausage
- Peanut butter and jelly tortilla wraps
- Ramen with potato flakes and dehydrated veggies
These options can be doctored up with fun spices, condiments, M&Ms, or kept simple for the time-savers out there. With a food plan like this, each meal doesn’t exceed $5. Not too shabby.
We Are Resilient
There you have it, my candid recommendations on how to budget your outdoor adventures this summer. Hopefully, these tips and tricks encourage you to get outside without breaking the bank. This year has proven to have a lot in store for us, but that doesn’t mean we’re not resilient. Like many other nature lovers, my plans for outdoor adventures were canceled by recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19. It was heartbreaking to postpone my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, but if Outward Bound has taught me anything, it’s this: in times of challenge, it’s imperative to demonstrate integrity and practice compassion as a way to serve others and strengthen our communities.
Keeping it local, being thoughtful about your gear purchases and sticking to simple meals will make an impact on your experience, your wallet and the health and well-being of others.
About the Author
Eva Johnson has worked at the Colorado Outward Bound School as a Field Intern and Logistics Coordinator. She’s a Colorado native and if she’s not in Leadville working for Outward Bound, she’s probably adventuring in South America, surfing on the rugged Oregon coast or teaching kids to climb rocks.
OTHER POSTS YOU MAY LIKE