I don’t know about you, but I live to adventure and explore. Participating in activities or just spending time in the great outdoors is an incredible way to see and experience the world around us.  But, the truth is, it isn’t free to live life on the road, go on crazy adventures, or enjoy outdoor hobbies and activities.  In fact, it can be downright expensive! Learning how to save money on adventures and while exploring will look different for every person. However, it is an essential skill to have for those looking to spend many days, weeks, or months, doing the things they love.

My pursuit of outdoor activities began in college and continue to this day.  Over time, I learned how to manage my money to live the lifestyle I wanted while going through college and paying off student loans. Learning to manage money appropriately allowed me to enjoy many days and weeks exploring, climbing, hiking, skiing, and camping on a regular basis. A large portion of money management in regards to outdoor activities is looking at where you can save on your trips.  So, the question is, how does one live an adventure lifestyle, on a budget? 

Saving Money Looks Different for Every Person

Just know that it is possible to enjoy fun activities, hobbies, and adventures no matter what your financial state is.  Maybe it isn’t reasonable to do every activity that you want to do at this stage in life.  Different stages of life will allow for different activities and adventures. Learning to enjoy the activities and adventures you can do NOW is a great lesson to learn. And this lesson will help you enjoy every adventure in the future, too.

There is a balance between enjoying life, and being smart with the money that you have worked so hard to make.  Here are some tips I have learned while pursuing adventure of all kinds, on a budget.

Learning to save money on adventures will be different for every person. Find out what works for you!

1. Affordable Accommodations (surprise, it’s called camping!)

Living out of a vehicle, or tenting will help you save a lot of money on trips!  There are plenty of opportunities to explore and not have to pay $120 a night on hotels or airbnbs.  Living out of a vehicle or tenting is an adventure in itself, and could save you loads of money while still providing an opportunity to get out and explore. 

What about winter?  Well, I’m glad you asked! It is possible. A more recent quest of mine was backcountry skiing in Fernie.  Unfortunately, the trip was during a cold snap. But with the proper equipment, it was still possible to car camp, even when waking up to -30 celsius! See my article on winter car camping for some tips: https://awayinthewild.com/winter-car-camping-how-to-be-a-savvy-cold-weather-camper/

Some days look like washing dishes in a parking lot.

2. Clumping Your Travels (aka: Planning)

If you’re going on a trip, it can be easy to want to drive everywhere to see everything.  Unfortunately, this creates quite a costly gas bill.  My suggestion is, when you’re travelling, plan ahead. Research the places you want to see, and clump them together geographically, if possible.  Staying in one place for a longer time will allow you to see many of the “local” areas that not everyone gets to see. It also gives you an opportunity to save money on gas!  If you’re staying outside of town, plan your grocery shopping trip with other activities you want to do in that area. If you’re going to see a beautiful waterfall, also plan to see that cool rock formation that’s in the same area. You get the point.

3. Free Places (hint, it’s not in the parks!)

Staying and exploring in national or provincial parks can get costly. Luckily, there are places that are equally as beautiful, without the cost of purchasing a parks pass! In Alberta, it now costs to go to Kananaskis, as well as anywhere in the surrounding Canmore/Banff area. It all depends on your preference, as these places are absolutely beautiful In my opinion, the park passes are worth it. However, if you’re looking for a more budget friendly adventure, consider other areas. One such area in Alberta is the David Thompson Region. This is region that is free to explore (although they do require a permit for overnight camping now), and just as beautiful as other mountainous areas in Alberta! This is just one of many areas that can be explored without the added cost of a park pass.

Learn more about the David Thompson Region here: https://davidthompsoncountry.ca/

For camping, there are many places that have free areas. In BC there are recreation sites that are usually free (or very cheap) to stay at. A little online research can help you decide where to stay! If you do find yourself in provincial and national parks, it usually isn’t too costly to book a campsite at a campground. Either way, it will be cheaper than a hotel!

Camping in free areas (or almost free) is a great way to save money on your adventures!

4. BYOF (Bring Your Own Food)

Eating out can eat up a lot of your money on a trip.  Plan ahead and make meals before the trip to save money while going out and adventuring!  Thanks to modern technology, there are plenty of delicious options that can be made ahead, and reheated with the use of a propane stove.  Food dehydrators can be useful for making backpacking trip meals.  This cut costs by not having to buy expensive dehydrated meals that are found in outdoor stores.

5. Save Money, Buy Used Gear

Thanks to the online world, you don’t need to spend crazy amounts of money on gear.  For instance, I got my whole backcountry skiing set-up off of Facebook market place, and got a pretty sweet deal.  This made it possible for me to enjoy a new activity without having to spend a fortune.  There is, of course, some gear that you will want to buy new. Equipment such as climbing ropes, helmets, and other safety gear should be purchased new.  Be careful with buying gear online, as you don’t know the condition of it and how it was used prior to your purchase.  When it’s not “safety equipment”, the online world provides many opportunities for saving money!

Used gear may not always be fancy, but it does the job!

6. Be okay with looking like you just walked out of a thrift store

Seriously, be okay with not having the “best of the best” clothes and outdoorsy things. Building a gear closet takes time, and a lot of money! Just because you want to get into hiking does not mean that you have to buy an extra $500 worth of clothes to make it look like you’re a hiker.  Start with what you need, like hiking boots, a backpack, and a first aid kit.  And then build up from there. 

I remember when I first started to hike, I had cheap running shoes.  After a while I was given hiking “runners”.  They worked, even though they were not the most fashionable and definitely did not scream to other people that I was a hiker.  From there, over the years, I have been able to collect more appropriate gear and clothes. But I was able to enjoy many hikes prior to that!

Start doing activities with people who have gear, then slowly start to collect your own.  It is a process, but eventually you’ll have a gear closet to be proud of!

7. Get Involved

Find a way to be involved in the activity you want to pursue!  Love climbing? Maybe apply to work at a climbing gym, or work with a guide if you’re knowledgable in that area.  Love skiing? What about working at a ski resort in the winter? Free passes, now that’s a bonus!  Want to stay in the mountains for the summer? What about working for the national or provincial parks, or at a hotel or restaurant over the summer?  The options are almost endless!

So there you have it…

These are just a few ideas to help save money and make it possible to enjoy exploring and participating in outdoor activities. It’s okay to not have all the equipment right away. It’s okay to not go to the most popular places. Find something that works for your lifestyle and your budget. Take some time, find some activities to enjoy and some people you can enjoy those activities with. Get out there to explore all that the great outdoors has to offer!