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MC Camping on the Cheap

Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,282
Location
Arlington
First Name
Tim
Last Name
Shelfer
OK Thrift-meisters. By popular demand, here it is. A thread for those who like to Moto-camp on a minimalist (aka cheapster) budget. Here's your chance to tell us how you do it. For instance:
- Budget-priced farkles for your bike.
- Budget camping gear that has (or maybe hasn't) worked out for you.
- Camp sites for free or at budget prices.
- And when you really go crazy and spend a few bucks for a night's rest, moteling on the cheap.
How do you do it?

Those of you who sleep in $500 Big Agnes tents are welcome to stand on the sidelines and laugh at us. We'll just laugh back as our 401Ks grow fat on our nurse-a-nickel habits. We're cheapsters, and we're darned proud of it.
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2012
Messages
17,041
Location
Lampasas
First Name
Drew
Last Name
Wright
Well for beginners or cheapskates like me Wal-mart has reasonable gear on the cheaper side of life.

Tent from the Thurber run $25 not a north face or Kelty but shelter.
Just picked up a sleeping bag deal for $14 that is for summer only. Really it is a blanket sewn together with a zipper.
A Coleman auto inflate air mattress for $32 but way better than the blue foam pad that I still have.
I have cooking pans and pots from garage sales.
Craigslist and yard sales for thrifty purchases.
Sales at Academy and on line.
Free curb side goodies and friends freebies that are cluttering their garage space.

For a hundred dollar or less you can get a tent,bag,pad,and misc for starters. Not top of the line but workable.

Individually owned motels seem to be most reasonable and the owners seem more appreciative than chain places.

Trip advisor or word of mouth for food and places to hang your head are normally right on.

Lets see your ideas.
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2012
Messages
17,041
Location
Lampasas
First Name
Drew
Last Name
Wright
Reasonable and clean motels in New Mexico and Colorado:

Here are places that I enjoy.

1. Western Skies Inn and Suites Los Lunas,New Mexico Ask for Brandi
2. Long Holiday Motel Gunnison.Colorado
3. Branding Iron Motel Chama,New Mexico
 
Joined
Dec 25, 2007
Messages
3,337
Location
Clear Lake
I usually stay at Texas State Parks. About $20. Is that cheap enough? Good scenary, clean, free shower, free toilet, protection by armed guard. Good deal.
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2007
Messages
8,845
Location
Fort Worth
First Name
Dan
Last Name
Gill
In Raton, the NRA Whittington Center is cheap. If there are several of you, you can usually get a youth cabin with bunk beds. Clean, dry, warm.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,282
Location
Arlington
First Name
Tim
Last Name
Shelfer
My primary moto camping gear:
- Eureka Tetragon 2-man tent. Bought on blow-out sale from Dick's Sporting Goods for $50.
- Swiss Gear mummy bag. K-Mart online had them for $35, but my wife paid $45 on Amazon, for the convenience, as a Christmas present.
- Stansport air mattress. $22 on Amazon. Very comfortable.
- 12V air pump for air mattress. $8 at Walmart.
- Thermarest pillow. $26 on Amazon. Packs small, fluffs big. Well worth the price for a night's sleep.
- 5-piece aluminum cook set. $20 at Academy Sports.
- No-name backpacker stove. $9 on Amazon. Tiny, but packs a bunch of BTUs.
- Thermal cup w/ sippy lid. Donated by a software vendor before I retired. Keeps coffee hot and Crystal Lite cold.
- 5x8' blue plastic tarp for all purposes. $10 at Academy.
- Folding hunter's armchair. $5 at Academy.

For about $200, I'm outfitted for eating, sleeping, and lounging. This gear has survived multiple trips over three years and is holding up quite well. I had to replace the air pump in New Mexico this past June, but hey - there's always a Walmart somewhere.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2011
Messages
5,461
Location
At the back of the pack and out of the dust
Not sure these ideas belong on this thread, but I'm still using much of the backpacking and climbing gear that I bought in the 70s and 80s as motorcycle camping gear. It was all top dollar equipment at the time and is still as durable and functional as ever. As a student of Colin Fletcher I tend to leave more at home than bring with me. Trips of two or three days generally means no cooker and unless I'm sure it is going to rain or might be cold the tent and sleeping back may stay at home as well, replaced by a blanket and a plastic sheet. I did buy a cheap stool from wally world for the F1 race, but I doubt that it will ever get a ride on my bike.

TPWD parks pass is $95 for me and the wife for a year.
http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/parkinfo/passes/

The Corps of Engineers has some camping too.
http://corpslakes.usace.army.mil/visitors/states.cfm?state=TX

One thing I never do is hop a fence and make a camp site on some rancher's property. That's asking for trouble.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
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Arlington
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Tim
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Shelfer
I love state parks, but they're kinda pricy these days if you don't have the annual gate pass.

I'm a fan of Corps of Engineer parks. A water-elec site at Navarro Mills is something like $14 a night.

And when in the mountains, you can't beat the National Forest system. NF campgrounds aren't the $2/night bargain they once were - actually, about $14-17 is pretty typical these days. But that's still not bad. And if you're 62, you can buy a senior discount pass - good at all National Forest Service and National Park facilities - $10 for a lifetime pass. That gives you 50% off on NF campgrounds, 50% off (or sometimes free) on NP entrance fees, and 50% off on NP camp sites. And that, my friends, is some pretty cheap camping.

As Danny (Redpill) pointed out, New Mexico state parks are still very modestly priced. I believe Hyde State Park outside of Santa Fe is still $12 a night, and no entrance fee.
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2007
Messages
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Fort Worth
First Name
Dan
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Gill
As Danny (Redpill) pointed out, New Mexico state parks are still very modestly priced. I believe Hyde State Park outside of Santa Fe is still $12 a night, and no entrance fee.
The Whittington Center isn't a state park. It's owned by the NRA. Still very nice.
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2007
Messages
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Fort Worth
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Dan
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Gill
I remember sleeping on one of the tables at a roadside park when I was in high school. I wouldn't dream of doing that now.
 
Joined
Jan 22, 2011
Messages
5,461
Location
At the back of the pack and out of the dust
Why buy the extra card for $25 for the wife if she camps with you?

Do they require one per MC?
The wife's an outdoors woman in her own right and she'll camp without me in a heart beat. I carry one pass in my jacket pocket so I can take Park Road 1 between Smithville and Bastrop. She keeps one in her purse so that when she and her friends are birding they don't have to pay to visit a park. Anyway, I'll donate $25 to the State parks. I like the cause.

Aren't the BLM lands free camping?
Yes, many are. Some are not. Out in the western states where 50% of the land is federally owned and it's not uncommon to find people just parked out in the desert living in their RVs for months on end.
 
Joined
Sep 21, 2005
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Wallis
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Erik
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Wolf
Why buy the extra card for $25 for the wife if she camps with you?

Do they require one per MC?
We tried camping in an Arizona State Park. They wanted $20 per Motorcycle!
A family of 4 in an RV towing a car is $20 but bikes..Everybody pays. I attempted to plead my case to the nitwit with the weekend badge and well he basically told me that If I kept talking I was going to make "the list"? :shrug:
 
Joined
Oct 19, 2004
Messages
154
Location
Carrollton, TX
My personal advice after lots of camping - actually, if you gave me a free room at a 5 star hotel - I'd still look for a nearby state park and pay.

Bottom line, if you don't get a good nights sleep, you won't be 100% the next day on the bike when it matters.

So don't compromise on an air mattress - there are several nice once - exped dlx9, big agnes core, thermorest neo-something.. they have high R ratings so if it gets cold, they'll shield you from the ground.

That being said, walmart used to sell a 4" air mattress that was pretty comfortable, sevylor also used to sell one - zero insulation but comfortable as long as it doesn't get cold... if you get one of those, get the fleece sleeping bag liners at walmart to put them in and that will help - still not as good as the good stuff but ok for beginners.

Beyond that, you can get a cheap 40 degree bag and tent at walmart, a cheap pillow and an led headlight and you're done.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,282
Location
Arlington
First Name
Tim
Last Name
Shelfer
We tried camping in an Arizona State Park. They wanted $20 per Motorcycle!
A family of 4 in an RV towing a car is $20 but bikes..Everybody pays. I attempted to plead my case to the nitwit with the weekend badge and well he basically told me that If I kept talking I was going to make "the list"? :shrug:
Wow, that's crazy. I wonder what happens if you get on "the list".

Oklahoma state parks, on the other hand, are quite the bargain. Water/electricity sites are about $18-20 a night with no entrance fee. Last fall, I moto camped at Talimena State Park. Tent sites were only $10 a night. And by simply flashing my drivers license to show my decrepit age, that was discounted to $5/night.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
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Arlington
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Tim
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Shelfer
BTW - I think Texas does the same thing to bikes. You pay per bike. Within the National Park Service, bikes are given a significant discount. The regular $25/week gate fee drops to, I believe, $10.
 
Joined
Nov 25, 2012
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Lampasas
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Drew
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Wright
Pie run camp outs at parks will charge an entrance fee and extra vehicle fee. Even if four motorcycles fit in the space of one regular sized car. The fee is still unavoidable. Seems a tad silly. Camped out south of town in Ouray and it was $32 per night. Nice most enjoyable night of a weeks vacation.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,282
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Tim
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Shelfer
Within the National Forest Service system, you can find a number of campsites that are either free, or very cheap. That said, you get what you pay for, and it won't include water. But I've done this multiple times and been quite comfortable.

Example -- When camped at Cloudcroft last year, I used a NF free campground about a mile west of Mayhill. Picnic table, outhouse, but no water. No problem, though. I was carrying a collapsible water 5-gallon water bottle and there were plenty of places willing to let me fill up.

Or this June, there were two different campgrounds just west of Taos for $5 per night ($2.50 with my senior card). Same water solution.

All of these campgrounds were nicely maintained. They just didn't happen to have water.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,282
Location
Arlington
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Tim
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Shelfer
I'll bookmark that one for sure. Thanks.

Also, in my experience, you can call any National Forest Service office and they'll give you loads of information. The Cloudcroft station told me about half a dozen commonly used informal campsites in the area, along with how to get there, and road conditions. NFS offices are, in general, super helpful to anybody who calls.
 
Joined
Mar 4, 2008
Messages
214
Location
Austin
First Name
Kat
Last Name
Humphrey
Remember "cheap, fast, good, pick two?" I've got good (mid-grade) gear, but it took me several years of shopping the sales to get it all for a decent price. If you have time to accumulate gear, be religious about paying attention to sales, and you can snag some pretty good stuff.

I used to work at REI. I'm not really fond of big-box retail stores, but since 99.9% of camping gear is made in the far east, it's only going to be retailed out of big box stores anyways. So, most lucrative advice I can offer: get an REI membership. If your credit score can tolerate another credit card, they've got a members-only visa card that nowadays comes with a $100 gift card.

The reasons to get a membership are that you get 2-3 20% off one full-priced item coupons each year, and you also get access to their garage sales, where you can score some barely-used returned gear (that they can't put back on the shelves for whatever reason) for up to 90% off. Got a pair of light hiking shoes once for $11; they retailed for $80. Also you get 10% back annually on every full-priced item you buy (store credit, or you can just cash it out in July).

If you don't want to shell out the $20 for the membership, shopping there still has advantages: as long as you save your receipt, you can return any piece of gear for any reason, no time limit. They might not give you a 100% refund on, say, a 10-year-old well-used tent, but if you buy something and use it two or three times over the course of two years and just decide it's not working well for you, take it back for a refund. This is especially useful when buying stuff off their online outlet store that you can't try on first. Rei-outlet.com has all their overstocked or discontinued stuff at often hefty discounts, and frequently has coupons (you may have to sign up for the mailing list for some of these) that can apply to sale items. Free shipping if you pick up at a store, or sometimes if your order is over a certain amount.

If you get the membership and/or visa card, please ask a cashier or floor sales person for the applications - these people usually make less than $10/hr, regardless of how much expertise they have, and they have quotas on selling memberships.
 
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Messages
766
Location
Plano
Remember "cheap, fast, good, pick two?" I've got good (mid-grade) gear, but it took me several years of shopping the sales to get it all for a decent price. If you have time to accumulate gear, be religious about paying attention to sales, and you can snag some pretty good stuff.

I used to work at REI. I'm not really fond of big-box retail stores, but since 99.9% of camping gear is made in the far east, it's only going to be retailed out of big box stores anyways. So, most lucrative advice I can offer: get an REI membership. If your credit score can tolerate another credit card, they've got a members-only visa card that nowadays comes with a $100 gift card.

The reasons to get a membership are that you get 2-3 20% off one full-priced item coupons each year, and you also get access to their garage sales, where you can score some barely-used returned gear (that they can't put back on the shelves for whatever reason) for up to 90% off. Got a pair of light hiking shoes once for $11; they retailed for $80. Also you get 10% back annually on every full-priced item you buy (store credit, or you can just cash it out in July).

If you don't want to shell out the $20 for the membership, shopping there still has advantages: as long as you save your receipt, you can return any piece of gear for any reason, no time limit. They might not give you a 100% refund on, say, a 10-year-old well-used tent, but if you buy something and use it two or three times over the course of two years and just decide it's not working well for you, take it back for a refund. This is especially useful when buying stuff off their online outlet store that you can't try on first. Rei-outlet.com has all their overstocked or discontinued stuff at often hefty discounts, and frequently has coupons (you may have to sign up for the mailing list for some of these) that can apply to sale items. Free shipping if you pick up at a store, or sometimes if your order is over a certain amount.

If you get the membership and/or visa card, please ask a cashier or floor sales person for the applications - these people usually make less than $10/hr, regardless of how much expertise they have, and they have quotas on selling memberships.
I think they just changed their return policy to not allow the unlimited return time anymore. Guess why?

I like REI, it's just way overpriced in my opinion (again keep in mind I'm on the end of broke and not loaded). It's nice stuff and decent quality, I'll give it that, but I can find the same stuff in an off brand for a lot less.

I have rarely had to returns stuff throughout my life, so I don't really care about return policies, etc. Since we don't spend enough money in there (read expensive), the return on the money spent is also pointless. If you drop a ton of dough, then I guess it's worth it. We went to one of their early garage sale things (can't remember what it was called) and nearly got ran over by everyone storming the store to grab stuff that was missing parts or pieces, incomplete items (like a hydration pack but no bladder), etc. and frankly still didn't seem like it was a good deal price wise. I just look at REI as "Really Expensive Items" and as a yuppy camping store. Just me mind you ;-)
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2010
Messages
648
Location
North Texas
If your looking for some real great buys and have a Cabelas nearby, go to the bargain cave. You can find some great deals at the change of seasons and really throughout the year.
 
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