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  1. Default What might it cost to Tent Camp across America, at the cheapest?

    I'm considering taking on an Extensive journey across the US, the likes I can't imagine have ever been done. But before I take this trip I have to start the planning with the basics, then add the extra flare to consider its feasibility. I won't even get into what the concept is right now, let's just focus on the basics. Start a journey from the Keys of Florida, up to Maine, across the north, down California, heading west through Nevada into Colorado, winding back through the states to get any missed National Parks until I arrive back in Florida. I don't plan to go to Museums or Concerts; the cities, people, culture, and landscapes will be more than enough for me. I understand there's a National Parks Pass for around $80, so I factor that in from the get go.

    I already have some essentials like a solar ice maker, solar charger system, tent, and butane (when required).

    The camping itself I feel I may be able to do completely free. As far as I can tell from there are campgrounds spread all across the US that are free to use and the comments on each page help sort out whether or not each site is legit. Although I would always suggest calling the local wildlife/law enforcement agency beforehand to find out if the area is indeed a campsite.

    I was afraid there wouldn't be free campsites near national parks but a quick search found this guy near Yosemite >>!10672&query=sitedetails

    As for transportation, is it feasible to get over a mountain in a moped towing a super-ultralight? I plan on building this >> which seems like a pretty easy build with the elections coming up. If you don't wanna click the link, the guy builds a streamline super-ultralight camper (weighs 66lbs), that he tows with his Bicycle, made out of recycled corrugated plastic election banners. Blows my mind. $150.

    The question next stands with whether or not a 50cc moped scooter like this one for $375 >> will make it up the mountains of Colorado. I'm considering this 80cc moped/mountain bike >> considering it's a Mountain Bike, I should at least be able to peddle the thing if the motor can't handle it. But then again, towing 66lbs or more might make peddling up a mountain that a motor can't handle, pretty rough. The "Moped Mountainbike combo" would be extensively easy you maintain in the event of a breakdown as well, cheap and quick.

    Food - I don't want to rely on catching my own food, I sure won't Hunt out of season and I don't even plan to bring a gun, but I do plan to fish and try my hand at survival skills. Still, I don't want to consider myself fed by my own hands for even a day; if it happens, yay, if not, so be it. I think I can get away with grocery shopping the whole time. I'm 26, I don't think it'll kill me to rely on Spam and Velveetta for a day or two here and there if I catch myself well off the beat path, far from a grocery. If I shop right I can get 6 packs of eggs to last me two days at a time and with the solar ice maker I could keep small batches of perishables at a time. If I'm not buying steaks or ribs every day and I try to shop at the discount grocers, I bet I could get away with $10 a day for food. I imagine if I buy things like 2 chicken breasts for $4 that's two dinners, $2 for the entree so far. I love veggies and they're always cheap, I imagine 75¢ to a $1 for a dinner side and then dessert is the cheapest (campfire cake, cookies, eclairs) at 30-50¢ a meal. Dinners should be less than $4 a day for a healthy meal. Lunch is super easy, camping would be no different than my days now, mostly rice mixtures with bits of meat or canned raviolis, both less than a dollar. That leave breakfast. I like my coffee, but I've been drinking instant coffee for about 2 years now so that'll be no change. A $5 jar lasts me about 2 weeks or more, 70¢ a day. Then there's eggs, about $2.50 for a 6 pack on average, lasts 3 days, 83¢ a day. I do like my pork roll or bacon though, I wouldn't be able to live without it for too long. Packs of bacon are going for about $4 a pound a Walmart (that's what I eat now anyway) and that would last at least four days; $1 a day there. So all together the breakfast would be $2.50 tops. Snacking in between should be about a dollar, if I buy the Sam's Club packs of Nature Valley bars. That's less than $10 a day.

    Lastly, there's the petroleum, the real carbon footprint. I'm not 100% sure on what the mileage is on the moped scooter, im assuming around 150 mpg but I've heard the moped Mountainbike combos get upwards of 200-250 mpg. I'll have to do more research into this. Let's just say we're getting 150 mpg, would 10,000 miles cover the trip I want? Florida-Maine-California-Nevada-Colorada-...-Florida? I don't know if I want to Really hit all the national parks, if it means putting an extra 2500 miles in then definitely not. So if I'll avg 150 mpg and I do 10,000 miles = 67 gallons. With an average of about $3.00 a gallon (correct me if I'm wrong there) it should total out to just over $200 for the 10,000 miles.

    So all in all it wouldn't be too crazy:

    $80.00 National Parks Pass
    $150.00 Camper Build
    $660.00 3Months Food
    $201.00+ Fossil Fuels
    $0.00 Campsire Fees
    $1091 (plus $409 for emergencies)

    I think that might handle it, what do you think? Anything I'm overlooking?
    Last edited by MattDUnderwood; 06-19-2016 at 07:37 PM. Reason: Typos

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    Welcome to RTA!

    This sounds like quite a trip, but I'm really not sure that you will be able to get by with 0 campsite fees. For one, that freecampsites website has the reputation of lots of errors! Some may even find you looking up at a ranger or law enforcement officer in the middle of the night, being asked to "move on". There are a lot of cheap campsites, but finding them takes time. It means stopping in at the local BLM/forest service office, or a small town police/fire station, and asking. It may mean driving into places on dirt roads. You will need to learn how to cache what foods you DO carry, away from animals. Finally, most of the "free" campsites have nothing there, so somehow, you are going to have to find and carry in your own water to use for cooking, dishes, and personal hygiene.

    As far as figuring out your fuel usage, this is how my husband and I budget: We figure out the basic mileage just to get us from place to place. Then we add 20-25% for added mileage (around the national parks, to the grocery store, to another place of interest). Divide by the smallest mpg our vehicle is known to get. Use the fuel cost calculator on this website (look down) and use an average price you expect to pay per gallon for fuel.

    The national park annual pass is a great bargain, and if you're planning to do that many parks, you should either pick it up just slightly ahead of time, or at the first park you stop. However, that said, be aware that it won't pay for everything. If you go into a national park with a cave, it won't pay for the tour. It won't cover your parking ($12) at Mt Rushmore. So you'll either have to allow for those costs, or avoid those parks altogether.

    You will have to plan a little ahead about your grocery situation. Fishing licenses cost money and every jurisdiction wants a different one. Same with hunting in any form. Stop in a larger city on your way into a touristy area, to avoid paying higher grocery prices. (As much as people put down Walmart, it has a lot more budget-priced items than the grocery store in West Yellowstone.)


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Maybe with a bit more homework and some trial runs it could work.

    Hi, and Welcome to the Great American Roadtrip Forum.

    As one who has crisscrossed the 48 States in different directions, numerous times, I have never *planned* such a trip. But to think that you can do it with free camping is a fantasy. For one thing, that website has very very few places where you can actually camp, i.e. set up your tent, leave it for a few days/weeks and stay put or go enjoy the surrounding areas. All too often I have come to one of their sites, and would not dream of leaving any of my belongings. Not like you can in State Parks and Forests, National Forests and other public lands. In reality, this is really only possible in the western States. There are very few possibilties in the eastern and middle States.

    Looking for a place to pitch your tent and go fishing, or pick berries or other wild edibles is possible, but not by using that website - or any of the other "free camping" websites. Public lands will give you that possibility, and then I would feel most secure only if I were camping in the company of other campers - not totally alone.

    As for doing this all on a moped, is questionable. You have nowhere to secure your valuables. And you will have valuables - no matter how little you take. Water in a hot summer can be more valuable than money. Relying on solar may not be the smartest thing to do on such an extended trip. As much as I have tried solar lights, and have everything running on solar at my home, I am convinced it is not up to the stage of being reliable enough in summer without a backup.... and I don't mean just a butane stove.

    I have seen many solar powered tents, with cells all over them for lights and warmth, but I doubt you would get enough to keep perishables (you will have some!) and light your tent.

    I would not worry about how much it will cost. I would start first by taking weekend, and then week long trips, and see how you go. Any problems you have then, need to be multiplied several times over for a cross country trip...... especially through the mountains.

    I for one will follow your progress closely, as I would love to know how you get on.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I've got to tell you, a lot of your plan doesn't seem very realistic in the real world.

    Your plan to spend no money to camp strikes me as being somewhere between silly and impossible. The "free" campsite you've listed as an example sounds to me like an example of people sharing information about a place where they've seen people camping illegally and may or may not have been caught in the past. The information I've found from the free campsite page you've found has frequently been very suspect in terms of accurate information. There are lots of free camping possibilities, especially out west, but being able to take advantage every day for months is not likely to be possible - at least not in a safe and legal way.

    Really, just going through everything, it seems like you're counting on a "perfect world" situation. Foodwise, sure, there will be days where you can eat for $10 a day, doing it every day for months at a time, that's certainly not easy. (I'm not sure where you're expecting to find 2 Chicken Breasts for $4 on a regular basis, or all of these veggies for $1). Even fishing won't be that cheap - as out-of-state fishing licenses will likely cost more than you'd save by buying fish from a store.

    The moped idea has lots of problems - and you're certainly not the first to propose such a trip. They just aren't designed for this kind of long distance travel, and they certainly aren't designed for towing, so breakdowns won't be an "if" as much as a "when, how often, and how expensive." The fixes might not be as easy as you think either, especially if you're in a rural area with limited parts supplies. If you got by with only $500 in repairs, you'd probably be doing pretty well. Not to mention, just doing this loop in the 3 months you mentioned will be difficult with a low speed vehicle.

    Along those same lines, you're calculating perfect world fuel estimates while trying to do a real world trip. 150 mpg is possible in a moped, but one that's in perfect shape, while in ideal conditions, at very low speeds. There's no way you should be expecting to get anything close to that while traveling across country, presumably at the high end of it's maximum speed, while going over mountains, and while towing on top of it. Your fuel budget alone probably needs to be tripled.

    We want you to have a great trip, but your trip idea is not as unique as you imagine, and the experiences of those who have done similar trips should be throwing up lots of red flags.

    I'll leave you with this, there is nothing wrong at all for trying to do a trip for as little as possible, but when you go into a trip by building a budget that's a small as possible, you leave yourself no margin for error (and there is "error" on every trip, no matter how well planned), and that's going to force you into spending a lot more than you planned, having a miserable time because you're trying to get by on an impossibly small amount of money, or some combination of the two.

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