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Average cost per day biking across the US

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Average cost per day biking across the US

Old 03-14-11, 08:37 AM
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Average cost per day biking across the US

From your experiences what was your overall cost per day while biking across the US? We will be camping almost all of the time.
Also, is it worth it to bring a stove, or should we just eat out for dinner, and have cold breakfasts?
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Old 03-14-11, 08:53 AM
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Your average cost per day will depend on how much money you spend. You might plan on camping the entire time, but there will be times when camping isn't possible. Same with cooking. My bias is towards camping and cooking and I average about $40 per day. Food along highways in areas where people want to go is not cheap. Homeless people survive on less, so I supposed you could too.
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Old 03-14-11, 09:03 AM
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To get any comments and information that might actually be pertinant to you and your group - you might want to post some details on how many are in the group and what the start and end points might be - at least a hint. The time of year might help too.

In my experience there aren`t enough campgrounds in the USA that are consistantly within a days driving distance by bike to make it feisable to plan a transcontinental trip with the intention of camping legaly most of the time. And I personally don`t support `stealth camping`. Its a politically correct term for `illegal trespassing` or `squatting`.

If your trip is during the summer I`d personally skip the stove and make do with fresh fruits and salads, energy bars and buffets when I can find them. Every time you hit a small town or camp ground you`l usually trip across a laundrymat and supermarket and a few restaurants. A water filter would be more of a priority than a stove. Transporting and storing anything except dry goods for more than an hour in the hot sun is a health hazard and one that can ruin your vacation.
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Old 03-14-11, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Burton
And I personally don`t support `stealth camping`. Its a politically correct term for `illegal trespassing` or `squatting`.
That's just not true. Stealth camping is a technique that can be done legally or illegally. It is not a politically correct term for an illegal action.

I prefer to stealth camp. I also only do it in a legal manner.
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Old 03-14-11, 09:59 AM
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Hey, this question has been asked & discussed a bunch of times before, so I hope you tried a bit of searching.

As far as I can tell from what everyone says, the $/day varies from $5 to $60 for a camping trip - you can really tune it depending on your needs/wants and how hard you're willing to try & how much you're willing to put up with. If you sleep in ditch, never shower and eat ramen and peanut butter it can be very cheap, but if you camp at RV parks with showers and eat in sit-down restaurants it can be much more. Everyone has a different tolerance for that, so "it depends" is kind of the right answer, sorry.

My experience has been that when I pretty much relax about money, camp in pay campgrounds, eat in restaurants about once every other day, I'm spending about $40/day. That's with a stove & cooking some dinners. Pay campgrounds are $6-30 dollars. If you're trying to minimize spending AND want to eat hot food, bringing a stove is the way to go, hot dinners are the most expensive meal you have to buy if you eat in restaurants. But again, you have to decide based on your time/spending/eating preferences.

You *can* camp legally most of the time, not all of the time. This can include pay campgrounds, town parks (often free and legal, but you have to check as you go), legal dispersed camping on forest service or BLM land, asking for a place to stay at a church or in someone's yard/land.

The word "stealth" camping, IMO, does have a certain element of "not getting caught b/c it's not really allowed" - but you can wild/dispersed/free camp without it being illegal, and still want to be low-profile (to not get messed with). But some people do extend that to trespassing, which I don't do or endorse myself.

The adventure cycling maps have a lot of information about free (& other) camping, so if you're a planner rather than a wing-it-er, and you want to save money on the road, the maps can be a good investment to help you find cheap lodging.

Basically, i'd suggest thinking through your own preferences carefully, and be honest with yourself about what you want/need, start a spreadsheet and do your own math. Then add 20%.
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Old 03-14-11, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Burton
In my experience there aren`t enough campgrounds in the USA that are consistantly within a days driving distance by bike to make it feisable to plan a transcontinental trip with the intention of camping legaly most of the time. And I personally don`t support `stealth camping`. Its a politically correct term for `illegal trespassing` or `squatting`.
LOL, Squatting and stealth camping are two completely different things. If you're gonna spout off about political correctness, or any other kind of correctness, I'd suggest doing at least a cursory search on what the law actually says if you're going to harp on folks to "obey" the law.

And seriously, I've never had a problem going up to a farmhouse and asking to camp on their yard or in the back 40.

If you have time too, you can offset costs and work for a week on a wwoof farm or something too. Couchsurfing can also save big money on any kind of trip too, assuming you're touring near populated areas.
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Old 03-14-11, 10:12 AM
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Your cost will vary greatly depending on your planning. If you buy food in bigger towns, generally cost will be lower, but tiny gas station/stores less options and higher prices. If you make you "care packages" ie food stuffs, bike parts, tubes, tires etc and have someone send them to you along the way to post offfices. Camping as said can be costly. Maybe send email/letters asking to spend the night to potential towns, ppl will offend invite you in the the night, feed you and letting you do landry.
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Old 03-14-11, 10:12 AM
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I rode cross-country in a group ranging from 8-10 riders, ate most breakfasts in camp, lunch in town at diners, Subways, etc, and rarely took advantage of the potential for group meals and ate most dinners at restaurants as well.

The daily budget for the 9 weeks we were out came to about $25, which included 2 hotels paid for (which were not necessary--camping every single night is entirely possible) and another hand full of campgrounds. Most nights were spent in town parks or other free camping spots.

I would recommend at least carrying a small alcohol stove for the option of cooking when away from town or when the options for a good meal are limited. You may also find cooking as a group much cheaper, healthier and more flexible.

Either way, hammering out a budget (and, if you're limited to a tight one, coming to terms with sticking to it--whatever sacrifices that entails) before beginning your trip is a great idea. "It's just one night in a hotel..." can quickly send you down a slippery slope.
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Old 03-14-11, 10:36 AM
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When we were on the TA we managed to stay for free a bit more than half the time with no need for stealth. How much you spend can vary pretty widely depending on both you and where you are. Sharing expenses also helps. I think on the TA we averaged something around $5 per day or a bit less for camping or rooms.

If you are on a budget and want hot food definitely take a stove.

Food cost will vary widely individual to individual. Remember that you will eat more when on tour. $10 a day for food requires being pretty frugal, but is possible. Some people get by on less and some spend a lot more. Bottom line is that it depends on what choices you make.

My advice is to have more than you need available. I am pretty frugal and keep my spending low, but generally have plenty available. Having a firm budget can suck some of the joy out of a tour. BTW, the same applies to schedules... Always better to have more time than you need or plan to use.
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Old 03-14-11, 10:37 AM
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$25/day for comfortable solo touring with occasional motel. Does not cover getting to or from starting point, or any equipment.
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Old 03-14-11, 12:19 PM
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I took 19 days to ride from Seattle, WA to San Francisco, CA. Stayed every night in a pay-campground, for food I either cooked or ate at cheap restaurants (ie fast food) and grocery stores. Managed to average $18/day. I certainly didn't splurge on nice accommodations or nice food, but I was more than comfortable the whole time.
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Old 03-14-11, 12:19 PM
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This question has been asked so many times. If you use the search function you will find pages and pages with the information you are seeking.

The real answer is...... depends.
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Old 03-14-11, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by MattP.
I took 19 days to ride from Seattle, WA to San Francisco, CA. Stayed every night in a pay-campground, for food I either cooked or ate at cheap restaurants (ie fast food) and grocery stores. Managed to average $18/day. I certainly didn't splurge on nice accommodations or nice food, but I was more than comfortable the whole time.
Just to clarify a bit. That particular route has some of the cheaper pay campsites you will find. Oregon and California have very reasonable hiker biker sites along the way. In other parts of the country you will probably need to camp in town parks, church yards, and other free places much of the time to stay that cheaply. That is pretty easy to do for much of the middle of the country though.
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Old 03-14-11, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
Just to clarify a bit. That particular route has some of the cheaper pay campsites you will find. Oregon and California have very reasonable hiker biker sites along the way. In other parts of the country you will probably need to camp in town parks, church yards, and other free places much of the time to stay that cheaply. That is pretty easy to do for much of the middle of the country though.
Very true, thanks for the clarification! WA state parks were $14/night, OR & CA were $5-6/night with a KOA coming in at $18/night.
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Old 03-14-11, 01:55 PM
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On my shorter tours, I usually spend about $15, mainly because I bring a stove and cook all my meals, and camp.
On my upcoming pacific coast ride, im budgeting about $20-25, because I will be bring cold breakfasts/lunches, but eating out for most dinners. I'm planning on eating at the local restraunts mainly, but fast food now and again never hurts. Like the others said, camping in OR and CA is pretty much free, $5 or so, while when I camped in Montana, some of the sites there were close to $15, and WA is about that much too.
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Old 03-14-11, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by rasoward
From your experiences what was your overall cost per day while biking across the US? We will be camping almost all of the time.
Also, is it worth it to bring a stove, or should we just eat out for dinner, and have cold breakfasts?
Too many variables.

Assuming your daily expenses don't count the gear you start out with, your primary expenses will be food and lodging. Just like when you're not on tour, preparing your own food will be cheaper then eating out, so whether or not you decide to bring a stove may depend on how much you want to spend.

Lodging is a huge variable, too. Hotels are generally more expensive then campgrounds. I feel like private campgrounds are generally more expensive then state parks (although that may very by state), and, cheapest of all, is, of course, free lodging, so your daily lodging expenses can very from 0$ to greater than $100. If you're primarily camping, you'll be on the lower end of that scale, probably routinely coming in under $40, but still $0-$40 is a pretty big range. There is lots of talk about "stealth camping" here, available with a quick search. I don't think it's really a euphemism for "illegal camping," but it is often employed to avoid running afoul of the law or property owners. Recent discussions prompted me to look up my own state's laws, and here's what I came up with:

14‑159.13. Second degree trespass.
(a) Offense. A person commits the offense of second degree trespass if, without authorization, he enters or remains on premises of another:
(1) After he has been notified not to enter or remain there by the owner, by a person in charge of the premises, by a lawful occupant, or by another authorized person; or
(2) That are posted, in a manner reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders, with notice not to enter the premises.
To my reading that would imply that you are not guilty of anything unless you ignore "No Trespassing" signs and/or refuse to leave after being told to. I'm sure it varies state-by-state, but if you're looking to keep expenses down, that's something to keep in mind. Of course, just asking for permission often works as well, with even less likelihood of a late-night ejection. For my part, I tend to favour official campsites, but that does push up your expenses, and, as has been said, not every route includes suitable pay options at reasonable intervals.

On a longer tour, you might run into additional gear expenses as items wear out and need to be replaced. On a short tour that's less of a concern, provided you start out with decent gear.

I'm plotting out a very short tour this summer and estimating $10-$15 per night camping and possibly $15-$25 per day for food, which could vary greatly depending how much I'm willing to carry with me and what my other dining options are. But only time will tell if my estimates are correct.
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Old 03-14-11, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by skyzo
On my upcoming pacific coast ride, im budgeting about $20-25, because I will be bring cold breakfasts/lunches, but eating out for most dinners.
Just a suggestion of something to consider...
We generally found that much of the time it was cheaper and easier to eat our restaurant meal at lunch time rather than in the evening. Lunch prices are generally lower and restaurants were often not close to camp on my tours. Not to say we didn't eat and evening meals out when it was convenient.
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Old 03-14-11, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Burton
In my experience there aren`t enough campgrounds in the USA that are consistantly within a days driving distance by bike to make it feisable to plan a transcontinental trip with the intention of camping legaly most of the time. And I personally don`t support `stealth camping`. Its a politically correct term for `illegal trespassing` or `squatting`.
I personally support illegal trespassing. The problem with this country is too many goddamn laws, but that's just my opinion. I recommend reading Jack Kerouac's The Disappearing American Hobo from the Lonesome Traveller collection and Into the Wild. I will have to stealth camp for lack of funds, which won't be stopping me from setting across the state.

Anyways, someone else said $40 a day? Jesus, I don't even spend $40 a day eating out at home! I could see how it would be possible to spend $40, but that seems like a lot. Of course, I haven't had any real experience touring but my weekly grocery trips only total about $30.

I plan on using my denatured alcohol to cook [boil] all my food from now until when I begin my first self-supported tour. Trying to cut out take-out altogether. I'll be eating a lot of oatmeal, rice, pasta, lentils, split peas, beans, quinoa and the like. Seasoning only with salt and pepper for the most part. I want to try to avoid oil to cook because it just seems messy being water insoluble and all. The point is I really think I could eat on the road very affordably.
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Old 03-14-11, 04:05 PM
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oh yea, I just forgot a really cool quote from Kerouac's The Dharma Bums when they're climbing Matterhorn and talking about how John Muir would disappear into the Sierras with only a few loaves of bread to wet with water when he got hungry. That being said, I still think it's important to get adequate nutrition for such active days. The idea is that great people have accomplished great things with less than might be expected.
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Old 03-14-11, 04:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Rob_E
Of course, just asking for permission often works as well, with even less likelihood of a late-night ejection.
That's a good point. I feel sort of foolish speaking only from what I've read, but I believe people are generally kind-hearted and hospitable, especially to travelers. Simply asking may work well.
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Old 03-14-11, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by albertmoreno
Of course, I haven't had any real experience touring but my weekly grocery trips only total about $30.
And you're posting because.....?

The point is. You're not at home. Much of the stuff you normally eat is either unavailable or 4X's as expensive as the store you normally buy from. Oh, and good luck with finding quinoa.
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Old 03-14-11, 04:47 PM
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no need to be rude, man.
Just saying, market bought grains, legumes, etc can be a very cost-efficient way to eat. Also, I think Albertson's, Vons, Stater Bro's, Ralph's, etc. are not that rare.
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Old 03-14-11, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by MattP.
Very true, thanks for the clarification! WA state parks were $14/night, OR & CA were $5-6/night with a KOA coming in at $18/night.
Wow, NY State Parks are $22 and up for a campsite. Private campgrounds can be close to $40 per night

Originally Posted by albertmoreno
Anyways, someone else said $40 a day? Jesus, I don't even spend $40 a day eating out at home! I could see how it would be possible to spend $40, but that seems like a lot. Of course, I haven't had any real experience touring but my weekly grocery trips only total about $30.


Originally Posted by albertmoreno
no need to be rude, man.
Just saying, market bought grains, legumes, etc can be a very cost-efficient way to eat. Also, I think Albertson's, Vons, Stater Bro's, Ralph's, etc. are not that rare.
You do realize that when touring, you may not always find inexpensive markets and large shops and if you do you may not be able to buy too much since your cargo abilities are limited, and it may be 50 miles or more between towns. BTW, I never heard the store names you have mentioned.

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Old 03-14-11, 05:57 PM
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Originally Posted by albertmoreno
no need to be rude, man.
Just saying, market bought grains, legumes, etc can be a very cost-efficient way to eat. Also, I think Albertson's, Vons, Stater Bro's, Ralph's, etc. are not that rare.
Maybe you have bicycle touring confused with being homeless on a bike. Do you have the slightest idea how long it would take to cook raw lentils on an alcohol stove? More than two hours! Undeniably healthy and a great source of protein and complex carbohydrates, but utterly impractical for bicycle touring.

As far as large stores go, it completely depends on where you are. In the western states, you can easily be 3-4 days between stores. The trick is to find something worth eating that is sold at gas stations.

I easily spend $40 per day. Pancakes and coffee at a truck stop is $10, a bottle of Gatorade is $2, a jar of peanut butter is $3, a loaf of bread is $2, a couple of bananas are $3, the campground is $20 - oops, I'm out of money and I didn't even get dinner.

Look, touring is expensive. If you insist on setting out with no money, its not touring - it's being homeless on a bike. Another hobby altogether.
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Old 03-14-11, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by AdamDZ
Wow, NY State Parks are $22 and up for a campsite. Private campgrounds can be close to $40 per night







You do realize that when touring, you may not always find inexpensive markets and large shops and if you do you may not be able to buy too much since your cargo abilities are limited, and it may be 50 miles or more between towns. BTW, I never heard the store names you have mentioned.
Those stores are just generic supermarket chains. Vons actually went out of business here about 10 years ago, but they're still up north. They're not fancy organic stores or anything. They also have Safeway up north which my mom says used to be everywhere. I figured buying and carrying some unprocessed food would be cheaper than eating out all the time and lighter than canned food. I'm not sure how many pounds I could carry at one time without burdening myself unnecessarily, but I know 5 pounds of legumes and grains can go a long way here at home. I'll be doing a couple of weekend practice runs as soon as I'm done with college, which is in a week. That should help sort out any difficulties I have. For people who cook most of their own food, what kind of food do you buy? How much do you carry? How is it prepared? Or is the only way really to eat out most of the time?

Of course, I would buy something easy, fast, and tasty at a gas station like Cyclesafe suggested, but I wouldn't want to rely on that. I don't intend on setting out penniless. I have built up a saving, but I still like to see my dollar go a long way and I wouldn't want to miss out on the experience because I don't have a small fortune to spend.
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