Life and living: Backyard camping

illustration of a campfire with two logs crossed and red flames above

If your family is ready for a camping trip but you’d rather avoid crowded campgrounds, why not bring the fun of a camping adventure to the convenience of your backyard? These tips will help you have a great backyard camping experience—without the hassle of packing up the car.

Pop your tent

Grab your old tent from the garage, splurge on a new tent or get creative and build a fort with the family. Bring out cots or blow up an air mattress for comfort. Be sure to check the weather to see what types of sleeping bags or blankets you’ll need, and whether you should zip up the windows or put the rain cover on. 

Start your fire

Get a fire going in a pit or build a small backyard bonfire (per your local fire regulations). Not only will it set the camping scene, but it will also keep your body warm and your belly fed. Keep a pile of dry sticks or chopped wood nearby to keep the fire going all night. Be sure to discuss how to tend a fire, how to cook over an open flame and how to ensure fire safety with your family. 

Prepare your menu

Time for the camping classics! Hot dogs over the fire, roasted marshmallows for s’mores, and campfire popcorn are delicious and fun to make. Before you start cooking, make sure you have camp forks (or sticks) for everyone. Your family will enjoy cooking for themselves, so bring out all the fixings and let everyone dress up their camp food. 

Plan your activities

Go into your backyard staycation with some pre-planned activities. You don’t need to stick to a schedule, but remember the goal is to keep the family out at the campsite—not in the house watching TV or stuck to their cell phones and tablets. Consider these simple but fun activities to keep everyone occupied:

Backyard games

Think about which games your family will enjoy playing. Get teams together for whiffle ball, ladders or cornhole—or play individual games like freeze tag, Simon Says or a fun card game. 

Scavenger hunt

Set up an outdoor scavenger hunt to look for and collect nature items. You can set a timer or just scavenge until someone finds all the items. Award a prize to the person who finds them all first or who finds the most.

Movies under the stars

Grab the projector (you can find reasonably priced portable mini projectors online), hang a white bedsheet and sit back to enjoy a family movie outdoors. Bring more than one option and let the family vote on what to watch. This is also the perfect time for some campfire popcorn.

Story time

Story time is always a good time. Gather around the fire and get creative. You can have each person tell a complete story or have everyone participate in a collaborative story. You don’t necessarily have to tell ghost stories, but if your family enjoys it, go for it! If you have a younger family, or just don’t like scary stuff, create a funny campfire story. 

Singing by the campfire

If you’re more of a musical family, bring out the instruments and gather by the campfire to sing. Go with traditional campfire songs, popular music or family favorites. 

Looking at the stars

If it’s a clear night, douse the lights to make it as dark as possible so you can look up at the night sky to see the moon, the North Star, the Big and Little Dipper and any other constellations you can find. Bonus points if you have a telescope.

Bottom line

You don’t have to go far to have a good time camping with your family. Start planning what’s sure to be a memorable backyard camping adventure today! 

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