It’s camping season, and everyone wants to get outdoors, especially after having to stay at home in 2020. But sometimes you don’t want to go anywhere. Maybe you are sick and tired of the woods but still want to camp. Maybe you are a glamper who wants the camping experience without having to be in the woods. That is why having a backyard campout is a good idea.
As much as we love camping in the woods (we camped for 47 nights in 2020), we actually have camped quite often in our backyard over the years, even when we had a tiny yard with no grass. I have been hesitant to go to campgrounds because everything seems to be more crowded than normal, probably because more people are getting outdoors than ever before. It’s definitely better than having to stay at home. But, if you can’t find free camping or your budget is tight or you hate bugs, camping in the backyard can be a wonderful outdoor adventure.
My favorite backyard camping staycation was when I was about ten years old. My dad put a mattress in the back of his truck and made a little fire in our driveway. My sister and I ate way too many hot dogs and marshmallows, and fell asleep in the back of the truck, after watching the stars over our heads. I have more memories of sleeping outside on the lawn with a pile of blankets, lots of giggles, and plenty of ghost stories, courtesy of my older sisters. Even though we weren’t in the woods or by a lake, these are camping memories that I cherish.
Backyard camping is the perfect opportunity to have fun with family, enjoy the camping experience and have a great time. So hopefully, I can give you some great backyard camping ideas so that you can make great camping memories in your own backyard too. Most of these activities do not require any special or additional supplies from what you already have at home. And many of these activities are great for regular camping too.
7 Reasons To Camp in Your Backyard
We love backyard camping and it’s always a nice change from having to pack everything up and go somewhere. You can have the best backyard camping experience right outside your back door with not a lot of effort. Here are the top 7 reasons to go on a backyard camping trip:
- No packing or traveling required. Often camping takes several hours to get to that perfect camping spot.
- Your kitchen and clean bathroom are close by. Thank goodness for modern conveniences. It’s always a hassle to figure out the kitchen and potty situation when you are out in the woods. You don’t have to worry about bathroom breaks either because you aren’t traveling.
- Camping in your backyard doesn’t require a lot of planning. You don’t have to worry if you forgot something at home that you really needed, like the cooler (true story). You can just run to the grocery store if you need to.
- You can sleep in your own bed if you get cold. If you are camping, it’s not that easy to just pack up if it is too cold in the middle of the night.
- You don’t have to worry about wild animals or most camping emergencies. It’s much safer to camp in your backyard than out in the wild.
- It’s inexpensive. You don’t really need special equipment or camping gear to go camping in your backyard or have to worry about the price of gas.
- There are fun things that you can do while camping in your backyard that you can’t if you are camping in the wild like an outdoor movie or making ice cream.
Ideas for Setting Up Your Yard for Backyard Camping
If you are planning on using your yard for your backyard camping adventure, you can get very creative. Or, you can keep it as simple as you want it to be. It just depends on how much time and effort you want to take for your home campout. It is your backyard adventure, so you can make it whatever you want it to be. Here are just a few suggestions on how to set up your backyard.
1. Twinkle Lights
String lights are a great way to light up your backyard in the evening hours. They are not too harsh and really make the atmosphere fun. Besides your regular fairy lights that you just plugin, there are also solar and battery-powered camping lights. Check out this complete list of affordable camping lights.
2. Outdoor Fire Pit
What is camping without a campfire? Campfires are the center of any camping trip and most activities. They are perfect for roasting marshmallows or hot dogs. I personally prefer wood-burning fire pits but there are propane ones as well. You can choose mobile or built-in, or large or small.
3. Canopy or Awning
Because you are in your yard, it’s always nice to set up a canopy or awning for shade. You also never know if it will rain or not, so having a shelter will keep the rain and sun from ruining your fun. I also like to hang fairy lights or lanterns on mine. Also, consider an awning that has a bug net.
Most of the time when we camp in the yard, we sleep in our tents. We even have a tent that goes on our trampoline. If you don’t have a tent, you can rent one or build a fort/ tent out of blankets or tarps. If you choose to sleep outside, make sure you have everything you need to be comfortable and to sleep well (check out this list of camping essentials for some gear ideas if needed), such as :
- sleeping pad
- sleeping bag
- footprint or a moisture barrier to put on the ground like a tarp
- plush pillow
- air mattresses for extra comfort
5. Camping Chairs
Camping chairs are a must for any camping trip, including if it’s in your own backyard. if you don’t have camping chairs, any chair would do. Bean bag chairs make fun seating under any awning or canopy for your backyard fun.
6. Tiki Torches / Citronella Candle
If you’re going to be spending the afternoon and evening outdoors, these are a must-have to keep bugs away.If you don’t have either of these, then don’t forget to have bug spray.
7. Camping Blankets
These aren’t necessary, but they are fun to have. Use them to warm up, as a sleeping bag, or use as a picnic blanket. We use ours at home and while we are camping.
Not only do we have hammocks for camping and backpacking, but we use them at home too. I love just relaxing in hammocks and reading a book. My kids will often nap in them.
20 Backyard Camping Ideas and Activities
So after you’ve set up your backyard, it’s time to have a little fun. These are also fun and creative ways to do things outside, that bother older kids and younger kids will enjoy. Even though there are many family-fun ideas here, many of them even adults can enjoy and the whole family.
1. Camping Food Bar
I love food. And I love great camping food. But if you are camping at home, you can cook or make food that would be great to eat while camping, but isn’t practical. That’s why food bars are so much fun to have in your backyard. Try some of the following:
- hot dog bar
- s’mores bar
- hot cocoa bar
- trail mix bar
- burger bar
- ice cream bar
- pie bar (Pie has nothing to do with camping, but I love eating peach or strawberry rhubarb pie in the summer after dinner.)
2. Yard and Lawn Games
In the summer we spend a lot of time playing games in our yard. We even have enough room to have a few things going on at the same time. We play the same games when we are camping. Here are just a few of our favorite yard games:
- Corn Hole
- Croquet (our family’s favorite yard game)
- Kick Croquet
- Hacky Sack (perfect to take backpacking)
- Horse Shoes (great for camping)
- Bocce Ball
- Ring Toss
- Throw Throw Burrito Outside Addition
- Beach Tennis
- Bean Bag Toss
- Lawn Darts
- Stomp Rockets
- Disc Golf
3. Board and Card Games
For training days, or just to spend some quality time together, we like to play games. There are so many different games you can play with a regular deck of cards. I usually have a card or board for when it’s training and we can’t play outside anymore. Here are some of our favorites:
- any National Park board game or card game (For a complete list of National Park games click here.)
- Exploding Kittens
- Throw Throw Burrito
- S’mores Wars
- Great Outdoors Memory Game
- Exit Games
- Toasted or Roasted
- The Game Board Game
- Nut Nut Squirrel
4. Water Fun
ANything with water can be absolutely epic. I have a huge tarp that we use as a water slide, but the sprinkler works too. The little kids love water tables and the older kids love a good water fight. Here are a few water activities that any kid would love:
- water slide
- water guns
- water balloons
- lawn sprinkler
- trampoline sprinkler
5. Make Hot Cocoa
You don’t have to get fancy and have a hot chocolate bar. Just making a delicious pot of hot cocoa will make everyone’s evening better.
6. Have a Picnic
You can have a fancy picnic or just a simple one. A simple picnic for kids is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, milk, and cupcakes. It will make their day.
7. Scavenger Hunt
A nature scavenger hunt can keep kids busy for hours. There are many printable ones online or you can even find ones on Amazon.
8. Homemade Icecream
This is one of my all-time favorite backyard camping activities. My dad had an old-fashioned ice cream maker and I’ve always loved making ice cream that way. A few years back a found a “newer” old-fashioned ice cream maker (made in 1969), so it’s electric but still has the same nostalgia as the hand-cranked ones.
9. Cook Camping Recipes
If you don’t have a campfire, just use the grill instead. Hotdogs and burgers are traditional camping food, but so are hobo dinners. If you are looking for some great camping recipes, there are many camping cookbooks that have lots of camp-friendly recipes. Or, try signing up as a recipe tester for MontYBoca and join the camping community that helps others enjoy camping meals.
10. Go On a Bear or Snipe Hunt
Who says you can’t go snipe hunting or bear hunting in your own backyard? This is wonderful make-believe fun and the perfect activity for young kids.
11. Make S’mores
Campfire s’mores are a time-honored tradition when it comes to camping. We love the traditional ones but there are so many different variations on s’mores. If you don’t have a fire, there are electric s’more makers.
12. Bird Watching
I enjoy bird-watching every day but make it fun by practicing with your binoculars and trying to identify them. I will often make sure my bird feeders are full a few days before so that we have lots of feathered activity. It can be fun trying to identify the birds, and there are some great bird books out there.
13. Star Gazing
If you live in a place with a lot of light pollution, then chances are you won’t be able to see any stars. I love watching stars and picking out the constellations. One of my favorite things is lying on the ground on a blanket and watching the stars. In the summertime there are so many meteors shows that are fun to watch too.
14. Campfire Storytelling
Not all campfire stories are scary, but what’s a campfire without ghost stories? This is a fun tradition for any backyard camping adventure. Here is a great list of recommendations for spooky stories. It is also fun to make up your own stories.
15. Singing Camp Songs
Just grab that acoustic guitar and start playing a song. There are so many traditional camping songs but lots of newer ones too. If you are looking for camping songs for kids and adults, check out this ultimate camping song list. I’ve also included recommendations for albums and playlists for camping.
16. Tie-Dye Shirts
This is something that I would never do camping, but I think it’s a great activity for family fun. Besides, you can always wear them on your next family camping trip. With tie-dye kits available, it is easy to do. Plus, they always come with instructions.
17. Camping Crafts for Kids
I normally don’t plan any crafts for camping, and go for the traditional camping activities instead. But doing crafts outside is a new way to have fun and it’s easy to do when you are at home. Here are a few suggestions:
- Nature Collage
- Tin Can Lanterns
- Painting Rocks
- Craft kits
- Paracord bracelets
18. Glowstick Tag
Have you ever tried flashlight tag? Well, we use glow sticks instead. It is great fun and can get very silly. You’ll be sure to hear a lot of giggles.
19. Shadow Puppet Show
Break out the sheets and flashlights. Shadow puppets are fun to make. Get creative. Bring a little bit of magic into your evening.
20. Outdoor Movie
If you have a white sheet and a projector, then create your own backyard theater. My husband will often hang up a sheet and bring out the projector from the family room. Watching retro movies with a big bowl of popcorn outside makes the best memories. We really go for the classics or anything Disney.
I hope you have found some great ideas for the ultimate backyard staycation, including some fun camping activities that you can do the next time you actually go camping. Are you an avid camper? Or just a backyard camper? Either way, the important thing about camping is about having fun, no matter where it is at. If you have a favorite camping activity that works well for the backyard, be sure to suggest it in the comments below. Happy camping!!