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5 Epic Backyard Camping Ideas

There are lots of reasons why pitching a tent in your own backyard makes sense. The number one reason right now is that in California, we are all sheltered in place due to COVID-19.

Backyard camping is always an option! If you have little kids who want to experience camping you get to let them do it without taking them too far from their own comfy beds, toys, and routines (many will want to go inside eventually). If money is tight you can this is the perfect idea for a fun staycation.

Here are some fun backyard camping ideas that with a little creativity won’t break the bank.

1. Pitch a Perfect Tent

cartoon gray tentIf you’ve already got a tent then pitch away! Then jazz it up with fun decorations, strings of light, and a big air mattress. Since you don’t have to worry about car space you can bring your own sheets and blankets, creating a bed that’s both more attractive than a standard sleeping bag and more comfortable.

Don’t have a tent and don’t want to buy one? If you have a tarp or fabric lying around, you can make one of your own. There are quite a few tutorials on YouTube on how to do so, and figuring out how to make a tent could be a fun family activity in its own right.


2. Bring on the Bonfire

roasting-smores-over-firepit-while-backyard-camping-If you have a fire pit then you’re all set, but what if you don’t? What if you live in a neighborhood that bans open flames?

You could create a fake bonfire out of LED lights. Simply wind coils of orange and white lights together and set them in a circle, or use a wide basin or birdbath to contain them. Or just hang light strings: the effect is magical, and it will make you all happy to be outside once the sun sets.

Doesn’t look ‘flamey’ enough? Try cutting paper flames out of orange, red, and yellow tissue paper, then gathering them together on cardboard “logs.” You can again use a birdbath or other basin to contain your ‘fire.’

Obviously the fake fire is for backyard camping with kids. If you’re backyard camping with adults skip the fake fire and go straight to the barbeque pit, or pop open a bottle of wine under the stars.


3. Don’t Forget the Food

smores-supplies-on-table-in-front-of-fireWhy not pack a cooler and have a picnic? Grab s’more supplies and make them. You don’t have to have a fire: you can make skillet s’mores.

As for other things you might serve, the sky’s the limit. Hot dogs and hamburgers are popular and fun. Chips and healthy vegetables with dip offer fun finger foods. You could even set out a big bowl of trail mix to keep the camping theme going strong.

If you’re having a party you can have even more fun with this. For example, you can get compostable plates, cups, napkins, spoons, and forks. That way you’ll be helping the environment even as you enjoy your camping fun.


4. Let the Games Begin

girl-using-sidewalk-chalk-backyard-patioWhat would your staycation weekend be without backyard camping games? Here are a few ideas:

  • Use sidewalk chalk to make a giant copy of any one of your favorite board games, then let your kids pretend to be the pieces.
  • Create a scavenger hunt with a number of clues appropriate for your kid’s age: 3-5 for a younger child, 5-10 for an older child, and up to 20 for a tween.
  • Go classic with horseshoes, croquette, or cornhole
  • Wear animal masks and play “wild animal hide-and-seek” with stuffed animals.

Add a few more outdoor activities that aren’t competitive. Bring out the soap bubbles, or bust out the sidewalk chalk again so the kids can decorate your back patio.

5. Have a Wind-Down Plan

Eventually, you’re going to want your kids to go to bed, and this break in routine might make it difficult if you don’t have a plan.

Signal the beginning of nighttime activities by passing out wearable glow sticks. Get a family clean-up effort going so your back yard “campsite” doesn’t get overrun with flies and ants.

Then it’s time to settle in for a story, or perhaps a movie under the stars if you have a projector and a screen.

Sleeping arrangements are up to you. Some kids will want to sleep in the tent. Others will be ready to go back to their own beds. Use your judgement.

In the morning, give yourself a high-five! You’ve planned and pulled off an amazing family day activity that will be the subject of good memories for years to come. Have a victory mimosa at breakfast to celebrate a successful backyard campout night. You’ve earned it!

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