14 Fun Activities To Do While Camping

Wondering what to do with all your free time at your campsite? Curated expert Alex Dolan shares his favorite suggestions for what to do after you've pitched your tent.

A sunset over a large body of water with tree-lined shores on the righthand side.

Sunset near Bellingham, Washington. Photo by Alex Dolan

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So you've made it to your campsite. After all of the planning, packing, and gathering all of your favorite people, you've set up your tent and unfolded your camp chair by the fire pit. What now? First, give yourself a pat on the back. You made it! Keep in mind that camping is all about escaping the fast-paced, hectic characteristics of civilized life and immersing yourself in the beauty and serenity of the great outdoors. Once you have taken a number of slow deep breaths and had a good long look at your surroundings, here are a few of the best camping activities to enjoy.

1. Bocce Ball

This lawn-bowling game is easy to learn and almost anyone can play. Make your course as adventurous as you want. Play close to camp or give yourself the opportunity to explore the surrounding wilderness with a fun and competitive twist. Bocce sets can be purchased at major retailers or created at home. All you need is a small ball (a golf ball works great) and an object for each player to throw at the small ball. Whoever gets closest wins the round.

Pro Tip: Some bocce sets glow in the dark for nighttime fun.

Four people play volleyball on the sand with a canyon wall rising up behind them.

Playing volleyball at Redwall on the shores of the Colorado River, deep in the Grand Canyon. Photo by Alex Dolan

2. Bird Watching

This relaxing activity doesn’t have to be reserved for grandparents. Learning more about the world around you is always a worthy ambition. While bird information is nearly infinite, learning about a few backyard birds can be a surprisingly rewarding way to expand your knowledge about natural surroundings. Have you ever seen a feathery friend flutter by and wonder, ‘What kind of bird was that?’ Ornithology presents a wealth of information, and some simple bird books and a keen eye for observations can answer many of your questions.

Pro Tip: A good pair of binoculars can take your birding to the next level.

3. Reading

Especially great on rainy days, a good book is one of the best companions to have during your travels. Bring along your favorite book or dive into that classic you always wanted to read. Either way, it’s a great way to pass the time and expand your mind.

4. Make Great Food

Car camping allows you to bring along all of the amenities of home while experiencing nature, including a full-service kitchen. Go all out and be the best camp chef you can be. Research some new recipes to try or experiment with old favorites in a new environment. Having good food to eat on camping trips keeps your spirits high and your belly full so you can have all the energy you need to make the most of your camping trip.

Someone stands on a rock at the water's edge and leans over to look into the water below.

Photo by Alex Dolan

5. Hiking

Your campground will likely have some hiking trails close by, and the best part is that you don’t have to get in your car to reach the trailhead. Bring along some water and plenty of snacks. Take your time. After all, there is nowhere you actually need to be.

6. Board Games

Scrabble® is my personal favorite (make sure you bring along a dictionary to prevent cheating and avoid using your cell phone.) Many campsites have picnic tables to gather a group around the board for some quality bonding time.

Someone paddles in a blue kayak on clear blue water with brown hills in the background.

Kayaking at Blue Heart Springs in Idaho. Photo by Alex Dolan

7. Water Activities

Bring along your kayak, canoe, or even a stand-up paddleboard. If it floats, it boats, and that means you can have fun exploring the aquatic environment around you. Go ahead and throw caution to the wind, get your feet wet, and see what is on the far shore. Make sure you wear a personal flotation device, never paddle alone, and plan your paddle before you set out on the water.

Being in a boat can give you access to a whole new world of incredible sights. The act of paddling is extremely therapeutic, and the art of learning various paddling techniques is endless, even on flatwater. Once you have a firm grasp of flatwater skills, you may even be ready to take the next step into whitewater paddling, or even ocean paddling. About 70% of Earth is covered in water, and roughly the same percentage of water makes up the human body. Our most ancient ancestors came from water, and in turn, we did as well. Explore your deepest roots. Get out and go paddle!

8. Biking

Mountain biking is an amazing way of exploring deeper into the woods with ease, and bicycling is a great way to get a lay of the land, take a lap around the campsite, or just experience the wind blowing through your hair like when you were a child. Don’t forget to wear a helmet and plan your route so you don’t get lost.

9. S'mores

Is there a tastier camp treat than graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows? I would argue, no, and I dare you to convince me otherwise! Not only is it delicious, but it’s also a great way to get a group gathered around the fire. Watch each person build their own tower of delicacy and try not to laugh too hard when someone's marshmallow catches fire (it can happen fast!).

10. Play Music

There are tons of portable-speaker options out there so you can jam out while hanging out in nature. Just be respectful of those around you who are less excited about EDM or that new Cardi B tune than you are. If you are blessed with the talent to play your own music, share it with others. Music is always better live, and your camp neighbors will probably appreciate acoustic serenades more than thumpin’ base.

11. Take Photos

Try focusing on abstract-nature photography rather than selfies. Even if you are just in it for the ‘gram, you will probably get way more hearts on your profile if you aren’t obstructing the view that you worked so hard to get out and see. Often, the most mundane objects can be framed with the right surroundings to make them magnificent spectacles.

A squirrel sits on what appears to be a rusted teapot. Both are nestled in ferns, moss, and other plant debris on a wooden wall.

Photo by Alex Dolan

12. Watch Sunsets & Sunrises

Slowing down enough to watch the world turn can be very meditative. While not all sunsets are equal, they are never disappointing. The act of taking a few moments to watch that big glowing orb in the sky disappear below the horizon can be done almost anywhere, but viewing from the coast of the Pacific Ocean is optimal. The intercoastal waterways of the Atlantic Ocean also hold some of my favorite locations to watch the sunset. Also high on my list are some notable mountaintop views (just make sure you bring a headlamp to find your way back) or even my own front porch with a tasty beverage in hand. Once the sun disappears, stick around for a while. Often the colors (deep reds, oranges, and purples) become most vibrant after the sun dips below the horizon. On the flip side, if you’re an early riser, catch the sunrise first thing in the morning. It’s a great way to start the day.

Pro Tip: When the moon is full, it rises as the sun sets. Turn around 180 degrees for a double feature.

A pink and purple sunrise over a silhouetted peak.

Photo by Alex Dolan

13. Tell Ghost Stories

Let your creativity flourish and your imagination run wild with everyone gathered around the fire. Scary stories are most effective at night when that rustling in the bushes is especially questionable. Feel free to do a little research about the area you’re camping in. You may just find that where you are is actually haunted!

Pro Tip: A headlamp with a red-light setting provides extra-spooky ambiance for scary stories.

14. Have Fun

Finally, just remember to have as much fun as possible. Sometimes it is easier said than done with all of the hard work involved with a camping trip, but keep in mind why you are there and don’t forget the important things in life.

So what did you think of these activities? Are there any fun things that you like to do in the outdoors that I didn’t mention, or maybe some special memories you have from a camping trip? If so, I would love to hear about them. You can message me any time via my expert profile. We can reminisce about all the good times, or explore options on the best way to make new ones. As always, get out there and HAVE FUN!

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I have years of experience planning and executing multi day river trips for up to twenty customers at a time, and I've spent countless summer nights living out of my Honda Element. I love moving from river to river, living wherever the water is flowing. ​ I have also toured the San Juan Islands via...

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