10 Tips and Tricks for Backyard Camping

Camping in your backyard can be a great way to spend a summer evening - and keep your kids entertained. Here's how to get the most out of the experience.

Photo by Josh Hild

Backyard camping is an excellent, cost-effective way to spend some time with your loved ones without the commitment of driving far or dedicating too much time. Spending time outdoors is also crucial to youth development! Having a campout in your own backyard is a fun activity that can be done year round and spontaneously. A backyard camping experience is something your children will be sure to remember! Just make sure that you set realistic expectations - you will have just as much fun if your child does not make it through the night and decides to bail last minute for the comfort of their own bed.

1. "Pack" Appropriately

Below is a list of the suggested items you should bring to a backyard campout. Make this your own - bring as much or as little as you would like to ensure a good time on your at home camping trip!

  • Tent(s)
  • Sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Air mattresses or sleeping pads
  • Extra clothing
  • Food, cookware, and maybe even a camping stove (see number 5)
  • Bug spray
  • Flashlight, headlamp, lantern, and/or booklight
  • Camera
  • Games, cards, crafts, and other activities (see number 6)
  • Toothbrush and other toiletries
  • Camp chairs

2. Find the Perfect Location

For your backyard campsite, look for a flat location in your yard where the ground is suitable for a tent. Large open spaces work especially well to be able to spread out and for your children to have room to run around.

3. Set Up Camp

A tee-pee style tent on a balcony
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova

The most traditional way to backyard camp would be to pitch a tent in the same fashion that you would normally camp! With that being said - camping is not “one size fits all.”

No tent? No problem! Spread out some sleeping bags, pillows, and blankets on a trampoline or set up a hammock on some nearby trees. You could also make a makeshift shelter by hanging a large tarp between trees. Just make sure to lay another tarp on the ground to keep yourself dry! For some extra comfort and style, hang some string lights around your “campsite.”

4. Make a Fire

While not every residence will allow for a spot to have a backyard campfire, if you have an appropriate setup with a safe fire pit, definitely collect some wood and get a small fire blazing! A fire is an excellent spot for cooking dinner, telling stories, making s’mores, and bonding as a family.

People toast marshmallows over a firepit
Photo by Sydney Post

5. Cooking Dinner

One of the most enjoyable parts of camping is cooking a backyard dinner over the fire! You can take the traditional route and cook hot dogs on sticks, or get fancy with a cast iron skillet and grill some vegetables or even make homemade pizzas on the fire! If you do not have a fire pit, you can use a grill or a camping stove to cook any of the same foods.

6. Games and Camping Activities

Camping with children? Here are some fun ideas for activities to keep them entertained!

  • Scavenger or treasure hunt: Hide a surprise somewhere and create a series of clues throughout your yard that will lead your children in the right direction to the prize, giving them clues along the way.
  • Make art: Get crafty and use the nature around you to create some beautiful art! Collect leaves, sticks, grass, pine cones, and flowers. Glue them together or to a piece of cardboard - you can even get extra crafty by using paint or google eyes.
  • Make homemade trail mix: This one will take a bit of planning in advance, but set up a station with some bulk foods (such as cereal, nuts, candies, marshmallows, etc.), pass out bags or reusable containers, and make your own trail mix! If your child is having friends join for this backyard campout, this is a great keepsake to bring home with them.
  • Sing campfire songs: Own an instrument? Get creative and make up some new songs. Not musically-natured? Try taking some pots and pans or other kitchenware and making your own instruments out of them.
  • Tell campfire stores: Depending on your childrens’ ages, tell stories from your own childhood or even ghost stories.
  • Board games, cards, and other classic games: Bring a deck of cards or a game of Yahtzee for some old-school fun!
  • Flashlight tag: This is a game suitable for older kids as it is best played during the nighttime. Use flashlights or glow sticks to put a twist on traditional tag!
  • Shadow puppets: Once you and your little ones are tucked into your tent(s), have some fun by creating hand shadows against the sides of the tent using a flashlight or headlamp.

7. Campfire Dessert

After dinner treat your children to some homemade s’mores! You can make traditional s’mores, or even get fancy by adding peanut butter, fruit, cookies, and more to your ingredients! With parental supervision, have your child light their marshmallow on fire and then quickly blow it out. Peel off the blackened outerlayer, and roll the gooey marshmallow into a bowl of mini M&Ms - trust me, this is a game changer to roasting marshmallows!

A person holds a s'more
Photo by Sydney Post

Don’t have a firepit in your backyard? Don’t worry! You can also make s’mores in the oven or find an alternate camping dessert; drink some hot chocolate with mini marshmallows or pre-bake another type of dessert. You could even set up a table with various toppings and have an ice cream sundae bar!

8. Sleep Under the Stars

Definitely be sure to check the forecast in advance; if it looks clear of rain and other inclement weather, sleep without your rainfly and stargaze until your eyelids shut! If you’re nervous about rain or like to sleep with your rainfly for added comfort, set up a blanket or a tarp on the ground (outside of your tent) for a separate stargazing area before bed.

A blue and orange tent and people sitting around a campfire at night
Photo by Amit Thakare

9. Backyard Breakfast

There are many varieties of breakfast foods that can be cooked right over the fire. Try making breakfast sandwiches in a cast iron skillet or on a folding campfire grill. Wrap the sandwiches in tin foil to keep them warm and allow the cheese to melt. Feeling something sweet? Cook pancakes over the fire instead!

10. Know the Local Laws

While backyard camping might not technically be legal in your state or township of residence, if you just plan to have a simple backyard camping setup for a night or two, you will most likely be safe from any trouble. With that being said, it is always a good idea to play it safe and check the regulations regarding yard camping at your place of residence!

Now get out there and make some memories - and some s'mores!

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Written By
I am currently living out of my conversion van (2000 GMC Savana Sportsmobile) and traveling throughout North America. I am seeking out the tallest mountains to hike, the prettiest lakes to kayak, and remote camping spots. I love to travel internationally as well - I have backpacked though over 50 co...

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