Do you want to spend a night under the stars without spending time away from home? Have a foot in both camps by turning your backyard into a campsite. A great way to introduce children to camping, backyard camping can bring all of the fun without the hassle. Discover the benefits, how to set up shop, plus the many activities your family can participate in so that your children can learn to love camping before you “rough it” at an actual campsite.
HOME IS WHERE THE START IS
For outdoor outsiders, the idea of camping might be intimidating. Luckily, backyard camping can help newbies feel right at home. A short walking distance from everything you may need, turning your yard into a campground offers loads of benefits that the wild does not.
- Camp Close, Yet (Not So) Far Away – Camping in your backyard comes with built-in back-up plans. Keeping the campsite a quick walk from the house offers easy access for forgotten gear or bathroom breaks.
- Night Light – While you may be camping to power down, having a close-to-home setup allows for extension cords that can reach outdoor outlets. If you have children who are afraid of the dark or if you want to liven the night up, this allows lights and music to easily fill your backyard. As a courtesy, you may also want to alert your immediate neighbors first.
- The Great Indoors – Perhaps the biggest benefit of backyard camping is that you can always trek indoors if the situation changes for the worse. Whether it’s rain, cold or kids who would rather be inside, you don’t have to stay too committed if your camping crew isn’t having a good time.
Set the mood for camping by totally transforming your backyard and building an atmosphere of adventure. Using items you already have and some simple camping equipment, you can create a site worthy of spending the night.
- Closed Site, Open Fire – Using a fire pit can bring your campsite to life with authenticity and provide an extra bit of warmth on chilly nights. And, of course, they’re ideal for roasting toasty treats, which can be fun for kids of all ages — even the adults who are kids at heart. Make sure that you and your kids understand campfire safety and keep a buffer between the fire and the rest of the furniture. Also, be sure to soak the ground or set pavers down where the fire pit will be to avoid burning your grass.
- Lawn Lounging – Using furniture that you already have is a great way to create the perfect campsite without breaking the bank. Backyard picnic tables, chairs and hammocks can all be used to create your perfect campground. Don’t forget a bed for the dog, too.
- Pitch a Tent – Setting up a tent can be a fun (and sometimes challenging) family activity. When choosing a spot for your tent, face the door of the tent to the door of your house and allow for a clear, well-lit pathway absent of cables or stakes. This makes trips indoors for gear or bathroom breaks smoother. Solar lights or mini motion sensor lights can be placed next to stakes to make you and your children more aware of their placement.
An added benefit to backyard camping is the ability to use the comforts of your home. Cozy pillows, fuzzy blankets or even an air mattress can take your night to the next level.
UNPLUG YOUR FUN
One way to help make sure that no one is phoning in the camping experience is to put the phones away. Plan activities throughout the night to help keep the evening engaging for kids and adults alike.
- Camp Cuisine – Whether you want to go for an authentic camping experience with backpacking food or tryout some fireside feasts, snacks are one of the best parts of camping. Don’t forget to break out the s’mores supplies! In the morning, finish the camping trip with some pancakes and eggs over an early a.m. campfire.
- Fireside Fun – There are plenty of ways to have fun unplugged. Take advantage of the outdoors with activities like campfire stories and stargazing. Unlike traditional camping where lugging equipment can be a hassle, you have the opportunity to easily use a telescope to search for constellations. You can take advantage of your backyard with yard games like Spikeball or go the traditional route with games like charades. Crafts and books can be other exciting ways to pass the time.
- Electronic Entertainment – If you think quitting electronics cold turkey may be too tough, you can still bring out some camp-friendly gadgets like portable speakers. If you have little ones with short attention spans, projecting a movie on the side of your house could be an interesting way keep them engaged.
THINGS YOU NEED (AND THINGS YOU DON’T)
Backyard camping offers the opportunity to use equipment and furniture that is already part of your home. However, you may still want to bring along some traditional campground gear to commit to the experience. Shelter and sleep gear such as tents, tarps, sleeping bags and hammocks provide both comfort and a true campsite ambience.
For snacks and food made over the fire pit, bring a cooler and some camping grill accessories and eating utensils. If you opt out of traditional backyard lighting, bringing along some flashlights, headlamps and lanterns can brighten the experience. And of course, insect repellent and first-aid kits are must-haves during any outdoor affair. Using a mosquito repellent along the perimeter of your house beforehand can help prevent pesky visitors from putting a damper on the night.
There are, however, some traditional camping items that may not be necessary during a trip to your backyard and can help lighten the load. These include GPS units and compasses, fixed-blade knives, trekking poles and backpacks or duffel bags. Since the bathroom is only a few steps away inside, you can save on camp hygiene equipment like camp soap, bath wipes and towels — although hand sanitizer may still come in handy.
Camping in your neck of the woods can be a great learning experience before venturing to parts unknown. Not only is it a great way to introduce your kids to camping, but it can also be a fun, convenient choice overall.