Backyard Camping Fun for the Whole Family: Ultimate Guide to a Close-to-Home Adventure

by Jon D. B.

While our homes are our sanctuaries, 2020 forced most of us to spend far more time in the house than we ever thought possible. Similarly, getting out into open nature has become the most popular way to shake off the “stuck” feeling we’ve all become so accustomed to. Packing up the entire gang for a cumbersome, expensive outing, however, can lead to feeling even more – well – stuck. And this is where backyard camping comes in.

How’d you like a break from everything with a fraction of that hassle or cost? It seems so simple once you’ve read it, but backyard camping is something most will go their entire lives without trying. Since you’re here, though, something tells us you’re ready to give it a go.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or looking to discover the outdoors, backyard camping done right is by far the quickest way to an unforgettable adventure. The best part, too, is that it can be as lax – or as adventurous – as you want it to be. With bonfire cooking, outdoor games, stargazing, and everything in between at your fingertips, there are a hundred different ways to love backyard camping. And we’re here to help make sure you enjoy every minute of it!

Backyard Camping: Less $tress, More Fun

Once you’ve broken the stigma of having to be out in “real” nature to enjoy nature itself, the possibilities soar. In addition, the benefits of backyard camping become clear right off the bat, as well. For one, it’s an adventure that can cost you literally nothing – to just a fraction – of a family outing.

If you own a tent and camping gear but have never set it up in the backyard – now’s the time! You’ve already got everything you need for an evening or full weekend of outdoor adventure. Moreover, if you’ve been nervous to take smaller children or nature-weary kids and throw them to the wolves (maybe don’t use that phrase with them), backyard camping is the perfect opportunity to test temperaments for adventure. All, again, for little to no cost.

Even if you’re using backyard camping as an excuse to buy that tent, hammock, sleeping backs, and build that firepit you’ve always wanted – great! It’ll only set you back whatever you plan to spend – but without the cost of gas & travel expenses, campground fees & regulations, planning stress, etc. Let’s face it – not having to walk yourself – or a child – into the forest with a roll of toilet paper is worth the entire idea, too, isn’t it? Everything becomes exactly as easy or as complex as you want it to be. And if anything goes wrong, you’re a few feet from the house. It’s literally a win-win-win.

Tent Time! Backyard Camping 101

(photo credit: Laura Pluth/Getty Images)

The best thing you can possibly do for yourself is let go of that “we’re still at home” feeling. Get outside, no matter how big or small your yard is, and just breathe.

If you’ve already got your camping gear, then go for it full-throttle. Consider your backyard a full campground. Locate a suitable spot to pitch: any flat, relatively smooth plot in the yard will do. This is a great family activity with the kiddos, too. Search for that perfect spot – and then make it a masterclass in at-home-adventure.

Moreover – and we can’t stress this enough – the best part about backyard camping is: COMFORT. Pump up some air mattresses to set up in the tent or under your shelter of choice. Or at the very least, lay out all your quilts to make the ground under your sleeping bags as soft and cushy as you’d like. Eliminate any discomfort of rough & tumble adventure while you’re at home, and make the best of it.

If you’re getting camping gear for the first time or don’t plan on spending much, you can make a shelter from waterproof tarps and rope, or whatever you have on-hand to stay budget-friendly. The most important thing to remember is keeping dry, safe, and healthy. You’ll need shelter to protect yourself from insect bites, especially while sleeping at night. Moreover, you’ll need to be dry below in addition to overhead, as well. Having a waterproof tarp for underneath your sleeping gear is just as important as having one over your head.

All of this considered we do highly recommend taking the opportunity to order at least a tent. From there, everything else can be brought from inside the house (couch cushions to sleep on, blankets, pillows, you name it).

From here, you can hang fairy lights to light the tent and yard with an ethereal glow (which helps most kids become more comfortable with sleeping outside) – or keep it as dark as possible for stargazing. It’s all up to you, and how comfortable the crew is with the outdoors at night.

Escape 2020: No Phones or Electronics – Just Camp!

To make all of the above far more enjoyable, make it a true adventure. Or, for those of us old enough to remember the days before cellphones and home internet – make it actual camping!

Gather up all smartphones, tablets, smartwatches – you name it – and put them in a drawer together inside. Nothing kills a camp faster than screens. Remember, you’re just in your backyard! If an emergency arises, you’re yards away from stepping back inside to make a call. Or, if you trust yourself (or your better half) to stay off the screen, bring one phone out to be ready for any emergency. Just put it on silent – and enjoy life like the fearless pilgrims of the early 1990s.

Bonfire Time: Cook & Tell

Photo: Getty Images

If you thought using backyard camping for an excuse to buy camping gear was great – wait until you use it to build yourself that glorious firepit you’ve always wanted! Or, if you’ve already got one, you’re still excited because this is another chance to use it!

Looking to occupy time (and kiddos)? Building a firepit together can be made a blast. Finding that perfect spot together is part of the adventure, too. Remember, however, that fires should only ever be utilized in a safe and responsible manner. If you don’t have an open-air spot at least twenty feet from the side of your home, forego the firepit and grab a grill, instead. If you’ve got an appropriate spot to set one up, then be sure to remove all vegetation from a good 5 foot diameter spot, and line it with stones or bricks to keep fires safely contained.

For those who already have their beloved bonfire spot: don’t just use it for fire – use it for food! Cooking over a fire can be as easy and straightforward as grilling. And if you’re going backyard camping sans-firepit – bring the grill out. Some things to try:

Food is, after all, an excellent motivator, and can be used to ensure everyone has a great time. Play off of this and tell campfire stories, and take the time to really communicate with one another. If nothing else, this alone works wonders to ensure your backyard camping becomes unforgettable memories.

Play Card Games, Build Forts, Have Fun

This all applies to adult parties just as much as parents looking to entertain children, as well. Don’t feel pressured to do “outdoorsy” things unless that’s what you want to do. And, chances are, if that’s your thing, then you already know exactly what your backyard camping activities will be. A few additional ideas never hurt, however, and if you’re looking for something new, try:

  • Setting up a net for badminton or volleyball
  • Toss frisbee or organize some backyard frisbee golf
  • Beanbag toss, i.e. cornhole, is always a hit!
  • If none of these are for you, then… Croquet, anyone?

Perhaps the best advice we can give, though, is to make this fun!

For those figuring this whole camping thing out for the first time – bring a deck of cards! The options are endless with a single deck. Board games can be a blast, too, but harder to keep track of or contained outside. From there, also consider keeping the fun outdoors-centered and:

  • Bring blankets out and build a fort.
  • Use sticks to create a giant tick-tack-toe board.
  • Go on a foraging adventure and explore your yard
  • Organize a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt

Remember – the entire point of backyard camping is to get outside and enjoy yourself. That’s it! There’s literally nothing else to it. So think about what makes you and yours happy, and then make it part of your camping adventure. From there, the rest will fall into place.

Ready for some Backyard Camping?

If you’re in need of a few campfire & camping essentials to get you started, check out our 17 Amazon Camping Supplies You Didn’t Know You Needed and get all set up for your backyard adventure.

From there, your 7 Best Camping Chairs for Your Next Socially-Distanced Backyard Get-Together has you covered for a selection of campfire chairs, as well.

And if you plan on going all-out with your campfire, as mentioned, these Must-Have Items for Your Campfire This Year will get you where you want to be!

Enjoy your backyard adventure, Outsiders!