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Backyard Camping: Creating Memorable Outdoor Adventures Close to Home

Have you ever wanted to go camping but didn’t know where to start? Try backyard camping and get a taste of outdoor life!

Camping in your backyard can be both a money saver and can provide loads of fun right at home. Read on to learn all about how to go backyard camping!

Kids in a tent with the house in the background, enjoying backyard camping

Why go Camping in Your Backyard?

What are the advantages of camping in your backyard? With the rising cost of living, taking a family vacation isn’t always possible. Having a camping staycation is a great way to save money for future trips and can be more cost-effective than camping at a campground.

Backyard camping is also a great way to prepare your children or family members who have never been camping before for what to expect. And it’s a great way to break in your new camping gear!

Other reasons to go backyard camping are to get the kids outside and off their devices, to take advantage of the nice weather, or to do something different from your regular camping trip! The best part? You can bring along your pets!

Set Up Basics

Where do you set up?

This is the most important question. Do you want to sleep near the campfire? Would you rather be closer to the house or farther away? How far away from your game area do you plan to sleep?

You’ll want to weigh all your options of where it will be best to set up your sleeping area versus your eating area.

The size of your backyard will have a significant influence on this decision, as well. And be sure to take into consideration the campers, too! Very young campers might be fearful if you stray too far from your homebase.


Grab your tent and find a flat spot to pitch it where you won’t hear your neighbors. If you’ve got the means, roll out a few yoga mats on the bottom of the tent to help cushion any divots or small rocks on the ground. You can even grab some pillows from the sofa or your bedroom to make it more like a sleepover outside!

Don’t own a tent yet? You can make your own mini-tent by stringing rope or a clothesline between two trees. Simply fold over a tarp, bedsheet, or canvas and use stakes, large rocks, or whatever you have available to hold the edges to the ground in place.


Create the perfect atmosphere for your backyard camping adventure by hanging patio lights, tiki torches, or camping lanterns around your yard! This will especially help keep younger children from getting too scared once the sun has set and all the lights in the house are out. And it will help create make-shift stars if you happen to camp out on a cloudy night and can’t see real ones!

Fire Pit

If you’ve got a fire pit, then this will make the experience all the more realistic as you cook your meals outdoors. However, if this isn’t feasible, then bring out the grill! You can still have a camping experience and eat like royalty by grilling your meals for that authentic campfire taste!

Camping Furniture

Don’t forget to bring along some outdoor furniture! If you’ve got a few chairs for the back porch, those will work great.

Kids love their own place to sit. Grab a kid’s camping chair for each kiddo to make the night extra special and avoid arguments over seating.

You’ll also need a pop-up table for meals and game time. Be sure to pack a cooler full of drinks so you can stay hydrated!

Turn Out the House Lights!

Be sure to flip off those lights before you leave the house for the night. Creating as dark an environment as is comfortable for your campers will make the experience all the more fun! And it can help you see the stars, watch a movie, or catch fireflies once it gets dark out. Grab some glow sticks for some extra nighttime fun, too!

Backyard Camping Alternatives

Not everyone has the luxury of a spacious area to go backyard camping. So what are you to do if you don’t have access to a space large enough for traditional camping?

Use what you have at your disposal. A deck, porch, patio, balcony, or even a rooftop can work as an alternative space for backyard camping.

Kids in a tent with the house in the background, enjoying backyard camping

Decide which elements are most important for your experience. Do you have room for a tent, or will a makeshift covering do the job for your needs? A grill might be your only option for a campfire, but it will do the job just fine!

Get creative and tailor your activities according to what you have at your disposal and the size of your space. Any location can become a campsite with enough creative thought!

What to Eat

You’ve got your camp set up. But what about the food?

No need to stress about what to feed your hungry campers! Here are a few go-to recipe ideas that will make mealtime a snap.


Try the classic graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallow sweet treats. Or raise the bar and try adding fruit, peanut butter, or cookies to your s’mores!

Grill Your Meal

Go old-school and grill out using your favorite! Hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, and kabobs are always easy options for filling bellies and making happy campers!

Make Campfire Packets

Campfire packets are a simple and quick way to make a complete supper! This Hamburger Tin Foil Meal takes just a few ingredients and is packed with flavor. Mix things up by changing what vegetables you use or altering the seasonings!

Trail Mixes and Other Snacks

Prepare some make-ahead trail mixes for campers to nibble on in between meals. Make your own unique mix by adding dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and chocolate pieces or popcorn!

Be sure to have granola bars, pretzels, beef jerky, fruit leather, and dried or fresh fruit for great snack ideas that won’t fill your campers with a ton of unwanted sugar.

Tip: Plan ahead for your backyard camping trip by arranging for meals that you can prep ahead of time. Pre-mixed and pre-cut ingredients will make the whole thing easier!

What to Do

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Kick-start the fun with a scavenger hunt! You can create a fun activity for all involved, no matter the age range.

Another way you can enjoy a scavenger hunt is to set your campers loose in the neighborhood!

Bird Watching

This is a fun activity you can do with minimal supplies! Depending on the season you choose to backyard camp, there are usually birds around to watch.

Choose a comfy location with a great view of your local birds and sit and watch! Find a guide on common backyard birds for easy reference when learning to identify the birds you spot.

Happen to have a pair of binoculars? Even better! These will help you focus on and identify birds that closely resemble one another.

Flashlight Tag

Do you live in an area that gets really dark? Grab some flashlights and play tag! This game only works if there are no other competing light sources around, so remember to turn out all lights from your house and choose a spot away from the road.

Check out the rules on how to Play Flashlight Tag for an unforgettable night of fun!


In our busy world of devices and screens, it’s easy to take the little things for granted. Slow down and admire the beautiful sky nature has provided for our entertainment!

Lay some blankets on the ground and find a spot that’s as far from any unnatural light as possible. Then spend an hour or two absorbing the splendor of the heavens that hang above our heads!

Add some fun by aiming to locate some constellations! Find a few of the most popular constellations with this handy Backyard Stargazing guide!

Outdoor Games

Keep things simple with some fun outdoor games that you have on hand! Toss around a ball, throw a frisbee, or pull out your game of cornhole for some family fun.

If you’ve got access to a badminton or croquet set, these will provide a few hours of enjoyment for the whole family.

Another idea for outdoor games is catching fireflies in a jar. Who can catch the most?

Or try using glow sticks by creating an after-dark ring toss game with some empty bottles or jars!

Afraid you’re going to run out of things to do? We’ve got you covered. Check out our games page for more fun ideas.

Tell Stories Around the Campfire

Sitting around a campfire and telling stories is an age-old activity! It’s free and can be enjoyed by any age group. Just dig out your creativity and tell some fun stories that will entertain a crowd.

Not sure where to begin with your storytelling? Try telling a few classics or urban legends that have been around the campfire a few times. These campfire story ideas are perfect for starting the storytelling fun!

Watch a Movie on the Side of the House or Tent

Are you giving up technology for your camping trip? That doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a makeshift drive-in movie night!

Outdoor movie screen with blankets, pillows, and popcorn

Set the scene by hanging a white sheet along the side of your house or using the side of your tent as the screen. Then grab an extension cord, outdoor projector, air mattress, lots of blankets, and pillows, and put on your favorite family movie to watch beneath the stars! Set up a snack station nearby for some added movie theater-style fun!

Make Friendship Bracelets

Nothing says summer camp like friendship bracelets! These wearable crafts are easy to make and fun to work on together. Grab some embroidery floss in a variety of colors and get crafting!

You can find a tutorial online, or use your own design you learned to make while at summer camp!

Sing Songs

What about some music? Nothing is better than sitting around a campfire and singing good old-fashioned campfire songs!

It doesn’t matter how good a singer you are or if you have a guitar on hand. Gather together and sing your heart out for some much-needed group bonding!

Keeping Safe

Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you can let your guard down when it comes to safety! You’re still outdoors, which carries a level of caution and responsibility.

Remember to pack plenty of bug spray and sunscreen to keep your skin healthy. Nothing can ruin a camping trip like an attack of unwanted mosquitoes that leaves you itching all night long.

Be sure to bring along a fully stocked first aid kit. This can include the basics like band-aids and calamine lotion, as well as ibuprofen and personal meds that can’t be missed.

Fire Safety

Fire safety is a topic you won’t want to ignore! Talk to your local borough or offices about what the fire laws are in your area. Remember to only burn fires in actual fire pits, not ones you’ve created just for your backyard camping trip.

Also, clear any brush, clippings, or dried leaves away from the fire area before starting it. A flying ember can catch fire quickly!

Keep a portable fire extinguisher on hand, and learn how to put out a campfire before lighting the match.

Finally, explain the rules of fire safety to your children. Decide who gets to use the cooking sticks or utensils, who is allowed to stoke the fire, and how many feet they must stay away from the pit area.

The more your children understand exactly what is expected of them, the less likely they are to have an accident.

List Your Rules

It’s a fun idea to have your kids help make a list of Camping Rules that you can all follow. When you make your backyard camping trip official, it will feel more like a camping staycation to them. And it will make it feel less like something you threw together because you hadn’t planned ahead.

Pretend that your backyard camping trip is as real as the one you would drive an hour away to take. When you pack your bags, include everything you would pack if you were leaving for a real camping trip.

Don’t cave and go back inside the house for something you’ve forgotten. Instead, figure out a way to substitute or make do with what you have, just as you would on a real camping trip.

Some good questions to ask as a group are:

When does the official trip begin, and when does it end? Once you’re on your trip, will you allow yourself to cheat and run back into the house for forgotten items? Will you allow a 3-strikes arrangement to go back inside for something?

Is this digital detox? Will you allow devices, and which ones? And for how long?

What about the bathroom? Can you go inside to use the toilet? Will you skip the shower? Where will you brush your teeth?

Do you want to return to the house for refrigerated or frozen items so food doesn’t spoil? Or will you rely solely on your cooler?

Two kids making shadow puppets on the wall of their tent

Have Fun Backyard Camping!

That’s everything you need to know about backyard camping! Don’t forget to pack the necessities and the fun! When will your next camping adventure take place?

Looking for more information on Camping with Kids? Visit our page to learn all you need to know!