Camping and summer go together like baseball and Cracker Jack, or better yet, fire-roasted marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate. Spending the day at the lake, star gazing at night, and telling ghost stories around the fire are all part of the tradition of camping. But if you don’t have time in your busy schedule to gather your supplies and take time off from work, don’t fear. You can still enjoy the great outdoors without the hassle of a traditional camping trip, simply pitch a tent under the stars in your own backyard!
There are a lot of perks to camping out in your backyard. There’s no packing, no traveling for miles to an expensive campsite, and the bathroom is nearby – the kids won’t have to wander around an unfamiliar campsite in the middle of the night with a dying flashlight. Setting up a tent in the backyard is the fastest, cheapest way to spend some family time under the stars. Here is everything you need to create the ultimate camping experience in your own backyard.
What You Need to Set up Camp
The beauty of a backyard camping trip is that you can bring as little or as much as you want. All you really need is a comfortable place to sleep, warm bedding and a few flashlights. With the house only a few yards away, you have everything you need at your fingertips – a stocked fridge, indoor plumbing, and a place to take refuge if it starts to rain or the mosquitoes are on a rampage. Need a deck of cards for a game of War or the acoustic guitar for campfire songs, they’re just a hop, skip, and jump away.
A backyard camping trip is designed to be low on stress, which means that all the time and energy that normally goes into, say, packing a hatchback with a week’s worth of camping gear or keeping hungry raccoons out of the trash can, can be spent on creative games, treats and stay-at-home activities. Classic camping activities such as family board games and rousing renditions of “The Little Green Frog” are just as fun in the backyard as they are at the campground. But backyard camping is all about taking it to the next level – try a few ideas below for backyard camping 2.0:
- Build Your Own Tent. Chances are the family tent that’s stored in the basement smells like old, moldy gym socks. Camping at home gives you the chance to build something unique, like a tent that moonlights as a fort but is really a blanket house. Impress the kids with your outdoor skills (thank goodness the tool shed is nearby!) and build something memorable.
- Game On. Game time is essential to camping. When you pitch a tent in the backyard, you have access to all types of games you wouldn’t normally have access to on a traditional camping trip. Badminton, volleyball, and croquet (nobody lugs croquet mallets on a camping trip!) can all be enjoyed in the backyard. And don’t forget the Frisbee, either.
- Backyard Birding. Who says a backyard camping trip isn’t educational? Have binoculars and a Peterson Field Guide bird book on hand and spend the early evening identifying backyard birds with the kids. With a few well-placed bird feeders and a pedestal bath, you can turn your yard into a wildlife sanctuary. If the kids enjoy bird watching, then spend some time identifying backyard plants, trees, and insects.
- Turn the Backyard into a Movie Theater.Camping is about going analog. It’s about getting away from iPhones and tablets and getting closer to nature… even if that nature is just the birch tree or rose garden in your backyard. While you probably have a Wi-Fi signal in your yard, don’t use it to load up a Netflix movie on your iPad when things are winding down for the night. Hang a large sheet from a clothesline, and project a film with an outdoor theater projector.
Recipes and Gourmet Touches
Grilling a hearty meal is an essential part of camping. A charcoal grill gives your food that woodsy taste that a gas grill just can’t replicate. Depending on the size and location of your backyard, consider building an outdoor fire pit. The kids will love it because a backyard fire pit gives them the chance to roast their hot dogs and marshmallows over an open fire. While burgers and dogs are traditional camping food, when you pitch a tent in the backyard, you can get creative and think beyond the cooler.
- Campfire Nachos. A good batch of nachos requires a lot of ingredients, and that industrial-sized jar of salsa just isn’t going to fit in the cooler. Thanks goodness you’re only 10 feet away from the refrigerator.
- Homemade Chili. It’s a camping classic. Whip up a batch in the morning before you head out into the backyard to scope out a good campsite.
- Gourmet S’mores. You can never go wrong with traditional s’mores, but if you’re taking backyard camping to the next level, then it’s time to go gourmet and put a new spin on these sweet treats. Add a little peanut butter to a classic s’more and turn it into a Nutty Buddy. Substitute white chocolate for dark chocolate, add fresh farm strawberries, and call it a Strawberries and Cream s’more.
- Grilled Cheese, Please. Seriously, what child can resist this warm, gooey classic? Top it off with an extra boost of summer goodness by adding tomato, basil, and few slices of Granny Smith apple.
- Homemade Ice Cream. Yes, it sounds scary but making homemade ice cream is easier than you might think. Make Ben and Jerry proud and become the envy of every mother in the neighborhood by whipping up one of these flavorful concoctions before heading outside for the evening.