Regular camping far from home takes us away from it all. But here’s how backyard camping can do almost the same thing, especially for those of us lucky enough to live in rural areas.
Cook something outdoors you’ve never cooked before
When camping on your own property, don’t do the usual backyard barbecue or simply eat “house food” just because you're close to home. Search online or go to your public library if possible for great books on outdoor camp food to enjoy whether you rent a tiny camp stove, use a backyard firepit, or make take-along foods to eat picnic style with no cooking involved.
Invite others for a sing-along or outdoor storytelling session
(COVID-19 quarantine version below.) One advantage to backyard camping is that you can invite lots of
other nearby non-camping people to join just parts of the adventure, such as the meal or
the sing-along, and then they can go home when it’s time for bed.
Whereas when you travel far from neighbors, it’s just your own group. Camp sing-alongs tend
to need group energy to make participation feel comfortable.
Invite your neighbors or close friends to enjoy a camp sing-along or story telling session (no electronics allowed). Short fables read aloud by flashlight make good backyard camping stories, letting listeners guess what the “moral” is at the end before revealing it. Storytelling can be quieter than singing and might be best for when nearby neighbors would appreciate the quiet if they aren’t participating in your gathering.
During COVID-19 or similar social distancing or shelter-in-place times: Take inspiration from the neighbors across the globe during COVID-19 who called each other to all come outside at a specific time to sing together from a distance. Not for those whose property is completely remote, but certainly for those with neighbors an acre away if someone can play karaoki music on a speaker. And if two far away for sound but not sight, agree to all light campfires or bright groups of candles at a certain time, and notice each others' flickering flames from a distance. Though far apart, it can be very bonding.
Sleep under the stars
Another advantage with family backyard camping you don’t have when traveling is that you can be more spontaneous and choose the perfect clear starlit night for the occasion. And when you sleep out under the stars rather than in a camper or tent, you really enter a world you rarely ever see.
- Before the backyard starlit camping event, if your public library is open and close enough, see if it has “Once
Upon a Starry Night,” which is a story of the constellations. Even grown ups love the artform of the picture book. If not available,
there are other excellent illustrated books on the constellations. Check
one out or find a used one online.
- You’ll need sleeping bags, either groundsheets (these can be picnic table oilcloths, heavy plastic, tarps), or air mattresses, a flashlight with its own waterproof container, dry comfortable clothes (sweat suits work well), and if possible, star gazing binoculars.
- If there is an actual campfire, set up the sleeping area at least 15 feet upwind for safety (check first for updated recommendations), or extinguish the fire completely before bedtime if you're concerned about shifting wind as the fire dies, and drifting sparks.
- Choose dry, flat ground with either grass or soil. Avoid moss because it attracts and holds moisture.
- Check for lumps from stones, roots, or branches, and smooth out the site where possible, or find a more suitable spot.
- Lay the groundsheets or air mattresses down, one for each backyard camper unless you want to use a large one for the parents or two small people.
- Lay out your sleeping bags properly. Most camping areas, even backyard camping areas, aren't completely flat. Set out your sleeping bags so the head is slightly higher than the feet.
- Secure the flashlight and binoculars in a waterproof container such as a plastic or canvas bag, next to your sleeping bags.
- Make sure whatever you're wearing isn't damp at all from sweating before climbing into sleeping bags. Sleeping outdoors calls for completely dry clothing.
- Between your sing-along or story-telling time and when it’s time to go to bed, read the constellation book together assuming it’s not quite dark yet. If children are involved, let them take turns shining the flashlight on the book to enhance the visibility. If you have really young kids, you may want to have read the book previously a few times in segments as a bedtime story, then use tonight to review.
- Climb into sleeping bags and look for constellations and search for falling stars. On most nights, especially in the summer, there will be at least three or four shooting stars and even more near August 12th. You’ll see a world you rarely ever notice.
- Electronic addicted kids, and any kids in general, may enjoy a little secret activity they can do on their own at bedtime after it’s time to be quiet. Give them their own flashlights for inside their sleeping bags and a storybook or activity book to enjoy by flashlight. If you feel they need even more glitz to keep them occupied, try glow-in-the-dark modeling foam or crayons. You can also give old-enough kids a baggie of trail mix to eat on their own as they choose after bedtime.
- You may want to blend a group audio story listening activity with your outdoor camping. Check out that fun tradition here.
Present Backyard Campers T-shirts if there are kids involved
After backyard camping is over, surprise kids with a "Happy Camper" T-shirt. Hand letter blank T-shirts yourself with permanent fabric pens and/or fabric paint, or customize and order backyard camping T-shirts online through our Zazzle account, or just click on the one below and easily customize it with your family's name or other text.