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The Backyard Camper: Tips and tricks to keep your guests entertained

Updated on November 30, 2015

The Brainstormer's Advantage

Want to get away and do something new but don't have the money to go far? Want to have fun with friends and family but lack the means to do so? Here are some ideas for backyard camping, a simple way to get out of the house while not spending thousands on a weekend of mosquito bites.

This is also an awesome way to get your kid(s) and their groups of friends to hang out. Your girl in girl scouts or brownies? Your boy in eagle scouts? Gather everyone for a weekend of opportunities to earn their badges! Make up a schedule to keep them busy.

Or you can just open up your backyard as a summer camp, and invite everyone's kids from around the neighborhood.

Part One: The Ingredients

Just as food tastes better from someone else's plate, others' recipes have better ingredients. Here are 5 simple objects you can use to successfully camp in your own backyard.

#1. Tent.

A tent can be anything from a 4 room masterpiece of a house with tunnels to a 2 person dome tent. It can be made with collapsible poles or a circle of chairs and a blanket. No matter what you choose to buy or what you already have, you can provide yourself, your friends, or your children (or all of the above!) with the backyard camping tent of a lifetime.

Pet Hedgehog in a Tent
Pet Hedgehog in a Tent | Source

Small Tents.

Whether a two person dome tent, a Disney Princess tent with 10 kids crammed in, or a simple A-Frame tent, most smaller tents are cheaper. If this is what you are looking for, then they can be found in many stores or bought online. Just make sure to plan ahead; you want to know how to pitch it, to set it up before the guests arrive.

Medium Tents.

Usually, medium tents are dome tents that fit more than 4 people. Their price ranges are therefore a bit higher than smaller tents, but if you've got a girl scout troop or a group of college students, this is where you want to be thinking.

The Decagon Link Station by Logos is a modular tent system with, theoretically at least, no limit to its extendability.
The Decagon Link Station by Logos is a modular tent system with, theoretically at least, no limit to its extendability. | Source

Supersize Tents

Tent suites and tents with multiple rooms, even ones that look like cabins, are available if you can afford it. They provide not only the extra room for extra sleeping bodies, but they make it more interesting for an easily distracted group of kids or college-going young adults.

Want a super sized tent, but lack the funds? Have each person bring a smaller tent, and then connect the tents with tent tunnels! They are much cheaper than having to buy a larger tent to fit everyone, and you can still provide the open area so everyone can interact and go back and forth without ever having to leave.

#2. Bedding.

Whether you choose to go with sleeping bags, comforters with pillows, or just a bunch of cushions, bedding is always an important part of camping. If your group of campers all have kids' sleeping bags, then let them decide if they want to snuggle in them or unzip them and open the padding for everyone to use. Extra throw blankets will help in this case.

Comforters and pillows? No sweat! This only means that everyone can share or gather closer for scary stories or a movie. Once the storytelling is finished, everyone can easily separate and go their own ways to sleep.

Prefer a bunch of cushions? Still okay! If it's warm enough that nobody will care about a lack of blankets, try stealing all the couch cushions and pillows you can find and tossing them wherever in your tent. This is perfect for pillow fights, short scavenger hunts, and storytelling.

Camping Food!
Camping Food! | Source

#3. Food.

That's right. You can't have a camping trip or a party without snacks!

If you are relying on chips and Chex Mix to fill up your campers' tummies, then baggies for after the chips have all been opened, and cans of soda/pop are the way to go. If you're one to make sure everyone gets a meal, then try a picnic cooler with a variety of sandwich ingredients and salads, with bottles of water. Want a hot meal? Try to get your younger campers to eat that inside before heading out to the backyard.

Want a little bit of everything? I suggest getting a larger cooler for drinks, smaller lunch bags with ice packs for sandwich ingredients, and a big bucket for the bags of snacks. Whichever you choose, make sure to have a designated spot for the food, or have a little bit in each tent so that your young campers don't feel the need to argue.

The Cookout.

Know your campers are responsible enough to cook their own food? Set up a Foreman's portable grill on the back patio/porch/picnic table for them and set out the goods. They will fast go through what they want to make and chow down.

Fire stoking as at intermission of story telling, ATC Cranborne
Fire stoking as at intermission of story telling, ATC Cranborne | Source

#4. A Book of Stories.

Some of your campers might prefer to hear or tell a scary story. Others may just want to hear a fairy tale. Don't know one off the top of your head? Borrow a book from your library! You can easily find anthologies of scary short stories or of bedtime stories and fairy tales.

#5. Lights.

Believe it or not, all campers are going to want to feel safe, or at least have a backup safety net. When push comes to shove, they are going to be looking for candles or flashlights. I suggest flashlights of course, but if you still want to do candles, I would suggest buying the fake candles with a flame shaped light bulb. Safety not only comes in the form of light, but also in the form of a simple rule such as no fire allowed inside the tent!

Want to try something other than a flashlight or a fake candle? There are plenty of battery-operated night lights and lava lamps that would work just as well. Take a look around the camping section or light section of the nearest store, and see what you find! Have fun with it.

Does this look like the most amazingly fun chess set ever or what?
Does this look like the most amazingly fun chess set ever or what? | Source
This is a board game that me and 2 of the kids I babysit made. Fashioned after Monopoly, it has a bunch of haunted house themed stuff. They named it The Haunted Mansion.
This is a board game that me and 2 of the kids I babysit made. Fashioned after Monopoly, it has a bunch of haunted house themed stuff. They named it The Haunted Mansion.

Part Two: Activities

We all know about s'mores and campfire stories. But what if you're just backyard camping and don't even have a fire going? What if your campers are tiring of storytelling? Here are a couple ideas for activities the entire group will get in on!

#1. Board Games.

That's right! Dig out all the old classics. Monopoly, Trouble, Yahtzee, or UNO are always good ideas. A game more specific to the age/interest group of your campers can be considered as well. Have a younger group? Candy Land! A college-going group? Boggle or Scattergories. (Or Candy Land!) There is even a Giant Chess Set you can buy to keep those smarty pants occupied.

Make Your OWN.

Have an idea for your own board game? Awesome; try it out! Make a simple board with same size square spaces starting at one end and ending at another in whatever design you want. Grab a bunch of pieces to use as player pieces. Grab the Monopoly money or buy a cheap package of fake money at Staples or a dollar store from the toy section. Grab a die or two dice from Yahtzee or buy a package of dice for cheap at most stores. Grab paper or note cards, and make your own decks of cards with instructions for your game. Choose a theme if you want, and go nuts!

Please vote! =)

Have you ever been backyard camping?

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#2. A Net + What?

With rackets, birdies, tennis balls, a volleyball, or even wiffle balls, you can set up a simple net in your backyard to play multiple games. You can find cheap nets and badminton sets in most stores with a summer sport section.

Girls playing in a small pool
Girls playing in a small pool | Source

#3. Kiddie Pool.

That's right. Adult or child, it does not matter. There are cheap pools of different sizes, and they can be fun for everyone no matter the age. Buy one and set it up in the backyard right next to the tent. After some high-energy sports activity with the net, your campers can take a dip in the pool to cool off. Make sure to put out a pile of towels!

#4. Movie Time.

That's right. Cheat at the camping just a little bit, and bring electronics into it! Have an extension cord? Bring out the laptop, pop in a DVD, and have everyone lounge back for an oldie but goody such as The Goonies.

Have a portable DVD player? Make sure to charge it up and still pop in the DVD! The important thing is that everyone is together sharing the time. Put on a movie that everyone's seen a million times if you think your campers are just going to talk over it the entire time. Have a group a little more respectful to a movie being shown? Pick a horror or thriller to get their adrenaline pumping for the long night out in the dark. I would suggest one of the Scary Movie films for adults, or The Pagemaster for younger campers.

Renn Fest Show
Renn Fest Show | Source

#5. Skits.

Have a highly interactive group? Print out a list of camping skits! They can be acted out by everyone or just a few or alternate between the group. Amp up the mystery of the skit by having only the people acting it out know what they're doing. The rest will fall into fits of giggles as they watch. If the group is rather large, break everyone up into groups.

The Number One Thing To Remember When Camping, Especially When With Friends


No matter who you are with or what you are doing, it is simply important to let yourself relax enough to have fun. If this requires a few drinks (and you're of age), well, then...crack open that cooler, friend.

© 2011 Jennifer Kessner


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