Camping with the kids can be a beautiful experience; sleeping close to your babies under the velvet sky and bright moon, wrapped in the warm summer air. Or, it can be a tough night out in the rough embrace of the wild. You never know how a child will handle a new situation until they’ve experienced it, so planning a camping trip with children without a test run could equal disaster. That’s where a backyard camping trip comes into play.

A backyard campout will give you all the joys of camping—including sleeping in a tent and roasting marshmallows over a campfire—all within a few steps of home in case one of your littles doesn’t quite feel the whole “sleeping under the stars” thing.  

Here are a few tips for creating a memorable backyard camping trip.

Step 1 – Choose Your Tent Wisely

The right tent is crucial to a successful camping trip, whether it’s in the forest or your backyard. Don’t buy a tent that’s too big for your family or one that’s nearly impossible to put up with your kids underfoot. This is especially important if you’re using your backyard camping trip as a dry run for other camping excursions in the future.

Choose a tent based on the seasons you’ll camp. If you won’t be camping in winter, a 3-season tent designed for milder weather will be perfect.

Most tents are sold by occupancy, meaning the number of people it can comfortably sleep. You can squeeze two adults and two children into a 3-person tent, but if you’re going to camp in the future, it pays to invest in a tent that will accommodate your family in a few years. If you have 4 people in your family, purchase a 4-person tent. Look for a 5- or 6-person model if you want a little more space.



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Step 2 – Don’t Skimp on the Sleeping Gear

Sleeping bags are easy to transport, and they make packing simple. You can roll up blankets, pillows, and even extra clothes in your sleeping bag—all in one convenient package.

If you’re not springing for air mattresses, you might want to consider sleeping mats or padding to go under the sleeping bags. They keep you and the kids from sleeping on the hard, cold ground, and they’re easy to pack.  

Don’t forget to bring pillows! No one likes sleeping without a comfy pillow, no matter where you’re laying your head.

Step 3 – Plan Dinner…and Dessert

Backyard campouts are a great excuse to light a campfire, or a bbq grill or fire pit, and break out some of the best foods known to man — yes, we’re referring to s’mores. Make sure you’re not only eating sugar! Here are a few ideas for campfire-friendly meals that every camper in your group will enjoy making:

  • Foil Packet Meals. Add your ingredients, wrap up a foil packet, and toss it into the coals or on the grill. You can cook everything from fish and chicken to vegetables and even desserts in foil packets.
  • Campfire Cones. This option is a spinoff of the foil packet meal. Campfire cones are a neat way to enjoy all the tastiness of s’mores without all the mess. Simply stuff your marshmallows and toppings into a waffle cone, wrap it in foil and toss it on the fire. All the melted goodness is contained in one neat package.
  • S’mores. Come on, you can’t have a campout without s’mores! You don’t have to stick to the traditional chocolate-marshmallow-graham cracker set up. There are many creative possibilities.
  • Healthier Snacks. Your campfire can be used for healthier alternatives as well, like roasted fruits and vegetables or fantastic kebabs. Everything tastes better over an open fire!

Step 4 – Expect the Unexpected

The day of your camp out, make sure to check the weather multiple times. The last thing you want to do is wake up to a torrential downpour and a miniature replica of the Nile River in your tent. Consider a backup adventure! A garage works perfectly if you take the time to clear it out in advance (ie. if there is even a slight chance of rain in the forecast.)

When cleaning out your backup sleeping space, make sure to sweep up the dirt and debris that has accumulated over the weeks, months, or years since you’ve last cleaned out your garage (hey, this is a judgement-free zone!) Proceed to lay out a tarp and prep the garage in case you need to make a mad dash indoors. Your garage can be a nice alternative to completely packing it up and relinquishing your outdoors experience if the weather turns south, but only if you take a little time to prepare!

Step 5 – Keep Them Entertained

It can be tricky to keep kids entertained while camping, especially if they’re accustomed to the TV or handheld gaming consoles when they’re bored. Planning ahead can help to stave off that boredom-monster and keep everyone entertained for the entire campout. Here are a few ideas:

  • Plan a treasure hunt. This is especially fun for older kids, because what’s better than hunting for treasure after the sun goes down? Hide some treasures in the yard—like snacks, s’mores fixings, or little trinkets—before you head out for your campout. Create a simple treasure map, and sit back and watch the fun unfold.
  • Set up a scavenger hunt. Make a list of the things your kids might find in the backyard, like leaves, flowers, branches or bugs. For smaller kids, consider a picture-based scavenger hunt list.
  • Spot the stars. If you have a telescope at home, your family campout the perfect time to use it. If you don’t own one, you can hunt for constellations, make up your own constellations or use an app on your phone to locate them.

It’s simple to set up a memorable backyard camping trip that can be a really great night out and a perfect practice run for camping off-site in the future. Have any other tips or tricks to share? Let us know!