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How to camp in your own backyard

Christina Holt is a blogger and freelance writer who lives in Southern California with her husband and three boys. Christina uses her love of design, adventures in parenting and teaching background as inspiration for her writing on numer...

Plan a backyard campout

There are many reasons to camp in the comfort of your own backyard. But before you head outside, make sure you have everything you need and consider all the variables to make the most of your experience – especially if you're using your backyard camping experience as a test for little campers.

Family camping in backyard

Why camping in your yard is a good test

If you've never been camping before, you can get a pretty good feel for what it will be like by camping in your own backyard. Practice relying on minimal necessities, enjoying the fresh air and relishing in quality family time without modern-day technologies and household items we typically become dependent on.

Camping in your own backyard is also a good test for little or first-time campers. Michelle Rock decided to test her husband's theory that their two young children could handle a camping trip. "We set up a mock campground in our backyard, complete with all my husband's camping gear and pretended the house was nowhere in sight." But what happened later that night made Michelle happy that they decided to do a trial run. "The baby (seven months old) wasn't able to fall to sleep come nighttime. We kept true to our test, but after five hours of trying to settle him, we decided it wasn't the right time." As a result, Michelle stayed home with her infant while her husband and 4-year-old son happily camped under the stars an hour from home.

Tip

Backyard camping can also be planned for a themed birthday party, a play date or as an inexpensive way to enjoy weekend family time.

Is it possible to take a baby on a camping trip? >>

Set the rules and expectations and plan some fun

Before you set up camp outside, set the rules and expectations for your family and yourself. This is especially important for families with young kids as they may not fully understand why they are sleeping outside or why they cannot run inside to watch TV before bed. Some ways to make your backyard camping experience fun for all:

  • Go on a hike around your neighborhood.
  • Experience the nature around you by exploring the dirt, rocks, insects, trees, leaves, clouds, birds, etc.
  • Take turns reading from a book as you pass it around a "campfire.".
  • Make s'mores and tell stories around the barbecue or fire pit.
  • Print out a star map and locate constellations.

Tips to make the most of your backyard camping experience

  • Set up your yard to look and feel like a real campsite.
  • Use real camping gear to mimic a campsite kitchen, set up tents and campground games and dig a hole when it's time to use the restroom.
  • Pretend the house is not there. Decide ahead of time if you'll allow trips to the restroom, but for everything else, pretend the house is not there.
  • Unplug and relax. Use this experience to unplug from the computer, your phone or other mobile devices to fully experience your adventure and gauge if it's something you'll be able to do away from the home.
  • Make it extra fun for kids who are less likely to understand why they can't watch TV or sleep in the comfort of their own bed.

Backyard camping supplies

Use this checklist to make sure you have everything you may need or want to make the most of your backyard camping adventure.

  • Outdoor tarp
  • Outdoor tent
  • Overhead shade or umbrella
  • Kitchen camping gear and utensils
  • Barbecue or fire pit
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Nonperishable food and snacks
  • Water
  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Hygiene essentials
  • Campground and outdoor games and toys
  • Some comforts of home for small children (pillow, battery-powered nightlight, security blanket, etc.)

Family camping checklist >>

More on camping

Camping checklist: 7 things you'll probably forget
Top camping vacation destinations for families
How to plan a romantic summer camping trip

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