How to Plan a Backyard Camping Night With Your Family

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With children off of school for the foreseeable future, many parents are probably wondering how they can both keep their kids entertained and still enjoy some outdoor time. Spring is prime camping season, with its cool nighttime temps and pleasantly warm days. Even though you may not be able to go camping at your favorite spot right now, that doesn't mean you can't still enjoy a campout with the family in your own backyard!

Of course, you don't need to be stuck at home to have a good ole fashioned family backyard campout. These are great for times when the weather is uncertain, you don't have the time for an extended trip, or just for fun on a whim! You can also use a backyard campout as a trial run to see how your family would fare on a “real” camping trip. Depending on the gear you already have, you can go about your family campout in several different ways and, perhaps best of all, make it as luxurious or primitive as you like. 

A Pampered Experience

Are your family members not exactly the "outdoorsy" type? Or perhaps they prefer the amenities of tent and RV camping over backpacking? No problem! No matter what style of tent you will be sleeping in, family or backpacking, it's easy to ensure that you're powered up for your favorite electronics. Set up your tent close to your house or a garage with electric access, run an extension cord, and you're good to go! (A power strip might also be a good idea.) Including some of the comforts of home, such as a fan or even setting up a small TV and DVD player for an outdoor family movie night will make your backyard campout that much more enjoyable and fun for new or reluctant campers. 

Roughin' It

You don't need electricity to have a great time outside. In fact, that's a large part of its appeal! Unplugging from technological devices gives everyone a chance to unwind and reconnect. Invite your kids to help set up your tent(s). Talk about what makes a good tent spot: Level terrain, well-drained, not underneath any questionable tree branches, etc. Children love helping out and learning new skills. Roast some hot dogs over a fire or grill out, if you're able, and enjoy some classic camping food. (Building a fire is another activity kids love to help with.) If you can't make a fire but still want to enjoy some smores, you can roast them over your grill.

Kids getting restless after dinner, but it's not quite bedtime yet? Bring a card game, such as Uno or Go Fish. Catch fireflies. Look for constellations together in the night sky. Or simply listen to the crickets chirp as you catch up on each other's lives or tell funny stories. This article from Taste of Home has even more great ideas to make your backyard campout a fun and pleasant experience.

Tarp Time

Even if you don't have a tent, you might still be able to make do with what you have. If your family is feeling extra adventurous and you have some trees, posts, walking sticks, or trekking poles, try stringing up a tarp or two to sleep under. Get creative. It could be a fun challenge for the whole family to work together to set up these makeshift shelters. Be sure to use another tarp under your sleeping bags and pads in case of rain and to avoid overnight moisture from dew. Many backpackers have been pleasantly surprised after using a tarp for the first time. It might turn out you and your family members do too! If this is the case, we offer several different sizes of tarps for your future camping adventures, whether at home or in the wilderness.


No matter what type of camping you are planning on doing in your backyard, you will need several pieces of basic gear. 


  • Tent or tarp
  • Sleeping bag or blankets
  • Sleeping pad (even if you're just using blankets; you need some form of insulation between yourself and the cold ground)

Technically, that is all you absolutely need for a backyard campout. But, the following things will make it a lot more pleasant for everyone.

Optional Items:

  • Pillows
  • Special blankets, stuffed animals, toys, etc.
  • Flashlights, headlamps, or battery-powered lanterns
  • Air mattresses and blankets to go underneath to provide more insulation
  • A tarp to go under your tent if there is a chance of rain
  • Entertainment, snacks, drinks, pajamas, change of clothes, etc. (if you are planning on treating this as a “trial run” and not going back into the house unless necessary until the next day)
  • Camp or lawn chairs to sit around the fire and/or stargaze together 

Again, like regular camping, backyard camping can be as simple or fancy as your family desires. Don't overthink it. Spend some quality time outdoors together, get the kids involved, and the whole family is sure to have a great time.

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