Trip Canceled? 6 Essentials to Grab for a Fun Backyard Campout Instead
Host a fun family getaway without leaving the safety of your home.
Typically Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer season filled with lake days, camping trips, and family vacations. But since we’ve canceled our upcoming vacations due to the coronavirus pandemic, my family has started improvising. We’ve been having (safe) family picnics and going on as many nature walks as possible (which can actually help boost your mood!), but I just rediscovered a family activity that’s perfect for warm summer weekends: Backyard camping.
If you haven’t done it before, camping in the backyard is pretty much the same as camping anywhere else, except you have the luxury of going inside to use the restroom in the middle of the night. If you’re missing out on a family trip or just want to change things up for an evening, it's a fun way to unplug and relax together. If you have older kids, backyard camping can be a way for them to have a socially-distant version of a sleepover if they’re missing spending time with friends.
To get started, you’ll need a few basics (like a tent and s’mores supplies), so we’ve rounded up our must-have backyard camping essentials. Pull what you have out of the garage and stock up on the rest of these supplies for the ultimate family campout.
First things first: If you’re going camping, you’ll need a tent. If you already have a tent, go ahead and pull it out of the garage and make sure you have all the parts and that there aren't any holes in it. If you don’t have one, now may be the appropriate time to invest in one. Tents can cost anywhere from $30 to $500, so before you start shopping online, consider what you'll use it for. If you plan to use the tent for more camping trips later on, it’s worth splurging on a large, sturdy one like this Adventure Dome Tent ($169, L.L. Bean). But if you only plan for the kids to use it in the backyard a few times a year, a more affordable option like this smaller A-Frame Tent, ($35, Target) is a safe bet. You can even find fun indoor tents like this Unicorn Kids Tent ($30, Target) if a living room camping trip is more your speed.
No screens allowed! The only light source you need on this camping trip is the kind that runs on batteries. Before you head out to the backyard, pick up a few flashlights or lanterns to help you find your way around at night. Read by lantern light with this Coleman Lantern ($17, Target) and use this Eveready LED Flashlight ($5, Target) to find your way to the house if you need to go inside during the night.
If you’re camping with small children, it might make sense to do a bonfire, have s’mores, and then head inside so everyone can sleep in their own beds. But if you’re fully committing to the camping experience, you’ll need something comfortable and warm in the tent. This adult-size Coleman Sleeping Bag ($30, Kohl’s) is made from lightweight material that’s meant to adjust to the temperature outside, so it will keep you cool in the summer months but can be used again to protect against temperatures as low as 40°F in the fall or winter. If you're camping in cooler climates, consider investing in a Campsite Floor Mat ($20, DICK’s Sporting Goods) to place under the sleeping bag.
Your backyard campsite might only be a few feet away from the kitchen, but it’s more fun to make campfire food the old-fashioned way. Get the full experience by roasting hot dogs and making s’mores around the campfire. If you’re up for a weekend project, try building your own backyard firepit (you only need two people and an afternoon to get this one done). Or, purchase a Weber Portable Grill ($35, Target) that you can set up anywhere in the yard. Just don’t forget to add graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate bars to your next grocery pick-up order!
After you’ve roasted hot dogs and eaten s’mores, squeeze in a little more family fun by playing games in the backyard. Target has a whole collection of family-friendly lawn games, but you could also make a DIY ring toss game or stain and paint your own homemade lawn dominoes.
There’s nothing like watching a classic movie underneath the stars. Prep for your night of family fun by making an outdoor movie screen (this DIY movie screen is easy to put together the day before) and picking up a Portable Projector ($68, The Home Depot). The hardest part about setting up this backyard movie night will be deciding what movie to watch!