Backyard Camping - Camping out Without Stressing Out
Have you ever wanted to take your family camping, but ended up putting it off because you were afraid that you'd leave behind something essential and ruin the experience for everyone? Or maybe you were worried that your kids would find it too extreme a change from their normal lives, and wouldn't want to repeat it? Perhaps you should consider a practice run in your backyard instead.
Backyard camping can be a fun way to test out the camping experience without committing to traveling the long distance to a camping spot and then setting up a campsite in the wild. It lets you camp out without stressing out.
Backyard camping is pretty much what the name implies. You set up a campsite in your backyard just as you would at an actual outdoors campsite. You get the experience of camping out, but without the isolation of an actual camping trip. If you find that you've left anything behind then you don't need to do without it. Instead, you can just walk back into your house and grab it or take a trip to a local store and buy what you need. You can also use the experience to take notes for a real camping trip and plan out what you'll need without the pressure of being dependent on the things you might forget to include.
Another advantage of testing out the camping experience in your backyard is that it lets you create your campsite from items you probably already have in your home. Instead of buying camping items before you're sure what you'll need you can improvise your own and use the experience to work out what you'll actually need to buy. Got an old drop-tarp you've used for painting? Turn it into a tent. Got some old terracotta pots lying around? Turn them into a fire-pit. The experience of turning household items into camping supplies will help you make wiser and more cost effective decisions when you go to buy or rent potentially expensive camping gear. Encouraging your kids to come up with their own creative solutions to the problems involved with setting up a camp is also a fun way to get them involved.
Here are a few tips to help you make your backyard camping experience an enjoyable one.
- Try to treat your backyard camp-out as much like a real camping trip as possible. Organize everything you think you may need in advance and try to plan things so that you can avoid relying on the resources in your house and local area as much as is practical. You will want to make the experience as reasonably authentic as you can get it so that you can make it a special experience for your family.
- If you're serious about using your backyard camp-out as a test for a real camping trip then you should also consider testing out how you will pack your car for the trip. Load your car with all the things you think you will need for the trip, making sure that they are packed securely for the full journey. Drive around the block, and back to your house. Then unpack them again and setup your camp. You may get some odd looks from the neighbors, but this exercise can save you a lot of trouble on your real camping trip as well as getting your family into the right camping mood.
- Setup some fun outdoor activities for your kids to do while camped-out. Treasure hunts, hide-and-seek, and kick-the-ball games can all keep them physically and mentally occupied. You can also print out some song lyrics and organize a campfire sing-along once the sun goes down.
- Night-time outdoors can be a great time to do some star gazing if your local area doesn't suffer from too much light pollution. If you have a telescope then set it up at your campsite.
Do some research into the current positions of planets so that you can point them out to your kids. Research constellations and print out some cheat sheets to teach your kids about them. If you pick the right time to go camping in your backyard then you may be lucky enough to have the international space station or some other large satellites passing overhead. You can find many websites online which you can use to find the orbital paths of these satellites which will allow you to point them out to your kids. This can be a great opportunity to help them develop an interest in science and technology.
- Used toilet rolls can make a great fire-starter for your campfire. Fill them with scrunched up toilet paper or scrap paper wrapped around some dry sticks or cardboard to act as kindling. Leave a bit of paper poking out of them to make them easier to light. You can also put some matches in the center of them to give your makeshift fire-starter an extra boost. Be careful when using them though - you don't want to burn yourself or start a house fire.
- If you are using a fire-pit then make sure you have plenty of kindling and firewood stored in a dry place, if that's what you are using for fuel. Wrap it up in a tarp or store it under cover. Otherwise, if you get up early in the morning to start the fire then morning moisture or overnight rain may turn it into a harder experience than it needs to be.
- For night-time lighting consider buying some tiki torches to set up around your camping area. These may not be something you want to take with you on an actual camping trip due to their relative bulkiness, but they are a great way to create the feeling of a real campsite in your backyard.
- If you have a sand-pit for your kids then this can be a good safe place to setup your fire-pit. You'll need to line the fire-pit with something that will stop the coals from mixing in with the sand though, if the sand-pit is something your kids still make use of. Aluminum foil can seem like an easy solution here, but it has a low enough melting point that it will likely turn out to be a mistake. Look for some ceramic pots or metal items that you can use instead. An old steel car wheel can work, though you may need to find a way to seal up the bolt holes and other gaps if you're worried about coals and ash falling through. Obviously don't use a wheel with the rubber tire still on it, or one you plan on putting back on a car at some point.
- Your backyard camping trip can be a great time to teach your kids some real-life skills in addition to camping skills. Organizing them to clean up any mess left behind after the camping is done while explaining to them the principle of 'try to leave it better than you found it' can give them a good foundation for applying that principle to their life in general.
- You can turn your backyard camping adventure into a fun party experience. Your kids can invite their friends over to hang out or to camp out with you, or you can invite your adult friends over for a barbecue and beer lunch. Perhaps you can use the opportunity to persuade your friends to come camping with you too.
Here are some safety tips to help make your backyard camping experience a safe and enjoyable one.
- If you use a fire-pit then make sure that it is spaced far enough away from your house and anything else that can catch fire that it doesn't become a fire hazard. Make sure that it's not too close to your tent. Also check what's above your fire-pit. Sparks from the fire will float upwards and can potentially set fire to overhanging tree branches or anything else flammable. They will also drift in whatever direction that the wind blows them, so also check nearby overhangs. Keep a bucket of water handy and a hose connected to a water tap ready for use in case you need it.
- If you are running electricity to your campsite using electrical extension cords then make sure that any connections between cords are protected from the weather and from morning moisture on your lawn. Consider sealing the gaps between connecting plugs by wrapping them with plastic tape, and perhaps wrap a plastic bag around them for some extra protection. Also make sure you have the cords positioned so that they are not a potential tripping hazard. Running the cords along a fence or suspended at a height where people can safely walk under them is far better than placing them where your family members may need to walk around in the dark.
- Check the direction the wind is blowing and setup your camp accordingly. You don't want cold air blowing straight in through windows or other openings in your tent, and you also don't want to be breathing smoke from the campfire all night long.
- Keep some insect repellent handy. Mosquitoes and other bugs can make both your backyard and real camping trips a less enjoyable experience, so be prepared to deal with them.
- Remember that the sun shining down in the wild is the same one that will be shining down on your backyard, and it has the same dangers. On hot summer days make sure your family is safe from sunburn while they are spending large amounts of time outside. Keep plenty of sunscreen handy and advise your family to wear hats with a wide brim if the sun is harsh enough to warrant it. Look at including a shaded area in your campsite.
Whether you're just looking for a laugh with your family or a serious test-out of the camping experience, a backyard camping trip is a great way to spend a weekend doing something you don't normally do. It provides you with many opportunities to teach your kids and to bring your family closer together. Pick a weekend you have free and give it a go.