10 Ideas for the Perfect Backyard Campout

Summer brings memories of a starry sky and fresh air. There may not be a better sound than the outside night, the crickets chirp and the wind rustles the leaves on the trees.

One of my most favorite things to do growing up was to sleep outside under the stars in my backyard. It first started when I was about five years old or so. My sisters and some family friends all gathered our sleeping bags together and set up camp on the trampoline.  We all awoke in the morning tangled together in one giant ball in the middle.

Backyard campouts didn’t end there, either. There was rarely a weekend where I could not be found sleeping outside during the summer months. It brought me comfort like few other things could at the time. I didn’t realize the importance of those memories at the time, but they will stay with me forever.

There’s something about the sound and the smell that always excited me. It even got to the point where I would find excuses to sleep outside in the winter months as well.  Even now, I check the hourly weather report right before bed hoping that the temperature will drop below seventy degrees so I can open the windows in the bedroom and get a little taste of that outside sound and smell.

I have tried for the last two years to convince Addie to let us have a backyard family campout so that she can experience what I experienced as a kid. So far, however, she doesn’t want to have anything to do with it.

As a way of trying to convince her to give it a try, I came up with a few ideas to make the perfect backyard campout experience. I think that these ideas would make it the perfect summer activity for my daughter:

  • Campfire 1 of 10
    We never had a fire when we camped out in our backyard, but it sure would have been nice. But I've been on hundreds of campouts in Utah's mountains where fires were always the center of the action. Don't worry you don't have to dig a fire-pit in your pristine grass in order to have a fire either. Above-ground fire pits are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at a number of retail stores. But if a backyard campout or backyard cookout is going to become a regular family activity, building a permanent fire-pit isn't all that difficult and could even add resale value to your house.
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Dinner over Campfire 2 of 10
    Dinner over Campfire
    Ordering pizza or cooking a meal on the kitchen stove just isn't campout worthy. Plus, cooking over an open fire gives the food a distinct flavor that the kids will always be able to associate with camping! One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to make tinfoil dinners. Just get some tinfoil, cut up some carrots and potatoes, season some ground beef, and wrap in the tinfoil. Place the package on some hot coals and cook until the potatoes and carrots are soft. If you want to be a little more extravagant, nothing beats a meal cooked in a Dutch-oven on an open fire.
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Dessert over Campfire 3 of 10
    Dessert over Campfire
    I've never met a campout dessert that I didn't like. My all-time favorite is easily Dutch-oven cherry cobbler. The cherry cobbler doesn't even need to be all that fancy, either. Just pour two cans of cherry pie filling into the bottom of the pre-oiled Dutch-oven. Then mix a standard white box cake mix and pour the batter over the filling. Smooth the top of the cake mix and then cut a cube of butter into little flat squares and spread the squares over the top. Put the Dutch-oven on hot coals until the cake mix is cooked through. Cheat a little and grab some vanilla ice-cream out of the freezer inside and then enjoy one of the all-time best backyard campout desserts.
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Family and Friends 4 of 10
    Family and Friends
    It didn't matter as a kid if friends were available, I wasn't going to let that stop me from sleeping outside! Even if it was just me and my sisters, I took every camping chance that I got. But, it was always more fun when friends could come over to join me. Make the backyard campout more than just a family activity and invite some close relatives or family friends over as well. This usually results in everyone having someone their age to spend time with so that the parents can have a little break from interacting solely with the kids.
  • Sleeping Arrangements 5 of 10
    Sleeping Arrangements
    Let the kids decide where they want to sleep. One of the most amazing things about sleeping outside is getting to gaze up at the stars as you drift off. So let them have their pick of open sky or tent! I know Addie will absolutely not sleep out under the stars, meaning the only chance I have of convincing her that this backyard campout thing is a good idea is if I set up a tent for her to sleep in. Tents can also give everyone a bit of privacy. If you have access to a wooded area like we do, you may even think about setting the tents up in the woods to give the whole campout more of a wilderness feel.
    Photo Credit: Flickr
  • Games 6 of 10
    Campouts need to be an all evening experience. My perfect campout would have plenty of games for everyone. Badminton, bocce, and corn-hole are fairly inexpensive options that can provide quite a bit of entertainment. Once it gets dark, there are few things better than a good round of Steal the Flag using flashlights. Of course, the size and features of the backyard will dictate whether some of these games are really feasible for each situation.
  • Roasted Marshmallows 7 of 10
    Roasted Marshmallows
    Campouts aren't campouts without roasting marshmallows over an open fire. Here's the thing, I don't even like roasted marshmallows, but it just wouldn't seem right to have a campout without them. Casey is sure to want homemade s'mores because the woman has never met a s'more she didn't like.
  • Scary Stories 8 of 10
    Scary Stories
    This one is obviously optional and largely depends on the age of the children and the dad's propensity to get scared at the very mention of the Mothman. (Bows head in shame.) I scare easily, but for some reason I absolutely love scary stories. A good campout always needs a few!
    By the way, this picture is a drawing created by Addie. She drew a picture of her trying to wear her underwear after I tried them on and stretched them out. I have no idea how this kid thought up the concept, but I think me in women's underwear is a pretty fitting topic for a scary story.
  • Fireflies 9 of 10
    There weren't any fireflies in Utah, but we sure do have a lot of them in our backyard in Indiana. One of the things Addie used to love to do was catching fireflies. Thanks to me that is no longer the case (That story will be coming soon in another post!). Grab some little jars and have a huge firefly hunt with the whole group.
  • Breakfast 10 of 10
    A good campout has to end with a good breakfast. And by good breakfast, I mean cheap pre-mixed pancakes, maples sausage, and bacon, all cooked in the Dutch-oven or over an open fire. If you're really ambitious, scramble some eggs and make it a full meal. Everyone will head back into the house full and happy.
    Photo Credit: Flickr


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