12 tips for an epic backyard campout with kids

Make your summer staycation one to remember.

Backyard camping makes staycatios fun Credit: Getty Images / RonTech2000

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We may not be able to hit the open road for an epic summer vacation but there is a perfect staycation just waiting in your own backyard. Turning your backyard into a family campsite is a way to experience the great outdoors without having to pack the car, make site reservations, or drive hours to get away from it all. Best of all, you won’t be subject to the droning, “Are we there yet?”

We have 12 ideas for a backyard family campout that are sure to make this summer’s staycation a memorable family fun fest. Who knows, maybe it’ll turn your family into yard camping converts and start a new tradition for years to come.

1. Pack for an adventure

Credit: Getty Images / shironosov

Have kids pack a backpack with everything they want to bring along on the campout.

Your journey may only be a few steps outside your back door, but that doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t come prepared. It’ll feel less like a real getaway if they are running inside all night for favorite toys and supplies. Have them pack a backpack with everything they'll need for a real overnight trip. This means pajamas, a change of clothes, walkie talkies, a camera, books, and their favorite stuffy. You can also include a compass, canteens, binoculars, and cool books to study birds, bugs, flowers, or whatever natural wonders they are interested in.

2. Get pitchin'!

Pitch a tent
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You can't have a campout without a tent.

If you’re a camping novice and don’t already have a tent, we recommend purchasing an instant tent, or a pop-up tent. Setup is a breeze, which will leave more time for enjoying your night under the stars and less time wrangling with tent poles. We recommend one like the HuiLingYang instant pop up dome tent, which has a vestibule for dirty shoes and grass-covered toes. It also has good ventilation and translates perfectly as a sun tent for the beach. This one is roomy enough for a family, a changing table, and a dog, and it comes with internal poles, making for a rapid setup.

HuiLingYang Outdoor Instant 4-Person Pop Up Dome Tent at Amazon for $99.99

3. Make a comfy sleep setup

cozy sleep
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A comfortable sleeping space is the key to a restful night of camping.

Whether it’s car camping or a backyard campout, my family blows up a big air mattress and tosses on a bunch of sleeping bags for a soft and cozy glamping-style setup. If you want to rough it and don’t want to spring for anything new, a few comforters thrown over yoga mats will keep you well-insulated on colder nights and make for a bed comfy enough to get in some Zs before sunrise arrives.

Get the Intex plush dura-beam airbed with internal electric pump at Amazon for $40.69

4. Swing your day away

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A hammock is the perfect spot for an afternoon nap.

Nothing says camping like a lazy sunset on a hammock. This one easily slings between two trees for cozy naps and long campout cuddles.

Get the Wise Owl Outfitters two-person hammock at Amazon for $38.95

5. Add a camp tub

No camping trip is complete without a swim at the local watering hole. Stock tank pools are portable, Instagramable, and they heat up quickly. Have a cool mid-day dip or give the kids a fun outdoor bath time experience before they climb into their sleeping bags for the night.

Get the Hastings 550 gallon steel round stock tank from Tank and Barrell for $296.47

6. Fire up a fire pit

Fire pit
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A fire pit is a safe way to bring the traditional campfire to your backyard.

Every campout needs a campfire. Without one, what will you toast marshmallows over and tell ghost stories by? To speak candidly, a campfire or fire pit is necessary to the camping experience. To keep the first safely contained, make sure you only put the pit on a stone surface.

Get the DeckMate Avondale copper and steel fire bowl at for $82.93

7. Play a backyard game

Credit: Reviewed / Lisa Lawrence

Cornhole is the perfect backyard game.

While it might not always be practical to lug lawn games to a campsite hours from home, setting some up alongside your backyard tent is a fun way to enjoy a little friendly, family competition. All ages will enjoy a game of Cornhole, Croquet, Bocce, Badminton or any other games typically reserved for backyard BBQs.

Get the GoSport tailgate-size backyard Cornhole game at Amazon for $99.99

8. Play a card game

Toasted or Roasted
Credit: Education Outdoors

A campfire-themed game keeps the fun going.

If you don't have the space for backyard game, how about a campfire-inspired board game? Toasted or Roasted was practically made for family campouts; the point of the game is to get a campfire started and toast three marshmallows without burning them. We love that it was made out of heavy-duty components with campouts in mind including a coated game board and a waterproof, resealable bag.

Get Toasted or Roasted at Amazon for $14.88

9. Stuff for S’mores

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Don't forget the s'mores!

S'mores are deliciously synonymous with camping. Since you’ll have a nearby pantry at your disposal, try mixing things up a bit with creative additions like sliced fruit, pretzels, or candy bars. Find some gourmet inspiration in the perfectly and simply titled S'mores by Lisa Adams. It has over 60 new and novel approaches to the classic chocolate bar, marshmallow, and gingerbread trifecta.

10. Grab the walkie talkies

Walkie Talkies
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Walkie talkies make it easy to communicate with family, friends, or neighbors.

Sure, maybe the hiking trail is really just a walk down the tree-lined sidewalk, but if you want to give some legitimacy to a backyard campout, you're going to want to pack the walkie talkies. They are perfect for keeping in touch when the family splits up for neighborhood nature walks—or pair up with some neighbors to do campouts on the same night. Kids can keep in touch by talking over the walkie, making for an innovative approach to socially distant sleepovers.

Get the Motorola Talkabout radio 3-pack at Amazon for $35.99

11. Stargaze

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A backyard campout is the perfect opportunity to learn about stars and constellations.

One of the best parts of camping is sitting under the stars. Give your kids an intro to astronomy by setting up a travel telescope to study the skies. If you want to keep things analog, snag a book to help them decode the constellations with. A little bit of mythology and a little bit of science makes for perfect bedtime reading.

12. Tell some spooky stories

Ghost stories
Credit: Spork / Andrews McMeil Publishing

Age-appropriate ghost stories keep little ones from getting too spooked.

A spooky story by flashlight is a perfect end to a campout. You can either get creative by making up your own tales or by taking turns stringing together terrifying (or tame) tales of the supernatural (or the goofy). Or you can grab a book filled with stories perfect for hooking kids on the ghost-telling tradition. For younger kids, we like Not So Scary Jerry for just enough monster, without the fright. For slightly older kids, who still would rather not get spooked, we like the fun and spooky books from the Creature Campers collection.

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