Backyard camping essentials

Camping in your backyard is a wonderful adventure you can take with your family anytime of year. To make it a success and memorable, you should prepare ahead.

In this article we I share some of the essentials you will need on your trip outdoors. I will give you details on the kinds of tents and sleeping bags you should get. I will discuss the different types of bug spray and why you need to get a certain type over all the others.

We will also look at what you need for a good fire and cooking. And since no camping trip is a success without lights, I'll give you the best options for lights you can use.


A good tent is a must for every quintessential backyard camping experience. You actually have different types of tents to choose from depending on the size of your backyard, the number of people, and of course, your budget.

A ridge tent is the most common because it’s easy to set up and can withstand bad weather, although it can only accommodate a few people. A dome tent is another great option because it’s lightweight, easy to assemble and budget-friendly.

But if you have a larger family, you can benefit from using a tunnel tent because it can accommodate more people, it’s easy to put up and take down, it has good headroom, and it can stand up to bad weather. Other options include cabin tents, pyramid tents, and geodesic tents.

When choosing the right tent, here are some factors that you need to consider:

  • Space. A four-person tent doesn’t always sleep four, especially if your family is big or tall. Always check the space inside the tent and if you’re in doubt, go for the bigger one so that you won’t have to worry about fitting inside.
  • Convenience. Even if you’re only camping in your backyard, you still need to find a tent that’s easy to put up and take down. You don’t want to spend hours figuring out which strings and poles go where.
  • Durability. There’s no point buying a cheap tent if you can’t sleep in it if it’s windy or rainy. Choose a tent that can withstand heavy winds and hard rain to make sure that you can enjoy it for a long time.

Some people like to put an extra tarp under their tent. A tarp is not required to use your tent. The bottom of your tent should be durable and water proof. If, however, you want the added protection of a layer between your tent and the ground, a tarp will help to protect the integrity of the tents fabric from being damage by things on the ground. This will make your tent last longer.

Sleeping bags

A great tent is nothing without a good sleeping bag. Even if you can easily grab a blanket or pillow inside your house, you still need to invest in a good sleeping bag for future outdoor adventures. So, you might as well get one for your backyard camping.

Here are some tips:

  • The type of sleeping bag. If you’re not a regular camper and you’re not living in a very cold area, you can go for a rectangular sleeping bag. But if you’re planning on camping more and in colder conditions, it’s worthwhile to invest in a mummy sleeping bag that offers more warmth and comfort.
  • The temperature rating. If you want to ensure a good night’s sleep even in cold weather, you should invest in a sleeping bag that has the right temperature rating for your needs.
  • The insulation. Synthetic insulation is more practical because it’s cheaper and offers good protection from rain. Down insulation sleeping bags are lighter, although they don’t offer good insulation when wet and are more expensive than synthetic.
  • The user. Although there’s a generic type of sleeping bag, there are also those that are made specifically for men or women. Some sleeping bags are even designed to accommodate bigger torsos and wider hips.

You can also invest in a sleeping pad or mattress for added comfort. Make sure that it has extra insulation and padding so you can enjoy a more sound sleep without freezing, especially during the cooler months.

If you are prone to back pain or have a hard time sleeping on the ground, you can get a portable cot. You can sleep directly on the cot or add a mattress.

Fire material

Although you can literally cook in your kitchen since you're outside your house, there’s nothing quite like cooking in your backyard while camping to complete the experience. For this, you will need fire and cooking supplies that include:

  • Propane stove. This is a must for every camping trip. You can use it to cook just about anything, from eggs to full meals.
  • Grill and charcoal. Of course, you have to experience grilling while camping, so you’ll need a good camping grill and some charcoal for the job.
  • Wood. If you’re going to build a good campfire, you need good tinder because it burns fast. You should also gather twigs and branches to kindle the fire before you start using fuel wood to keep your campfire going. Just make sure to read about the rules on campfires in your area to avoid getting penalized.
  • Utensils. While you can easily get some utensils from your own kitchen, you can also invest in lightweight pots, pans ,and other camping utensils. These will come in handy if you plan to go on a real camping adventure outdoors.


No backyard camping is complete without your own lights and you usually have three options: a headlamp, flashlight, or lantern. A headlamp is great because you can use it hands-free. It also offers great illumination for a great price.

You can choose from small to bigger headlamps depending on your lighting needs and of course, your budget.

A lantern, on the other hand, is perfect for lighting your tent because it offers that soft, relaxing glow that’s perfect for sleeping. Aside from battery-powered lanterns, you can also find rechargeable or solar-powered ones.

Of course, you can’t miss bringing a flashlight for extra lighting in case your lantern or headlamp fails in the middle of the night. You can also find flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps that double as phone chargers and radios. This makes them extra useful to bring on your camping adventures now and in the future.

As a bonus, you can get some glow sticks or bracelets so everyone can see where the others are without each person having a flashlight.

Bug spray

Whether it’s camping in your backyard or in the middle of a forest, you always need to bring bug spray and other safety precautions, especially if you have children.

You can find a lot of bug sprays and lotions in the market. You should get one that offers good protection without causing allergic reactions or other side effects to you and your family.

Plant-based bug sprays and repellents are your best choices because they are efficient at keeping the bugs away for a longer time. They don’t smell bad or cause itchiness. These are especially good for children.

You should also include other safety precautions like a first-aid kit, sunscreen, creams and ointments for bites and blisters, and antihistamine and other personal medications for emergencies.

The extras

Of course, you can’t go backyard camping without some extras that will make your experience more memorable. It wouldn’t hurt to bring a drink cooler, some folding chairs, books, and a camera that you can use to make your camping adventure more fun.

How do you make camping in your backyard fun?

You've got your family excited about camping in the backyard. The last thing you want to happen is for it to be boring. So, how do you make it fun.

Play games

You could bring your board games and play them in your tent or outside. And if that's your thing, then that's cool. But there are a ton of things you can do outside at your campsite.

Tug-of-war is a great game you can play with the kids. You can pit the parents against the kids, kids against kids, or a mix of parents and kids against each other. Any way you put it together will be fun.

Bean bag toss is another game that would be fun on your backyard adventure. You can buy a bean bag toss game from the store or make your own. There is the classic board with one hole in it game where you try and get more bean bags in the hole than your competitor. But there is another version which is based on tic-tac-toe. Our family likes the tic-tac-toe version.

Charades - acting like different animals or pantomiming will leave you all laughing. Charades is a game the whole family will love.

Scavenger hunt

Kids and adults love a good scavenger hunt. The simplest type of scavenger hunt you can play is to search for things in your yard. Make a list of different natural and man-made elements that are already in your yard or that you hide beforehand. Set a timer and see who can find the most items. Work in teams or individually.

Learn to tie knots

Learning to tie knots is fun and a good essential skill to have. Get some rope and a few objects to tie knots around. To make it interesting, show the knots in use.

For example, tie a bowline knot and throw it over a tree branch. Then place the other end through the loop created by the knot and pull it tout. Explain how this can be used as a swing or to climb out of a tough spot.

If you're not skilled in tying knots, get a book on knots or a survival skill book that has knots in it. This way you don't have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out knots to tie.

Make crafts

Use elements you find outside to create arts and crafts. You may need need to bring a few things with you, but try to incorporate the natural elements as much as possible.

A flower and leaf picture is easy and fun. Have everyone look for different leaves and flowers. Then take a sheet of paper and a little glue and create a beautiful work of natural art.

Encourage everyone to make a unique design. These pieces of art will then become keepsakes that will remind everyone of wonder backyard camping adventure.

Roast marshmallows

No backyard experience is complete without roasting marshmallows. All you need is a bag of marshmallows and some skewers to roast them on. You can use natural wood bamboo skewer or marshmallow roasting forks.

Sing songs

Gather a list of your families favorite songs. Put the lyrics on a sheet of paper so those that don't know the words can follow along. If someone can play a guitar, then bring it along. Sing around the campfire in your backyard will give you lots of fun. If no one plays an instrument, you could try getting the instrumental versions of the songs from the internet.

Watch a movie

No, I don't mean bring your tv outside to watch a movie. Instead, see if you can get a small projector and a white sheet. You can play the movie in a true outdoor, open-air style. The kids will love this.

Tell Stories

Sharing stories while you roast marshmallows or sip on some hot chocolate is a great way to bond. You can tell stories of when you and your significant other met. Stories about when the children were you are always fun. Or just have everyone use their imaginations to create something unique. Each person can tell an individual story or you collectively can add to a single story.

Is camping in your backyard illegal?

Camping in your backyard may or may not be illegal. It all depends on your local ordinances. Many cities and suburban areas will have ordinances that forbid setting up a campsite on your property. Some will have provisions to allow single night or short stay camping. You should check with your local zoning office to find out what you can and can't do in your area.

Also, you have to make sure it is legal to make a fire in your backyard. Some urban areas outlaw fires on your property. Many allow a fire, but require it to be in a fire pit. Also, there are requirements for how far the fire must be from any structure, what you can burn, and how big the fire can be.

What to do if it rains

First, it's best to check your local weather before planning your backyard excursion. But, in the event it does start to rain, a good tent will keep you protected. Also, bring along some ponchos and an umbrella in case you need to go out in the rain to get something or go inside.

A word about safety

Camping in your backyard can be loads of fun, but you need to do it safely. Always keep anything flammable away your fire. Bring a first aid kit for minor emergencies that may arise.

Now, in terms of your personal safety, only you know how safe your area is at night. Use your judgment and check with you local police department to determine if it is safe to sleep outside at night.

Let's get going

You next backyard camping trip is as close as your backdoor. With a little planning, you can be guaranteed to have a successful trip.