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How To Camp At Home

This How To Camp At Home is part of our staycation series. Just because you can’t go out doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.

If you can't make it to a campground, you can still camp ... just camp at home! Find out how to camp at home in this post on

When we were growing up, we would go camping for a week every year. Not just our family, though. We would go with six other families.

There were so many kids running around, so we always had a good time. And the parents had a great time once us kids were asleep.

Every once in a while, when there was no camping trip on the horizon, we would beg our parents to put up the tent in the backyard so we could camp at home. Sometimes they did it when we had sleepovers with friends and sometimes they did it just for me and my brothers.

So, if you have to plan a staycation this year, plan a camping trip in the backyard. Or in the living room.

How To Camp At Home

Pick a location for your tent

We always used to camp in the backyard by setting up our actual tent. But if you don’t have a backyard, you can improvise.

If you have a basement, you can set the tent up there. If you live in a basement-free house (like almost every house here where we live now,  set up a tent in your living room. Can’t fit a full tent? Go with a play tent. The play tent is assuming you only have kids who are camping. Or small adults. Or adults who don’t mind sleeping with their feet hanging out of the tent.

Actually, that last part sounds like it would be the funniest memory. So go ahead. Shove two adults in a play tent, smack dab in the middle of the living room, for a night. Make memories. Isn’t that what staycations are all about?

Pack a bag

Sure, your house is a few feet away from your tent. And so are all your belongings. But it’s so much more fun if you make it feel like a real vacation. And you can do that by packing a bag and living out of that bag for the whole camping trip.

So pack your pajamas, pack your book to read, pack your flashlights or lanterns. And definitely pack your s’mores supplies.

Bring your blanket and air mattress

When you want to camp at home, you need to break out all your camping gear for the inside of your tent. And that includes your blankets and air mattress. Speaking of the latter, I highly recommend getting an air mattress with a built in pump. That’s just one less thing to pack when you’re actually driving to a campground.

When you’re camping at home, you still want to sleep on your air mattress. That’s part of the fun of it. So don’t forget to bring your air mattress to the backyard. But also your sheets, blankets, pillows, and anything else you need to sleep.

You don’t need to bring all the comforts of home to the outside (like leave any white noise machines inside and fall asleep to the sound of the crickets), but you do need to bring pillows. And since it gets cold outside at night, even in the summer, you need to bring blankets too.

Play outdoor games

When you’re camping at home, you want to spend as much of that time outside as possible. Sure, you’ll run inside to use the bathroom, but other than that, stay outside.

And part of the success of staying outside will rely on the number of things you actually have to do outside. If it’s all sitting in a circle, staring at each other, that’s not gonna entertain everyone all night. And people will sneak inside to “use the bathroom” aka “scroll Facebook.”

So, to keep everyone entertained and outdoors, set up games. We have a whole list of outdoor games for families, but some of those — like gigantic Jenga — require pre-planning (because you literally need to make or order the Jenga set ahead of time).

If your at home camping trip is last minute, go with something easier, like this Nature Bingo printable game. You can also go with this Outdoor Scavenger Hunt printable game. If you put them in sheet protectors and use washable markers on them, you can reuse them during every time you camp at home.

Start a campfire

If you have a fire pit, now is a great time to use it. Start a fire and grill your dinner. We used to do this on all our camping trips and it was so much fun. You can make hamburgers, hot dogs, corn, baked potatoes, even grilled cheese (with a camping iron!), right on the grill.

So fire up the grill and cook dinner outside. Of course, you’ll want to dine outside too. If you have an outdoor table and chairs like we do, that makes life easier. Just sit out there. If not, you can sit on the grass and turn it into an at home picnic.

Make s’mores

S’mores are such a fun part of camping. So definitely make s’mores on your at home camping trip.

If you have that aforementioned fire pit going from your backyard BBQ, use it to make some s’mores for dessert.

If you don’t have one, don’t worry. We were watching television recently and saw a portable campfire. How perfect is that for at home camping? It’s so cute. It weights four pounds, has four hours of burn time (which you can use incrementally), and is perfect for camping trips at home where you want s’mores but you don’t want a full fire. It also has a shelf life of 30 years, so I’m sure you will definitely use it at some point between now at 2050.

Side note: We have no association with that portable campfire. And we’ve never tried it either. I just saw it on TV, thought it was so cool, and it fit perfectly in this post.

You don’t have to do traditional s’mores either. My mom wrote a whole blog post about unique s’mores combinations, so definitely check that out for some inspiration.