Backyard camping is an excellent way to prepare for the real thing. ATTRIBUTION: Flickr – Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington

Most of us have camped in the backyard as children, for fun or to practice for the real thing. When kids are involved, camping in the backyard can be a low-stress activity that offers the thrills of real camping without the wilderness or lack of clean bathrooms. If you’re planning a memorable night under the stars, follow this quick guide to camping in your backyard.

Check the Weather

Unexpected rain or harsh winds can be a real buzzkill when trying to enjoy a campout. To ensure you won’t get stuck in the house during your scheduled camping trip, be sure to check the weather report in the days leading up to the event. You can also make checking the weather a camping activity. Clouds are an excellent indicator of weather. Cumulonimbus clouds, which appear as heavy, dense clouds with dark gray bottoms, may indicate an upcoming downpour or thunder storm.

Gather Supplies

To make your campout feel like the real thing, gather many of the same supplies you would if you were camping away from home. Standard camping items include a tent, ground cover (tarp), sleeping bags, and cots or air mattresses (optional). If you plan to start a campfire, you’ll need an outdoor fire pit, firewood, and matches or lighter. Insect repellant and other comfort items are also recommended. Since you’ll be camping in your backyard, you can bring out clothing and kitchen supplies all at once or as needed.

Decide Where to Sleep

Some campers like to sleep directly under the starry night, with just a sleeping bag and the clothes on their back. Others, like myself, prefer the security of an enclosed tent that protects them from the elements, insects, and nosey neighbors. If the weather is warm enough, there’s no harm in sleeping outdoors without a tent. If you decide to rough it, be sure to give your exposed skin an application of bug repellent. Also, put your sleeping bag on a waterproof ground covering to prevent moisture from spoiling your sleep.

Choose Recipes

One of the best things about camping is the unique selection of yummy camp foods. Besides your standard hotdogs and s’mores, there are a plethora of choices that can be made with or without a camp stove. Prepare meals indoors that can be easily reheated outdoors, such as chili, taco soup, or a pot of stew consisting of chunks of meat and veggies. Also make a variety of kid-friendly snacks, such as ants on a log (peanut butter and raisins on stalks of celery), trail mix cereal bars, and campfire-popped popcorn.

Plan Camping Activities

Keep the kids busy while camping by planning a variety of camping games and activities. Sing-alongs, camp stories, and skits are fun for all age groups and get all the campers involved. Once the sun has set, the whole family can also enjoy stargazing. If possible, set up a telescope to see the stars up close. Also include some fun outdoor games, such as kickball or bocce. Wheelbarrow, three-legged, and egg-and-spoon races are also some favorite camping activities.