The tent is pitched, the fire’s rolling… now what? For many, simply being in nature is plenty, but for others — especially those with little ones to entertain — having a lineup of camping activities ready to go can make any trip more enjoyable for everyone involved. Whether you want to get up close and personal with nature, get a little goofy around the campfire, or take part in some outdoor classics, this article will give you a boost of good ideas for things to do while camping on your next trip.
Things to do while camping: For Kids and Families
Wilderness Scavenger Hunt
The natural world is remarkable from a distance. But it gets even better when you zoom in and explore the intricacies and nuances that often go unnoticed. Organizing a wilderness scavenger hunt is a great way for your kids to start exploring and discovering nature, and all the little things that make wild places so special. All you need is some paper, something to write with, and some willing participants.
The nice thing about scavenger hunts is that they’re highly adaptable, and you can do them wherever you happen to be camping. Simply write down as many natural items you can think of that can be found in and around your campsite. Leaves, rocks, berries, bark from a certain tree, a worm, a beetle, and on and on. Get creative. A heart-shaped rock? A forked stick for a slingshot? Side note: This is also a good time to explain what should go in one’s mouth and what should not.
Then, invent a prize or reward, and send your campers off to hunt for the items on the list. The first one to collect all the items wins.
If you need help creating your list of scavenger hunt items, check out this article by Love the Outdoors. They also mention some interesting “experiential” scavenger hunt ideas. Think “free natural history museum.”
Playing charades is always good fun, and it’s even better with an outdoorsy twist around a campfire. For detailed instructions on how get a game of charades going, the National Park Service put together a quick guide to help you get started.
Go Primitive Fishing
All throughout the U.S., there are some top-notch camping opportunities on beautiful lakes and rivers, most of which are loaded with fish. Fishing is one of the best ways to spend an afternoon in the wilderness, and fortunately, you don’t need an arsenal of expensive fishing gear to catch a few fish. In fact, making your own fishing rod and doing some primitive fishing adds a whole new level of engagement to the activity and is something the entire family can take part in.
You’ll need some basic fishing gear — line, hooks, and sinkers. These can be purchased at sporting goods stores and some hardware stores. Learning how to tie a basic clinch knot will help too. Then, all you need is a good stick and some bait.
You can build a cane-pole style fishing rod in about 5 minutes — it’s nothing more than some line tied to a stick. The type of stick traditionally used is cane, AKA bamboo. But, if there’s no bamboo to be found, any old stick around 6- to 8-feet long will do. Tie on a length of line slightly longer than the stick, tie a hook to the line, pinch on a split shot about 12 inches above the hook and you’re ready to go. If you have a bobber, use it. If not, don’t worry about it. For a more detailed explanation of the process, this Field and Stream article will help.
Your kids may find that collecting the bait is more fun than the actual fishing. Worms, crickets, and grasshoppers will catch just about anything that swims. Send your kids off with a container and have them dig up some worms or catch some hoppers.
Thread the bait onto the hook, dunk it in the water, and wait. You might be surprised by what you catch. Even if you don’t catch anything, the entire process will keep everyone busy and entertained for quite a while.
Things to do while camping: For Contemplative Spirits
Bird and Wildlife Viewing
Pick up a copy of the “Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America,” or the “Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America” and see how many different species you can identify. This is something that anyone can enjoy, especially those fascinated by the natural world.
It’s amazing how many stars you can see when you get away from light-polluted cities. Just seeing the stars is rewarding in and of itself, but if you want to get a bit more involved, get a copy of the “National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Night Sky” by Howard Schneider, and prepare to be amazed. The book helps you identify stars, planets, and constellations with easy-to-read sky maps, and gives seasonal information about different astral events. Who knows? You might be stargazing just in time to see a meteor shower or a comet.
It can be difficult to see the stars in detail when you’re sitting next to a fire, so you may have to wait until after you put out the fire to start your stargazing session. Or, you can take a stroll through the woods to find a nice clearing. Bring a blanket, a friend, perhaps a beverage, and take in the beautiful night sky.
Exploring the woods with a camera is fun in the moment, but also gives you something to remember your trip by. You don’t need to rush out and buy a brand new DSLR camera to take some beautiful nature photos; the camera on your smartphone is plenty to get started.
Be willing to get creative with your shots. Get up close, find interesting textures, and play with the shadows. You can slip in a selfie here and there, but taking an artistic approach may result in a more enriching experience and photos you can be proud of.
Things to do while camping: All-Time Classics
Rock. Water. Throw rock into water. Throw rock across the water. Ahhh. There is something so inherently satisfying in successfully skipping a rock.
Don’t know how to skip a rock? Watch this.
Whittle a Stick
Whittling a stick is one of the most classic forms of campfire entertainment. All you need is a pocket knife, a stick, and a campfire to sit around.
Whittling is the most basic form of wood carving. Most campfire whittlers will simply sharpen the end of a stick. Why? Just because. If you get it fine enough, you just created a toothpick. More advanced whittlers can create all sorts of shapes. Either way, if you have a knife and you’re near a campfire, try your hand at whittling.
Things to do while camping: For Dinner Time
Creative Campfire Cooking
Cooking over an open fire is immensely satisfying. There is a whole host of methods for cooking fire, some involve grill tops, dutch ovens, or you can just stab a hunk of meat on a stick and roast away. But, one of the most delicious methods involves a humble roll of aluminum foil.
Basically, you can stick any combination of ingredients into an aluminum foil pouch, place the pouch on or in the fire carefully, let it cook, and see how it turns out. The fun part is getting creative and coming up with delicious, on-the-spot combinations.
Not sure what ingredients to bring with you? Check out our article here or browse through the different foil-wrapped recipes in this excellent article.
When’s Your Next Camping Trip?
The more you get outdoors, the better. Even if you can only get away for one night. And when you take that next trip and aren’t sure what to do, remember these ideas for things to do while camping! A little adventure, exploration, and good ole fashion rock-skipping fun can make any camping trip one to remember.