Finding an Outdoor Space to Camp: Turf, Patio, Balcony, Deck, Etc.
Don't let a mostly hardscaped yard stop you from experiencing the pleasures of camping at home. Any surface will do: grass, decomposed granite, concrete, and on a patio, balcony, terrace, courtyard, veranda, porch, side yard, deck, rooftop garden, urban garden — you name it.
Identify the spot before camp night, take a few measurements to see if everything will fit, and let your creativity run wild.
Do a Quick Cleanup
- Sweep or hose off the area, checking for spider webs, dog doo, debris or anything that could kill the thrill of the occasion.
- Since it's your yard, hopefully you maintain the area and remove or repair any potential hazards, like loose deck boards or steps, holes in the ground, or anything overhead that is not secure.
- If your tent has been stored in a garage or basement for a few years, it might smell musty or mildewed. Set it up to air out a few days before the campout, and clean with a mild all-purpose cleaner or vinegar mixed with water.
- If you'll be using a firepit, take precautions to ensure it'll be a safe and fun activity.
Who to Invite
Involve backyard campers of all ages in helping out by setting up the tent, laying out the gear, preparing meals and cleaning up after eating. Part of the camping experience is learning to work alongside others.
The Tent, or Something Like It
- A pop-up tent, usually made out of waterproof material and one that requires no staking.
- A patio umbrella.
- If you have a gazebo with sliding curtains, your outdoor room is already waiting for you.
- Any sturdy outdoor structure can become a makeshift tent with a few sheets attached to make "walls."
- Let your kids design it: all they need to do is drape blankets over a few chairs.
The Campfire & What to Cook
Cooking outside is an integral part of the camping experience. Plan ahead to make some kid-friendly cookout cuisine, including pizza burgers, healthy breakfast cookies, toasted marshmallows, the ever-popular s'mores and some variations. Practice common sense and safety when children are around an open fire. Keep an extinguisher and hose nearby.
What to Do & Where to Do It
- Marshmallows and s'mores cooked over a campfire.
- Storytelling. Make up your own or read short stories from a collection. If they can take it, a few ghost stories can add to the exictement.
- Singing 'round the campfire. Corny as it may sound, it's still fun, especially if you sing group-oriented songs.
- A nature walk with flashlights, either in your yard or in your neighborhood.
- Stargazing. Tilt your head heavenward or lie on the ground and gaze at those bright lights in the sky.
What to Turn Off, Unplug, Silence, Ignore, Forget About & Not Wear
Shed the work clothes. This is one time when Stacy and Clinton would ask you to retrieve your old duds from their shiny trash can. Dressing the part of a camper will help get you and your kids in the mood for the outdoors, even if the campout is on your balcony.
- An outdoor lounge.
- A hammock.
- Lying on top of the sleeping bag or a layer of blankets.
- An air mattress.
- A bunch of pillows pushed together to form a bed.
- The ground — it's only one night.
The Morning After
The next day — providing nobody has to go to work or school — continue your outdoors experience by visiting a park, nature or botanical preserve, zoo or natural history museum. After all, it's a vacation.