Ultimate Backyard Camping Checklist: 10 Must-Haves

A Family Enjoying A Night Outside In A Tent.

It’s time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air with your family! Backyard camping is a great way to spend quality time together, but it can be stressful figuring out what you need for the trip.

To help make this an easy and fun activity for your family, we’ve compiled a checklist of 10 must-haves that will make your backyard camping experience complete. From tents and sleeping bags to flashlights and bug spray, we’ve got you covered.

Check out the ultimate backyard camping checklist below:

Table of Contents

Backyard Camping Checklist: Must Haves
Backyard Camping Checklist: Optional Supplies
How To Make Your Backyard Campsite Cozy
Backyard Camping Tips
Backyard Camping FAQs
1. Can I Legally Sleep In A Tent In My Backyard?
2. Is Backyard Camping Safe?
Benefits of Backyard Camping

Backyard Camping Checklist: Must Haves

Before you head outside, be sure that you’re prepared with all of the necessary equipment and gear. Our backyard camping checklist will help you decide what you need and what you can incorporate to make your experience even more fun.

1. Tent

Let’s start with the obvious must-have for any backyard camping adventure.

A tent will offer protection from bugs and any less-than-perfect weather (let’s face it, sleeping in the rain would be a train wreck). Your tent will also be used to store food and other camping gear until you’re ready to use it.

A Tent In The Backyard, One of The Most Important Things To Add To Your Backyard Camping Checklist.

So what kind of tent do you need for backyard camping with the family?

Typically a three-season or four-season tent is ideal for backyard camping. And because there are various sizes, we recommend checking out our small guide to tents below:

Large Tent (8-person)

If you’re having a camping extravaganza with lots of people, we recommend the Elite Montana Tent by Coleman. This tent offers plenty of room for sleeping pads or air mattresses and sleeping space for up to 8 people.

Now I know what you might be thinking.. a large tent? Isn’t it difficult to set it up?

Luckily, the Elite Montana Tent is relatively easy to set up and take down, so you won’t have to spend hours struggling and becoming frustrated.

Apart from being spacious and quite easy to set up, it is reasonably priced, too.

Note: This is not a professional backpacking tent by any means, so if you plan to do any backcountry camping, you might want to choose a different brand and model.

Small Tent (2 to 6-person)

On the other hand, if you’re planning a camping night with your small family, you might consider purchasing a smaller tent. Not only will it be lightweight and easier to set up, but it will be cheaper, too.

The Coleman Sundome Tent is a good option to look into because you can choose which size tent you’d like. This model comes in many sizes from a 2-person tent all the way to a 6-person tent.

It is known to stand up to strong weather like rain and wind, so you won’t wake up with a soggy sleeping bag. Overall, this tent is the best bang for your buck and the perfect addition to your backyard camping night.

Fun Tent

Make things even more fun, especially for the kids, by getting the Kazoo Tipi Tent. This tent can fit up to 8 people and with a few decorations like hanging lights, you can turn your backyard into a fairytale.

Although it might look complicated to set up, the process is actually pretty self-explanatory. And the best part? If anything goes wrong with your tipi tent, they have a 2-year warranty on all of their products.

Backyard Camping Without A Tent

If sleeping on the ground doesn’t sound appealing to you, there’s a solid solution for that. In my opinion, hammocks are the most comfortable way to sleep while camping and it’s the perfect way to backyard camp without a tent.

With a few trees, you can hang several hammocks up in your backyard either side-by-side or even stacked. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Check out this Youtube video that will show you how to stack your hammocks.

Note: If you don’t have trees in your yard, a hammock can be hung underneath your deck or porch, too!

If you’re in the market for hammocks, you’re talking to the right person. As an avid hammock user, I’ve tried my fair share of them. Here are the best hammocks to consider if you want to backyard camp without a tent:

Large Hammock

For years, I have used and loved the ENO Hammock DoubleNest. This hammock is spacious and will make you sleep like a baby during your backyard camping excursion.

Small Hammock

For the little ones, we recommend the ENO Hammock SingleNest. Although this hammock can be used by adults as well, we find that it better suits children if you plan to use it for camping purposes.

Two Small Hammocks In Backyard For Camping

Hammock Straps

And of course, don’t forget your ENO Atlas Straps! You’ll need these to hang up your hammock. My favorite thing about these straps is that it makes the setup process SO much easier.

2. Sleeping Bags, Blankets, and Pillows

Let’s make your backyard camping experience warm and cozy, shall we? Sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows are all must-haves when setting up your camping spot.

What I love most about backyard camping is that you can easily use sleeping bags, warm blankets, and pillows that you already have laying around your house. Budget-friendly adventures are my favorite!

But if you’re not keen on using the blankets and pillows from your own home and you don’t have any sleeping bags on hand, here are a few that we recommend:

Oaskys Camping Sleeping Bag

This budget-friendly option is perfect for both adults and children. With its toasty interior, you and your kids will stay warm all night long so that no one bails out and heads inside.

REDCAMP Stadium Blanket

For an extra camping blanket that is bound to keep your family warm, we recommend the REDCAMP Stadium Blanket. Not only is it great for camping, but it’s also useful for picnics, sporting events, and anything outdoors.

3. Warm Clothes

Next up on our backyard camping checklist is warm clothes. My dad always told me, “it’s better to have and not want than want and not have.

A Mother And Son Camping In Their Backyard With A Flashlight Shining.

So pack those warm clothes into the tent; this way, the kids aren’t cold in the middle of the night and you won’t have to run inside for more layers.

Even though you’ll likely be backyard camping in the summer, temperatures can drop pretty low at night. We recommend keeping the following into your tent just in case:

✔ A Sweatshirt

✔ Long Pants

✔ Thick Socks

4. Bug Spray or Repellant

As Minnesotans, we know how bad the mosquitos can be in the middle of the summer.

Make sure you have bug spray or repellant with you to keep those pesky bugs away because let’s face it.. your backyard camping experience will be so much more enjoyable if mosquitos aren’t constantly buzzing around your head.

If you’re not a fan of sticky bug spray like me, try some Mosquito Repellant Incense Sticks, BuggyBands Mosquito Bracelets, or Repellant Candles to keep the insects away.

5. Camping Kitchen Supplies

As you’re checking off your backyard camping checklist, you can decide whether you would like to make your meals in your home or outside by the camping area.

Preparing meals inside is always going to be the easiest, but cooking meals by a fire or on the barbecue will make the night even more exciting.

If you decide to go all in and cook your meals outside, there are several ways to go about it:

1. Barbecue

This solution will be the easiest, especially if you already have a barbecue grill at home. Throw your dinner onto the barbecue for a quick meal.

2. Campfire Grill

The best way to cook your meals while backyard camping is over a campfire of course!

To make it as simple as possible, add a Portable Outdoor Folding Campfire Grill to your camping checklist. With this, you’ll be able to cook your meal over the fire without burning any fingers.

3. Camping Stove

Understandably, building a campfire isn’t always possible depending on the time of year and where you live. So, to keep things authentic, we recommend cooking your meals on a camping stove.

A Dad Using A Camping Stove To Cook Breakfast For His Family. A Camping Stove Is A Staple To Add To Your Backyard Camping Checklist.

The Coleman Gas Camping Stove is a good option for its price and overall value.

6. Food

In addition to your kitchen camping supplies, you’ll want to add food to your backyard camping checklist. Your family will have more fun if everyone can help cook dinner, so we recommend easy meals.

Here are a few ideas for your special night:

Best Backyard Camping Meals & Ideas

– Hot Dogs & Brats

Hot dogs and bratwursts are a staple for backyard camping. They are cheap and easy to cook over a fire or on a barbecue grill.

Hot Dogs Over An Open Fire At A Campsite.

Grab a few roasting sticks and have the kids cook their own dogs over the fire. This will add to the excitement.

– Burgers

Burgers are also a great meal for your backyard camping night. To cook them over the fire, be sure to get a campfire grill like the one we suggest above.

– Grilled Cheese

Another camping favorite is grilled cheese. They are easy to make and only require cheese, bread, butter or margarine (or your favorite topping), a frying pan with oil or butter.

Add some tomatoes and pesto for a “grown-up” grilled cheese sandwich.

– Corn On The Cob

There is nothing more satisfying than fresh corn on the cob cooked over an open fire. Place the ears of corn over the fire and turn them every few minutes until they are cooked.

– Freeze-Dried Meals

Whenever we go camping, we purchase a few freeze-dried meals because they’re as easy as it gets and they are delicious.

Boil water over the campfire and pour it into the packets. Wait a few minutes and voila! Our favorite freeze dried meals are made by Mountain House. Try the Beef Stroganoff or the Chili Mac.

– S’mores

An American classic, you simply cannot go camping without indulging in s’mores.

A Family Enjoying S'mores At Their Backyard Camping Night.

But forget about the typical milk chocolate-marshmellow-graham cracker combo. Try using Reese’s, York Peppermint Patties, or Fudge Shoppe Cookies instead of plain chocolate bars.

7. Games

Keeping the kids entertained in your backyard can be difficult, especially when video games and screens are right inside the house. We have found that backyard games are a great way to keep the kids occupied and happy.

But, coming up with backyard games to play can be difficult, so here are 25 Highly Entertaining Backyard Games For Kids (and adults).

Backyard Camping Checklist: Optional Supplies

The next items on our backyard camping checklist are completely optional; we find these to be helpful supplies, but you can make the choice for yourself depending upon your budget and your location.

8. Sleeping Pads or Air Mattress

If you are camping in a backyard with hard or rocky ground, you may want something soft to put down on the floor of the tent. Sleeping pads or air mattresses are both great options and they are usually inexpensive.

Father And Son Inside A Tent In Their Backyard For Camping.

On the other hand, if you have a relatively flat and clear area in your backyard, you can simply use blankets from around the house to add padding to the floor of your tent.

Sleeping Pads

If you’re looking for an affordable sleeping pad that will work for both adults and children, try the highly-rated Trazon Camp Sleeping Pad. You can even choose between three different colors.

Air Mattresses

For even more comfort, air mattresses are easy to use and you can find really affordable options on Amazon or at your local retail store. The Intex Dura-Beam Standard Airbed is small enough to fit in a tent and it’s budget-friendly.

9. Fire Starter Tools

In some areas, campfires might not be possible due to dry weather or city laws. But, if you are able to start a bonfire, we highly suggest it.

Not only will it make your backyard camping experience more fun, but it’ll be a great learning experience for your children. Include them in the fire-making process to teach them basic survival skills that they can continue to practice during your next camping trips.

A few fire starter tools include matches, newspaper, kindling, and wood firelighters.

10. Flashlights

Unless you plan to use the campfire to light up the campsite or your backyard porch light, you will want to add flashlights to your camping checklist.

The best way to go about this is by having a flashlight for each tent. Another option is to get a battery powered lantern flashlight to light up the entire area.

Note: To go along with the theme, glow sticks are a fun addition to your backyard camping checklist. We also like using string lights to make our campsite look like a fairytale.

How To Make Your Backyard Campsite Cozy

Selecting the right site is essential to having a successful backyard camping experience. First, pick an area that has plenty of trees and shade so that during daylight hours you won’t be baking in the sun.

Next, clear away any sharp objects in your campsite like rocks or sticks. Not only can these puncture your tent, but they are also very uncomfortable to sleep on.. ouch!

A Boy In A Tent While Camping In His Backyard.

Finally, be sure to use plenty of blankets and pillows. This will make sleeping on the ground feel a heck of a lot cozier.

For added comfort, consider using sleeping pads or air mattresses like the ones we mentioned above.

Backyard Camping Tips

Over the years, we’ve spent many nights camping, whether it’s been in our backyard or in an actual campground. Thanks to our experience, we’ve come up with some very helpful backyard camping tips:

How To Set Up Camp

If you’re hesitant to plan a backyard camping night for your family because you believe that setting up camp will be hard or time-consuming.. you’ve come to the right place.

Setting up camp doesn’t have to be difficult and it makes it even easier that you’ll be two feet from your house; rounding up and packing supplies will be a breeze.

You’ll start to set up camp by finding a flat area in your yard that doesn’t have exposed roots or rocks. Clear the area of any sticks or branches.

Next, read the directions that came with your tent and follow it step-by-step. Youtube is very helpful if you get confused by the tent’s directions.

And finally, we recommend putting all of your sleeping gear inside of the tent as soon as you set it up. Don’t wait to set up your bed because it will become dark outside faster than you’d think. Setting up beds in the dark is never simple (or fun).

Note: Be sure that your tent is set up far enough away from the campfire or any other open flame.

Rule To Stay Outside

One of the biggest challenges of backyard camping is having the determination to sleep outside when you know there’s a warm and cozy bed just a few steps from your tent.

Before you start setting up camp, be sure to make a rule that everyone who participates in backyard camping night MUST stay outside for the entire night (unless there’s an emergency).

Going inside will spoil the entire night and keep your family from enjoying more backyard camping adventures.

Teach & Learn

One of the best things you can do while backyard camping is to learn a new skill. There are many small tasks that need to be done in order to have a successful camping experience and these skills are valuable for other situations in life, too.

A Dad And His Son Setting Up A Tent In Their Backyard.

We recommend learning how to do these things by reading the directions, working as a team, and watching Youtube videos.

For kids, it’s extremely beneficial for them to help with the camping setup and tear down. This will teach them responsibility and new survival skills.

Backyard Camping FAQs

To make sure we’ve answered all of your questions, here are the most common questions regarding backyard camping, what to expect, and what you should put on your checklist:

Can I Legally Sleep In A Tent In My Backyard?

Before you set up your backyard camping night, make sure you check your local laws to see if it is legal. Unfortunately, in densely populated urban areas, backyard camping is not allowed.

If you want to try it anyway, you could be fined (although I’ve never heard of this actually happening). So, check your local ordinances first before planning your backyard camping night.

On the other hand, if you live in a rural area or on a property with plenty of land, then feel free to set up shop and enjoy a night under the stars.

Is Backyard Camping Safe?

A know a common question associated with backyard camping is.. “is it safe?” The short answer is yes! To stay safe while backyard camping simply follow a few simple rules.

First, we suggest camping far enough away from any power lines.

Next, be sure to use LED flashlights to light up your tents rather than open flames. Open flames can easily cause a fire, which would completely ruin your night.

We also suggest going inside if harsh weather approaches. Although the tents we recommend above can stand up to rough weather, there is no reason to risk your family’s safety.

Overall, backyard camping is a safe and fun activity for the whole family.

Benefits of Backyard Camping

There are many benefits to backyard camping with kids. You can take them out of their normal routine, teach them about nature and show them new things.

✅ Great Camping Practice

Never been camping as a family before? Starting in your own backyard is the perfect way to practice for a real family camping trip.

A Father And Son Setting Up A Tent In Their Backyard For Camping.

You’ll learn exactly what you’ll need and what you can leave at home. Not to mention, everyone will have experience setting up the tent, starting a fire, and cooking a fabulous camping meal.

✅ Fun And Exciting

Not many families plan something as exciting as a backyard camping night. It’s even more fun if mom and dad participate, too.

A Boy Roasting A Marshmallow Over A Fire In His Backyard.

Since this will likely be a new experience for your kids, they’re going to love every minute of it from setting up the tent to roasting marshmallows to reading stories before bed.

✅ Family Time

With technology constantly in our faces, it can be hard to spend quality time with our families. Backyard camping is an excellent solution to this.

A Young Girl Eating A Roasted Marshmallow By The Campfire In Her Backyard With Her Dad.

You may even consider making a rule that all phones and technology must stay inside for the night.

✅ No Screen Time

Let’s face it.. our kids likely get too much screen time and it can be hard to pull them away from their video games, computers, and other tech toys.

Backyard camping is the perfect way to get them outside, away from the TV, and into nature. And the best part is that you’re showing them how fun it can be right in their own backyard. This will encourage them to get outside more often.

A Final Note: Backyard Camping Checklist

If you want to have a memorable backyard camping experience, be sure to check off all of the items on our checklist. All of the items on our list are necessary for anyone looking to have a great time in their own backyard.

There are many other backyard activities that you can do besides sleeping outdoors. You can find all of that and more in our recent post: 35 Exciting Backyard Ideas For Kids.

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