Your vehicle is probably already full when you pack it up to go camping. Here are some ideas for camping activities that don’t require you to pack anything else into your already bursting-at-the-seams car!
Our family camping trips are always wall-to-wall fun and there is never a dull moment. Because we’re just so much fun, right? No, because our kids demand it. Which means we’re always coming up with new ideas to keep everyone busy without resorting to too much screen time. Of course, our packing list is already a mile long so there’s not always enough room (or brain power left to remember) all the great games and activities we enjoy at home. Luckily, a little creativity can go a long way. Here is our list of fun and clever twists on classic activities that you can enjoy using only items found around your campsite and in your regular camping gear.
9 Great Camping Activities You Don’t Have to Pack
1. Starting a Fire from “Scratch”
A great item to have packed as a backup if your lighter fails is a fire staring magnesium or similar item. It’s also a great way to learn about building a proper campfire. Jack had a great time making fire with our Coleman fire starter magnesium. It’s much easier than rubbing two sticks together and to him it really does feel like making one from scratch.
It’s Bocce, with rocks. Rocce. Get it? And the name is only half the fun. Paint, mark or just pick different colored rocks you can find around your campsite. Start with a unique target stone and then give each player a pair of their own identifiable rocks to throw. Kennedy is an aspiring artist who never leaves home without some art supplies so we used her pencil crayons to mark our stones. Below, you can see our red target stone surrounded by purple, yellow, blue and green stones. Yellow for the win!
3. Scavenger Hunt
Our kids had a great time completing this scavenger hunt provided by the conservation group associated with the park we often visit: The Friends of Pinery Park. These are quick and easy to make up on your own, too.
4. Slack Line
If you’ve read our Camping Tips and Tricks post, you know we always have an ample supply of ratchet straps packed in our camping bin to properly set up our tarp. Stock one or two heavy duty 2″ straps and convert one into a slack line if you can spare it after setting up your tarp. We happen to have a Junior Ninja Warrior in the family so we have an official ninja line ready to go.
5. Rock Painting/Driftwood Painting
Rock painting has been a popular activity for years. Of course, paint is not a common camping item but we’ll break our own rules here for this classic activity and add paint to the list. Another item that can be fun to paint is driftwood. It has a nice smooth surface and is easy to find if your favourite campsite is near a beach. Check out our Camping Lighting Ideas post to see how this can be a very useful activity, too.
More Great Camping Activities
Whittling sticks is a great, traditional camping pastime and it can help your kids learn about proper knife handling and safety. A quality camp knife or Swiss Army Knife is something you should already have in your camping supplies and it’s all you need for this activity. This one does require a little a parental supervision, and be warned: if your kids are like ours it might take about 30 seconds for one of them to realize the sticks can be sharpened into arrows and then you’ll have an arms race on your hands.
Tip: Use branches from pine trees as the wood is soft and easy to carve.
7. Pick-up Sticks
Collect sticks from around your campsite and play a classic game of Pick-up Sticks but with you know… sticks. You can use some of the methods above (painting, whittling) to identify each players’ sticks or try and find sticks with different bark textures or colours. Here we have a set of sticks with rough bark and another set with shiny bark.
You can also separate them by tree species and teach kids about different types of trees. The great battle of Oak vs. Birch!
8. Treasure Map
Some larger campgrounds and parks provide maps and guides to help campers find their sites and get around the park. You can use that map to create a treasure hunt. “X” marks the spot!
9. Ring Toss
This twist on Ring Toss is another fun activity that fits into our Camping Lighting Ideas post. In that post we suggest having glow-stick bracelets on your packing list so you can always see your kids, even in the dark. The next day those bracelets can be re-purposed as rings for a game of ring toss. You can combine this with your glow-in-the-dark painted driftwood and play at night, too.
We had so much fun with all these activities on our last camping trip and can’t wait to come up with more. There are so many great ideas out there so hopefully our list inspires you to get your creativity flowing so you can come up with some of your own! I do have to mention as well that there’s nothing wrong with a little screen time at camping if everyone just needs some quiet time to themselves after all these activities. There’s no shame in letting the kids watch a movie while you play games for money if that’s what helps you all recharge to be able to spend more quality time together. Share your best activity ideas in the comments.
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.