40 Fun Camping Activities for Your Next Outdoor Adventure
Time seems to move more slowly outdoors—and that's a good thing. Here's how to enjoy every minute of it with creative crafts, games, stories and other camping-friendly outdoor activities.
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Camping activities for kids
In 2022, 92 million Americans identified themselves as “campers,” and 58 million households said they go camping at least once last year, according to a camping survey done by KOA. It makes sense! Camping is a great way to get outdoors and spend time with loved ones, plus camping activities allow you to digitally detox and try new adventures.
But while that all sounds great in theory, we’re all so used to living in a nonstop world of Wi-Fi, YouTube and instant gratification that the downtime that comes with camping can feel a little daunting. What do you do with the kids for the two hours it takes to get the Dutch oven dinner cooked (because someone forgot to start the coals early)? Or what do you do with yourself when you wake up at sunrise—there aren’t blackout curtains in the wilderness—and your hike isn’t until 9 a.m.?
Regardless of whether you’re camping for beginners, glamping or backpacking Yellowstone, sooner or later you’re bound to need a few camping activities to help pass the time. From camping games to campfire stories, we have you covered to make sure your next trip is your best one yet.
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Staring up into the vast expanse of the night sky is a great way to connect with nature, learn about the universe and relax while bonding as a family. Adults may enjoy going high-tech with a stargazing app that highlights the constellations in your view and offers in-depth info when you hold up your phone. Children may benefit from an old-school book (that will never run out of batteries), like a stargazing guide for kids.
Think of a slackline like a tightrope—a line tethered between two points that you walk on—but way less dangerous. You can place it as low as you like until you get your balance and confidence. There is a bit of give in the line, allowing you to jump, swing and do extra tricks.
Slacklining is the perfect camping activity, because all you need is the slackline itself and two trees to attach it to. It provides hours of low-tech, free fun. Not to mention, it makes for great memories and pictures. Oh, and don’t stress about falling—in fact, just plan on falling a bunch at first, as that’s part of the fun. And if you’re all worn out afterward, here are the best camping pillows.
Starting a water fight
Water balloons? Water guns? Buckets? Old-school hand splashing? Choose your favorite H2O weapon and chase one another around the campsite or lake. In the water or on the land, it’s the perfect way to cool down on a hot day.
If a water fight feels too chaotic, try playing water-balloon volleyball or water-pistol target shooting with plastic cups. Just be sure to pick up any pieces of water balloons and dispose of them properly so they don’t end up as litter. And while the kids are running around getting wet, you can relax in a camping hammock.
There’s a reason hiking is the top camping activity: Hiking can be adapted to any age or skill level—from a toddler “bug walk” to mountaineering—and the best part is you don’t need anything beyond a pair of good hiking shoes and water.
Get some exercise and fresh air and see all the sights around your campground by hitting the best hiking trails nearby. Also, remember that hiking poles can make it even more enjoyable and allow you to explore more challenging terrain.
Having a campfire singalong
“I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills …” Now you’ve got campfire songs stuck in your head—you’re welcome. Singing songs around the fire is a time-honored tradition, especially if you’re camping with kids. Whether you enjoy a good storytelling tune (“Take Me Home Country Roads”), something a little spooky (“Ghost Riders in the Sky”) or a silly play on words (“Miss Mary Bliss”), there’s a campfire song everyone will enjoy belting into the dark.
Going on a scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts can be fun, educational and an activity that works well for people of all ages. Who doesn’t love finding a treasure? Start by choosing a camp-related theme for your scavenger hunt (or use one of these scavenger hunt riddles), then create a list of items participants will need to find. You can have people snap a pic on their phone of the item instead of picking flowers or disturbing wildlife. Set a timer if you wish, and off you go! Make sure to bring some fun camping prizes for the winners.
Telling ghost stories
Seated around a glowing fire or huddled in sleeping bags with a flashlight, telling campfire stories is one of the classic out-in-the-wilderness activities. Keep things lighthearted for littles (unless you enjoy middle-of-the-night visitors in your sleeping bag), or delve into strange, macabre and creepy tales for older teens and adults. The best ghost stories are the ones that have a local tie-in, so take some time before you head off to look up the local lore, from abandoned buildings to famous disappearances.
Who doesn’t love a high-tech treasure hunt? Geocaching—known as the “world’s largest treasure hunt”—uses GPS-enabled devices to locate hidden containers called “caches.” People hide caches all over the world and then post the locations on geocaching sites online for others to try and find. Often cleverly hidden at campsites and RV parks, they contain fun notes and prizes like candy, bubbles, gemstones and small toys. Before you leave, look up geocaches in your area. Once you arrive, you can use your phone and/or old-school navigation methods to find the cache. It’s tradition to add something to the cache before re-hiding it for the next camper to find. Note: Your phone will work as long as you have service at your campsite, otherwise you’ll need a GPS device, like this GPS/satellite phone.
Stringing beaded letter bracelets
String or elastic cord, beads and a sense of humor are all you need for this simple camp craft. Sure, you can spell out your name—which is great for little kids. Older kid campers can get creative and spell out a short motto, inspirational saying, inside joke or acronym.
Your camping crew can make multiple bracelets and trade them among yourselves or with other people at the campground. It’s an ideal activity for waiting out a rainstorm in the tent. And it can pass time around the campfire in the evening. Whether you’re car camping or any other way you’re enjoying the great outdoors, the best part is you get a cute, fun souvenir of your camping trip.
Playing “two truths and a lie”
This simple game doesn’t require anything special to pack and bring along with you. Like many of these activities, it can be done sitting around the campfire. And if you don’t feel like hanging out there, here are the best tents for camping or playing games.
To play “two truths and a lie,” one player shares two truths and a fib about themselves. The other players have to guess which one is the lie. Not only is it entertaining, but you get to learn some new things about all your camping buddies.
Are you even camping if you don’t roast marshmallows and then squash their burnt shells between chocolate and graham crackers? Making s’mores is a favorite camping activity—and a favorite dessert. You can stick to the basic recipe or get creative, using cookies instead of crackers, peanut butter cups or mint patties instead of plain chocolate, and adding (more) candy.
Fact: If it’s a food and you can get it to stay on a stick, you can roast it! You can also pack roasting forks too. And if you’ve never tried roasted Starbursts, do it as soon as possible.
Whether you enjoy looking at birds without getting too deep into it or you’re an ornithology expert, camping gives you an opportunity to see birds you’d probably never spot in your own backyard. Birdwatching is a great way to appreciate the beauty of nature, get some low-impact exercise, learn something new and add to your knowledge of nature. Bring along a sling bag to hold your camera, notebook or sketchbook, water bottle, sunscreen and snacks.
Stuck in your tent because of rain? Or have an hour to kill while waiting for dinner to cook? There are more than 1,000 different card games you can play with just one deck of cards. From poker to war to the endless variations of speed, there’s a game that every person in your family will get a kick out of.
Looking for something different? Nertz is a newish favorite that’s been unofficially named the official card game of camping. All you need is one deck of cards per person (12 come with this set) and quick hands.
Unless you’re camping in a desert (which can also be spectacular), most popular campsites are near a river, lake or ocean—or a hot springs, if you’re really lucky. The water offers endless opportunities for water sports, including swimming. Whether you just enjoy wading in the shallows or you want to get fully wet, swimming is one of the great joys of camping. Bring a towel, sunscreen and your favorite floatie.
Hiking up the mountain can be fun (at least when you get to the top), but going back down is pure joy, especially if you have a rope and some basic rappelling gear. Don’t DIY it—you’ll want to take a few classes at a rock-climbing gym or an outdoor store, like REI—but once you know how, it provides hours of fun and a unique way to enjoy mountainous scenery. (Not to mention serious bragging rights for your kids when they get asked “So what did you do over the summer?”) Don’t have your own gear? Try it as part of a luxury camping adventure package.
Making pressed-flower bookmarks
Flower lovers, this one’s for you. Gather some pretty leaves, flowers or other plants, then place them between two pieces of waxed paper and put them inside a heavy book—or between two flat rocks, if you’re really roughing it. Once they’re flattened (after about a day), put them between two clear sheets of sticky contact paper. You can then cut them out individually to use as ornaments or other decorations, or cut them into strips, tie a ribbon on top and make one-of-a-kind bookmarks.
Tie-dyeing T-shirts or bandanas
Custom T-shirts are a popular camping souvenir, but having them made can be pricey. You can create a uniform for your group and save money by bringing plain tees, hats, bandanas or socks and a tie-dyeing kit. Campers from kids to grandparents will enjoy getting creative with making the patterns, choosing the colors and dip-dyeing their stuff. You can use fabric markers or puffy paint to add words—like “Smith Family Reunion 2023 in the Ozarks.”
How do you find the perfect skipping rock? At what angle do you throw it? And how many times can you get it to skip merrily across the surface of the water? It’s a game and a physics lesson all in one. Skipping rocks takes more skill than you might think, and it can entertain campers of all ages for hours. You can even turn it into a competition, creating silly awards on paper plates and handing them out in a closing ceremony.
Playing old-school games
Who says you need screens and tech to have fun? Time-honored classic games like kick the can, capture the flag, tag, hide-and-seek, ghosts in the graveyard and other outdoor games for kids are just as entertaining now as they were when our grandparents were kids. For most of these games, you don’t need any supplies other than a few sundry items you can usually find around the campsite.
Food always seems to taste better when you cook it outside. These cast-iron cooking pots with a lid have been an outdoor staple for centuries. They’re versatile, durable and easy to use for cooking a variety of meals, from simple one-pot dishes to elaborate desserts. They’re also incredibly heavy and can be used to hold down tents in a pinch, making them one of the top camping hacks.
Humans have been sitting around the fire telling stories ever since there were humans and fires. There’s just something about the warmth, crackle and glow that makes a campfire one of the best places to share family history, local lore, fantastical tales, ghost stories or add-on collaborative stories.
Storytelling an activity that people of all ages can participate in, and it can even help you bond with your loved ones. You can come up with your own or pull from our funny campfire stories—the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
There’s something very calming and meditative about being in the great outdoors. That’s why camping is the perfect time to do a few yoga poses with the kiddos (tree pose or mountain pose, anyone?). You can also try a more advanced guided yoga flow—sun salutations were made for this!
Even if you’re an experienced yogi, it will feel new and different at your camping locale. Some campgrounds offer outdoor yoga classes as a perk—ask the campsite host about that when checking in.
Playing “truth or dare”
Would you rather tell the whole group about your first embarrassing kiss or attempt a cartwheel? Truth or dare is a classic game that, done right, will push everyone just a little bit out of their comfort zone and help you all learn something new about each other.
You can come up with a fitting (but kind and safe) truth or dare, choose from a premade list or turn it into a game with these truth-or-dare stacking blocks. You pull a block from the tower and you have to do whatever the block says!
Going down a river in a raft can be a gentle, scenic tour or a white-knuckle thrill of a lifetime—and everything in between, depending on how adventurous your group is. You can bring your own inflatable raft for calmer waters or sign up for a guided rafting trip with a professional whitewater rafting company. Don’t forget your lifejackets, paddles and waterproof phone pouch—because you will definitely want to get some videos of this adventure.
Paddleboards look a lot like surfboards, but they are generally wider and thicker—and you don’t need to go anywhere near a wave. They’re made specifically for floating and cruising (calmly if you’d like) around with a paddle. It’s a great way for campers of all ages to see a different view of the campgrounds and enjoy the water.
Little ones can sit on the front of the board while adults paddle. As a rule of thumb, kids over age 10 can typically do it on their own. And despite the name, you don’t have to stand up if you’re worried about your balance. You can sit on it, use it like a kickboard, lay on it, do yoga on it and even pop up into a headstand.
Watching a camping movie in your tent
While camping is a great way to get away from 24/7 phone notifications and work emails, no one says you have to go totally tech-free when you’re camping. In fact, watching a movie on a laptop or tablet while cozied up in a tent or under the stars is a special treat. If you’re glamping you can create an elaborate outdoor movie setup, complete with projector and screen. Choose from one of the classic family movies, the best Western movies or the funniest comedies of all time.
Making aluminum foil dinners
If you want to give your Dutch oven a rest, you can rely on a roll of aluminum foil. Besides that, a protein, some thinly sliced veggies and little seasoning is all you need to make these classic camping meals. The most popular variation is hamburger meat, sliced potatoes and onions with cheese and seasoned salt, but you can do any combination you like.
Precook the meat if you’re concerned about cooking safety or just want dinner to be ready faster. Kids will enjoy assembling their own custom dinner by layering the different ingredients on a square of tin foil and then wrapping it up tightly into a packet. (You may want to use several layers of tin foil to avoid burning.) Place in the coals of the campfire and let them cook until heated through. Cut open and eat right out of the packet.
Playing board games
Playing board games is a great way to stave off “bored games” at the campsite (aka your kids bickering or your friends drinking at 2 p.m.)—especially if you need some quiet time. Classic board games like Monopoly, chess, checkers and Candyland are fun indoors and out. But if it’s windy, stick to games without small pieces, like Jenga, Guess Who or Pictionary. Kids may enjoy creating their own simple board games out of sticks, rocks and other campsite finds.
You don’t have to be a professional artist to enjoy drawing the beautiful wildlife around your campsite or on a hike. Bring a small notebook and some pencils or watercolor markers and simply draw what you observe. It will help you see the flowers, plants, animals and landscape in a new way—appreciating all the little details and colors that make them so spectacular. Frame your favorites at home, or simply keep the notebook as a memento of your trip.
Weaving friendship bracelets
There’s something so fun and soothing about learning simple weaving techniques—the fact that you get a colorful bracelet out of it is the cherry on top. Take four to eight strands of embroidery thread, tie a knot at the top, pin it to your pants and it will be handy to work on any time you have a break in the camp festivities. There are different weaving techniques that range from simple spirals to elaborate patterns. And relaxing while weaving one is a great way to test out a new camping chair.
Writing in your journal
Nothing gets your creative juices flowing like being outdoors. Channel that into writing your thoughts, stories, poetry or daily activities in a journal. Not only will this give you a priceless memory of your camping trip, but it will help you appreciate your experiences more as they happen. And no pressure to be the next Thoreau: The only audience you’re writing for is yourself.
Whether it’s a mountain bike, a tandem bike, a tricycle or a beach-buggy bike, there is a bicycle for every camping locale. Not only is it exercise, but it’s fun and offers a fresh (and faster) way to see the sights.
One fun idea: Many ski resorts offer a lift ride for you and your bike to the top so you can enjoy the fun part of mountain biking back down. Lots of popular National Park camping destinations, like Yellowstone, offer bike rentals on site, so you don’t have to worry about packing in your own gear.
Collecting sea glass
If you’re camping near a beach, chances are there are beautiful pieces of “sea glass” (glass that’s been polished into gems by the water) laying around. Collect these pieces and use them to make artwork in the sand or just admire them. You could also collect pretty rocks, seashells or leaves. Kids will enjoy trading and then displaying their collections around the campsite. Make it a tradition by collecting the same item from different campsites and trips and displaying them at home.
Playing glow-in-the-dark “capture the flag”
Take the regular version of capture the flag to the next level by playing it at dusk with glow necklaces. Set aside an area with few rocks, tree roots or holes to trip over. Hide the flags and let the fun begin. If you don’t have enough campers for two teams, you can hide the flag and have everyone search for it individually. If you don’t want to join in the action, reach into your camping cooler, grab a cold beverage and watch.
We all carry around extremely high-tech phones in our pockets. Yet how often do we use those fancy panoramic or macro photo features? Channel your inner photographer and snap artistic pictures of flowers, far-off shots of elk, sunlit pics of mountain peaks, close-up shots of insects or panoramic views of shorelines.
Find the unique beauty of wherever you are camping and try to capture that with your pictures. If you don’t want to use your phone (or want to save battery life), a Polaroid camera can provide fun old-school snaps.
Cut out paper-bag luminaries
It’s amazing how dark the night really gets when you’re far away from the city. Light up your campsite by cutting paper bags into luminaries. You can trace patterns onto the bag, do your own freeform snowflake designs or use a letter stencil and spell out something fun. Cut it out using an exacto knife, scissors and a hole punch. When your designs are finished and cut out, put an electric tealight in each bag and place them around your campsite or inside tents like a night light.
Hiking trails is fun, but running them adds another level of challenge and fun. The exercise, fresh air and beautiful scenery will give you one of the best runner’s highs of your life. Just make sure you’re equipped properly with trail running shoes, sunblock and water. A hydration vest is a way to carry a lot of water with you in an ergonomic way while keeping it handy for sipping. And while we love these hiking sandals, they are probably a better choice for different kinds of trail activities.
One downside of playing darts indoors is the problem of rogue darts finding their way into furniture and walls (and maybe people). Playing darts while camping makes it a much lower-stakes game. You can also mix up where you hang the dart board. (Still try very hard not to spear people, though.) Or for a more kid-friendly option, bring along a magnetic dart board set.
Letterboxing is an outdoor treasure hunt that’s similar to geocaching, but where participants use written or picture clues to find the hidden boxes. The boxes are usually tucked away in scenic or historic locations and contain a logbook for participants to sign. Before your trip, look up letterboxing locations online, nearby where you will be camping. When you’re ready to play, follow the clues to find the hidden box. Once you’ve found it, sign the logbook and leave a message for the next person.
Decorating water bottles
Staying hydrated is rule No. 1 of outdoor activities. Make drinking water more fun by offering campers ways to decorate and personalize their water bottles. (Plus it will keep people from confusing their water bottle with other identical bottles.) Think: stickers, acrylic paint markers, permanent markers, plastic cord and ribbons.
- KOA: “KOA North American Camping Report”