For many of us, summer camping is an experience we look forward to all year. We make our reservations as soon as possible. As the season approaches, we make sure our gear is in working order. We clean out the camper. We stock the cooler. Then finally, we hit the road.
But sometimes, that’s not possible. If there are things keeping you home this summer (a tight budget, recent injury, or social distancing rules), you don’t have to give up camping. Instead, try a new location: your own yard. We recently shared our ultimate beginner’s guide to backyard camping to help you get started. Now it’s time to share 19 essential backyard camping ideas and hacks that’ll turn you into a backyard camping pro. Plus, whatever tricks you learn this summer can be used on your next away-from-home camping adventure.
1. Fire-Free S’mores
Do you live in a city where fires aren’t allowed? Or are you simply hoping to avoid extra work? Either way, you can still enjoy a classic camping dessert. To make fire-free s’mores, simply spread marshmallow fluff and chocolate spread (try them with Nutella!) between two graham crackers. And since you’re probably near a freezer, you can take the extra step of adding ice cream!
2. Bungee Paper Towel Holder
Even when you’re camping at home, it’s important to have paper towels on hand for quick clean-ups. But the last thing you want is dirty (or grassy) paper towels. Make a simple paper towel holder by stringing a bungee cord through the center of a paper towel roll. Hook each end of the bungee cord from deck rails or on a tree branch.
3. Instant Lantern
To make a camping lantern that will provide a nice cozy glow, all you need is a one gallon jug of water and a headlamp. Strap the headlamp onto the water jug with the light turned on and facing in. Depending on the color of the bottle, this trick could also work with a plastic Nalgene bottle full of water.
4. DIY Fire Starters
Start a fire fast with homemade fire starters. We’ve got 10 easy DIY ideas to try.
5. Festive Fire Starters
If you have any trick birthday candles from past celebrations (you know, the type that won’t go out?), use them for your campfire. The candles make good fire starters that will actually stay lit as the kindling catches fire.
- THE MAGIC CANDLES THAT JUST WON'T BLOW OUT! - These incredible Magic Relighting Birthday Candles lets you take your celebration to the next level. Watch as your victim tries to blow out the trick candles on their cake, only for them to relight over and over again!
- ULTIMATE BIRTHDAY OR CELEBRATION PRANK - Witness the howls of laughter from your friends and family as your victim huffs and puffs to try and blow the trick candles for birthday cakes out. Then watch as your joke unfolds and your victim realizes they've been pranked!
- SAFE FOR YOUR CAKE (COMES WITH 30 HOLDERS) - Our hilarious trick birthday candles are made with non-toxic wax and come with 30 candle holders, making them super safe for use on your cake. Simply burn them for 30 secs before the blowing begins!
- HILARIOUS GAG GIFT FOR TRICKSTERS & PRANKSTERS - These genius magic candles make a funny gift for anyone who loves pranks, magic tricks or candle magic. Perfect if you're looking for novelty happy birthday decorations or birthday party decorations.
- BOUTIQUE JOKES & PRANKS BY LAUGHING SMITH - We've developed our hilarious trick candles so you can apply humor and magic to any special occasion. Enjoy hours of laughter and make memories that last forever with Laughing Smith!
- 2 boxes of 24 colorful spiral relighting birthday candles that will keep the fun going at celebrations!
- Classic wax birthday candles with fun spiral designs are perfect for any celebration. Great for birthday parties, holidays, celebrations, and more!
- Candle colors come in white, blue, red, and yellow and can be reused for events to come. Pack comes with (6) blue candles, (6) red candles, (6) yellow candles, and (6) white candles.
- Easy to light, long lasting cake candles. Each candle measures 2.5’’ tall.
6. Natural Bug Repellent
For a natural way to cut down on mosquitoes, throw some bundles of fresh sage, mint, or lavender on your fire.
7. Quick Meal Caddy
Reuse a cardboard six-pack container for a utensil caddy and cut down on your trips to the kitchen. Fill each compartment with napkins, forks, spoons, cups, and condiments like salt, pepper, and ketchup packs. Or, you can also use the container as a snack caddy and fill the compartments with granola bars, fruit snacks, and packages of trail mix.
8. Mini DIY Fire Pit
Don’t have room for a full-sized campfire but still want to roast some s’mores? Make your own mini fire pit from a terracotta pot. First, set a terracotta pot on a level fire-safe space on the ground such as a concrete patio or sandy spot in the yard. Line the pot with heavy-duty aluminum foil and fill it with charcoal. (The kind you’d use for a charcoal grill.) Then light the coals and let them burn for a bit until they turn white. Then break out the roasting stick and made some s’mores.
9. Party Lights
Make colorful lanterns by placing glow sticks inside mason jars.
10. Bug-free Beverages
To keep bees or other bugs from getting inside canned or bottled drinks, there’s an easy solution. Poke a hole in the center of a paper muffin liner using a straw. Then place the straw in your drink, letting the muffin liner cover the top.
11. Easy Drink Holder
Use a muffin tin as a drink holder. It’s easy to pass around and will prevent drinks from getting knocked over.
- Ready, Set, Bake: Everyone loves a good, warm muffin in the morning, and it's never been easier than with this 12-cup non-stick muffin pan. This cookie pan can also be used to make a dozen cupcakes to brighten someone's day.
- Versatile Baking: The muffin pan and cupcake pan from Wilton can bake batches of muffins or cupcakes in this 12-cup pan. You can use this baking pan as egg pan.
- Non-Stick Baking: Made of steel and reinforced non-stick coating for easy release and quick cleanup. The durable non-stick and scratch-resistant coating on our muffin and cupcake pans allows your food to slide or pop out easily.
- Care Instructions: The Wilton muffin pan & cupcake pan is dishwasher safe; however for best results, wash in warm, soapy water before first and after each use.
- Includes: 1 muffin and cupcake pan with dimensions: 10.5 x 15 in. (26.6 x 38.1 cm); Cavity size: 2 in. dia. x 1.25 in. (5 cm diam x 3.2 cm). Limited 10-year warranty.
- Set of 2 muffin pans with 12 cups each (24 cups total); ideal for baking muffins, cupcakes, and more
- Heavy-weight steel construction provides durability and fast, even heating for uniform browning
- Nonstick coating helps ensure effortless food release; oven-safe to 428 degrees F
- Hand washing recommended; fits Amazon Basics silicone baking cups (not included)
- Part of the Amazon Basics nonstick bakeware collection
12. Gear Tote
Sleds aren’t only for snow. They’ll also slide over grass. Load up a plastic sled with your camping gear and supplies, then drag it to the place in your yard where you plan to set up camp.
13. Instant Camp Beds
If you don’t have a sleeping mat or air mattress, try using a pool lounger for a comfy bed. Bring as many as you need inside your tent, then top with sleeping bags or blankets.
14. Fire in a Flash
Instead of using fire starters, another easy way to get a campfire going is to use some Doritos! (Fritos and other corn chips also work.) Place the chips in your fire pit and put some very small pieces of kindling on top. Then light the chips. They should light quickly and will help get the fire going.
15. Avoid Falls
Sooner or later, someone is going to trip over the tent’s guy lines. (And it’ll probably happen when it’s dark!) Make them easy to see with pool noodles. Cut a 1-foot section of a foam pool noodle and then make a vertical slit down the side. Attach the pool noodle to the guy line where it’s connected to the ground. Repeat for the tent’s other guy lines.
- 6 Pack of everyone's favorite flexible fun-in-the-sun toy. Set of 6 all-round foam tubes, 52-inch length, approximately 2-1/2-inch diameter with 1-inch hollow core.
- Oodles of noodles are made from a proprietary foam compound that's more dense than others for improved buoyancy and stiffness
- Designed for the beach, swimming pool, light sabers, toys. Dozens of other uses for craft projects - even insulation. All colors may appear slightly different from that displayed on your screen.
- Sold in sets of 6 Black. NOTE: Black pool noodles will absorb all of the suns energy and can soften if not properly cared for. Remove from direct sunlight and dry in hot areas after use.
- Our Noodles are Made in North America. No harmful chemicals Not a lifesaving device.
- Bright Colored - This 5-pack assortment of standard pool noodles are 1 lime green, 2 yellow and 2 red. These bright colors combined with the large noodles make them impossible to miss. Colors are subject to availability and may vary slightly from the images shown.
- More Than Just Swimming - These foam noodles can be used for DIY projects or arts & crafts. The foam tubes work excellent for padding, edge cushion, or as creative kids accessory. Use your imagination to think of even more uses.
- Durable & Strong - These premium pool noodles provide extra flotation for endless use whether you're in the pool or the lake. The soft, but firm foam allows for last use from even the most intense pool sword fights or water spout battles!
- Standard Noodles - 52 Inches in length. Due to the manufacturing process the actual length varies (+/- 1"). All Fix Find pool noodles are proudly Made in the USA.
- 2-1/4 to 2-1/2-Inch Diameter with approx 3/4-Inch Hollow Core
16. Solo Cup Speaker
One of our favorite musical backyard camping ideas is simply placing a smartphone inside a clean (empty!) Solo cup for an instant speaker.
- Item Package Length: 29.972cm
- Item Package Width: 16.256cm
- Item Package Height: 7.62cm
- Item Package Weight: 0.680kg
- Contains 200 - 18 ounce plastic party cups (4 bags with 50 cups per bag)
- The original sign of good times. Achieve iconic party status with America's original party cup
- 4 Grip areas with a squared base - A secure hold means fewer spills
- Smooth rolled rim: Great to drink from
- Bold, glossy, color and bright white interior: 1 great looking cup
17. Simplify Snacks
Make snacks ahead of time so you’ll spend less time prepping food for hungry kids and more time just enjoying the outdoors together. Try our make-ahead snack recipes or our allergy-friendly snack recipes.
18. Save Sticky Marshmallows
Have you ever prepped s’mores ingredients, only to find that the marshmallows have all stuck together inside the bag? There’s an easy solution! Pour at least 1 teaspoon of cornstarch into the bag of marshmallows. Then close the bag and shake it. The cornstarch should help absorb extra moisture and help separate the marshmallows.
19. Supply Organizer
Keeping your camping supplies organized outside will help cut down on trips back and forth to the house. Hang an over-the-door shoe organizer from a tree branch or deck rail. Then fill it with the items you’ll need throughout the campout such as flashlights, sunscreen, bug spray, and first-aid supplies.