26

Inspired by a comment by Kate Gregory I just have to ask this question:

What to do on your spare time while being at the campsite?

Being outdoors several days while having good friends around and the weather is gracious with you might be easy. But still, good ideas are welcome. So we could read books, slackline, cook, gather wood for campfires, play the harmonica or guitar, tell some bloody bad-ass bear stories, ...

  • What to do if it's raining all the time?
  • What to do with kids?
  • What to do if you are going alone?
  • Any other ideas?

Once with a bigger group on a camping trip we played a nice game: Blind cooking! Except some watchdogs and photo-takers we all had our eyes bandaged and had to cook something. Funny game, do you know other creative activities?

  • 2
    Here's what we do: read, build a camp fire, cook, eat, drink, chat, look over my photos from the day, stretch/rub sore muscles from the day's activity, plan tomorrow's activity. – theJollySin May 27 '14 at 22:55
  • 2
    While I never asked myself this question, I really fell in love with it - so many cool answers containing new ideas and things to do on the next trip! :) – Paul Paulsen Jun 15 '14 at 14:27
  • Some ideas here: outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/6257/… – Akabelle Sep 14 '15 at 5:23

10 Answers 10

35

If you have children with you, you will have no worries about keeping yourself busy, you'll be plenty busy. If the weather is nice, your kids might enjoy games like:

  • Throw Rocks in the Water
  • Run Around As Fast As You Can
  • See If You Can Throw A Prized Toy Into A Tree And Get It Stuck There
  • Find A Stick and then Fight Over Whose Stick It Is

My kids also liked Get Firewood and Purify Water (with a hand pump device) because kids like to help. In crummy weather, story books in the tent, and perhaps colouring (with coloured pencils, they travel better than crayons) are old standbys. The adults, of course, are busy keeping the kids safe and generally watching for trouble. Not to mention cooking, cleaning, and straightening up things that got messy over the day, like putting things back where they belong, hanging up wet things, and bringing dry things into the tent so they stay dry. It's also possible you might be talked into wading into the deep water to retrieve all the rocks they threw in, so they can throw them in again.

No kids? I guess in this case it is theoretically possible to be bored, though it hasn't happened to me on childless trips (they grow up eventually and you can go out without them.) Try:

  • read a book
  • lie on a warm rock and let the sun shine on you
  • write something in your journal
  • swim
  • meditate, stretch, do yoga
  • get firewood, purify water, make dinner, do the dishes, ...
  • talk to the person you are with
  • learn how to skip stones
  • carve a little something out of wood
  • sit around the campfire and watch the flames
  • daydream a little and try to plan out your long term goals and wishes (the peace and quiet of nature makes this easier to do)
  • play cards in the tent if the weather is bad
  • look at the maps and plan another trip to another part of the place you are in
  • trade books with the others if you read all you brought

On a completely stay-put day you can also practice tipping your boat, swimming in your PFD, and other "emergency" drills when your possessions are all safe and dry on the shore. If you are not boating, you could practice starting a fire without matches, learn to tie various knots (bring a sheet or two of instructions), and generally experiment with stuff to make you better at the camping you do.

I typically bring my books home unopened, but I always take at least one just in case.

  • 8
    Definitely a +1 for "Run around as fast as you can" - this game is its own reward, although as the kids get bigger it needs to include "and jump over/off/through dangerously high/sharp things" – Rory Alsop May 27 '14 at 7:32
  • 1
    @KateGregory: +1 for "Look at the maps and plan another trip to another part of the place you are in", this always keeps you a step ahead in planning a hike around the same region the next time :) – WedaPashi Jul 17 '14 at 4:31
  • Find A Stick and then Fight Over Whose Stick It Is does this only apply to sticks or are other objects also acceptable, say rocks or sheep? ;) – user2766 Jul 22 '14 at 13:40
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    perhaps due to their ubiquity, sticks are the preferred object. Easy to find, utterly pointless to fight over. I can't explain it, I can only report it. I don't recall any fights over pine cones or rocks. – Kate Gregory Jul 22 '14 at 18:47
  • But the other kid has the more awesome stick! The one that looks like a P90! – Ernie Jun 5 '15 at 23:22
16

We've camped for a month (4 adults/no kids), no TV, no phone, no radio or power & one water spigot. We didn't manage to get bored. Other than the routine of getting firewood/cooking/cleaning, here's some of the things we did:

  • Swim. We went swimming a few times a day to cool off.
  • Explore. This was a new area to us so we took advantage of the time to see what was around us.
  • Play games. The same board games that sat untouched on the shelf at home were a welcome sight while camping. We also played a lot of cards & dice.
  • Talk, really talk. At home there is always something to be doing & even when we talked we tended to only half listen to each other, camping lended no distractions for us to really listen to one another.
  • Learn to cook. My sister & I have been cooking since we were old enough to see over the stove. But cooking on a camp fire is quite a different thing & 31 days is quite enough time to get sick of stereotypical camp foods. So we learned to cook 'home' food over the fire, as well as new things too! Our husbands were thrilled.
  • Watch the sky. We live in an area where we can see stars at home, but to watch them camping is always better.
  • Get up & go down when the sun does. My father once told me that if you don't go to bed tired when you're camping you're doing it wrong. Sounds funny but it's true!
13

In addition to Kate's excellent answer I have the following advice, from over 35 years camping (13 of them with kids):

If there is the slightest chance of the entire holiday being rainy, take a tent much larger than you need. This isn't just to give you room to dry wet things, store dry stuff etc., but it gives kids the opportunity to play in the tent without becoming insufferable.

We used to camp everywhere with a tent big enough for our family +1 (and the +1 was used for storing kit) but one exceedingly wet holiday, our 6 man tent really wasn't big enough for the 5 of us, plus kit, plus the lake that formed in the downhill corner...

We now take a 12 man tent for any camping holiday in Scotland. This gives the adults one wing, the kids have the other, a large play area in the middle, and a decent size awning to sit under/cook etc. We now don't have children playing catch over us - they are happier, we are more relaxed - it's a win all round. Sure, it's a bit heavier, so we usually use it when we can park relatively near the camp site, but with our youngest now nearly 8, we can carry it all on short hikes.

13

Look for wildlife. This will depend on where in the world you are camping, but in most rural areas, there will be some wildlife around. And its often possible to see some of it without too much effort.

See how many different species of birds you can spot - binoculars and a field guide may be helpful. Or try photographing a variety of animals.

You can even look for wildlife after dark. Some campsites have bats flying around - if you get a bat detector, you can listen to their ultrasound calls. And maybe badgers or owls, or other nocturnal creatures.

Even if you can't actually see the animals, you can still look for signs of them. eg animal footprints, or droppings, or signs they have been eating. Or listen for animal sounds, try and identify bird songs.

  • 4
    I love this answer-- it always surprises me when people go camping and overlook wildlife. Trees, rocks, and waterscapes are interesting, but watching animals really puts us in touch with nature. – Chris Mendez Jun 5 '14 at 13:39
9

More suggestions. Btw @Kate, I loved your list.

During the day.

  • Day hikes
  • River / lake swimming
  • Just exploring
  • Practice survival skills

At night.

  • Word games
  • book reading
  • Theological / political discussions
  • Solve all worldly problems
  • Get drunk and then tell your best friend to "check this out". Earn Darwin award. :-)
5

You could also try outdoor crafts like flower crowns, which you can find all the materials for outdoors though are easier to make with a little wire, or tree tapestries, which require some yarn and a yarn needle:

You'll need a sturdy, Y-shaped branch. To make the loom's warp (the strands that act as the foundation of the weaving), tie the end of a ball of yarn near the base of the branch's fork. Wrap the yarn once around one leg of the fork, then cross to the other leg and wrap the yarn once around it. Repeat, keeping the yarn fairly tight, until you reach the ends of the fork. Tie off the yarn.

For the weft (the yarn you weave through the warp), thread a piece of yarn that's about five times the length of the branch into a plastic yarn needle. Tie the end of the yarn to the bottom-most thread of the warp. With the needle, pull the yarn in and out of the warp. It will seem a little strange at first because half the warp threads will be higher than the others -- just treat them as though they were flat. When you've used up the length of yarn, tie another piece to the end and continue weaving. When you're done, tie the yarn end to the warp or just tuck it into the tapestry.

4

My favorite fireside activity is my family's version of 20 questions. Announce whether your an animal, vegetable or mineral and answer yes or no until they give up or get it. Marsh-mellows and the popcorn popper are a must. If its raining all day go into town and find something to do. Bring that Ipad you told your kids they can't bring just in case. We usually camped at places with some sort of attraction, natural or otherwise, so if the weather was bad there was something nearby to do. Part of the trip was always going to the go-cart/mini-golf place if they had one.

3

This ReserveAmerica article has a lot of good ideas:

Bike Riding

What better way to explore the region you're camping in than on a bike ride? Strap on your pedaling shoes, and head out for a day of cycling. Whether you prefer mountain biking or street biking, most campgrounds support both camping activities. Don't forget to ask about bike-specific mountain trails or recreational bike paths.

Plant Identification

Though you might not notice at first, the plants at your campground may be very different from those where you live. Instead of hiking just to hike, spend your day IDing plants in the local forest. This not only gives you the chance to explore and stay active, but to learn something new, as well.

Bird Watching

You wake up to their songs in the morning, but do you know what those beautiful songbirds look like? Be sure to bring a bird identification book, and head out to discover who those singers are.

S'mores Contest

Some may argue that s'mores are the best part of any camping trip. So, why not put your skills to the test? This camping activity is great for all ages, and it's a win-win for everyone participating—and tasting.

Boating

If your campground is situated on a body of water, there's no better way to spend your day than splashing around. Most water-friendly campgrounds will offer kayak, canoe and paddle boat rentals making it easy to get out and come back in time for dinner over the fire.

Volleyball

A friendly game of volleyball is the one of the best group camping activities. If you don't have enough people for a game, take this chance to meet your neighbors and invite them to join in the fun. Call the campground to find out if they have a net or if you have to bring your own.

Spelunking

This is a unique experience if you can partake in it. Spelunking is the act of exploring caves, and can be enjoyed by most age groups. If you're camping near caves, ask your local ranger if they are safe to explore before going in and poking around.

Fishing

Of all the camping activities you can partake in, fishing might be the most relaxing. Grab your poles and head out with your family to catch dinner for the night, or simply enjoy the recreation of it.

2

With kids or without, I would consider building a shelter. There are a lot of shapes and sizes for it, a quick search for images can give you plenty of inspiration. It needs some preparation (planning and coming to an agreement how it would look like, walking around to find materials, find the right spot where to build it), and building it won't be so easy as it might look in the beginning, so it might take up a bigger part of your day. It is a great way to teach them about bivouac, about using only what they can find in the forest, living in nature (where to put the shelter to have the most protection). And in the end you might as well sleep in it for a night.

  • In most public camping areas of the US the gathering of natural materials is not allowed. in private/commercial campgrounds it is not practical. – James Jenkins Feb 14 at 13:45
1

There are some good ideas in the existing answer. We camp all over the US, and almost never in the same campground twice.

We camp because we travel with pets. Our camp is our mobile homebase. Because the best tent sites are always taken by locals who know the best sites. We have upgraded to a small camp trailer.

If you have pets:

  • Take them for a walk
  • Sit out with your pets, people will stop and visit
  • Pet grooming and snuggling
  • If your pets bark never leave them in the camp alone

Go exploring:

  • Unless you are really close to home, there are untraveled roads, see where they go
  • Check out the local sights, museums, flea markets, antique shops, etc
  • Go out for lunch (or dinner) try the local mom and pop, the one with the most cars around it is the best one to try first.
  • Explore nearby parks that you have not visited before

Structured activities:

  • Private/Commercial camps usually have a pavilion with scheduled activities, games, potlucks, crafts, movies, etc
  • Public/Government campgrounds often have movie nights, and education presentations
  • Rent something for an hour or half a day, horses and boats are popular rentals at or near camping areas.

Lastly Rest: We always build at least one day in the schedule to just sit and watch the grass grow. Read, watch the clouds go by, listen to the wildlife.

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