Hike all day, play all afternoon. Getting outside provides us with all kinds of benefits. More vitamin D for healthy bodies, increased ability to focus, and of course, reduced stress. But with the lack of screen time comes a lot of free time. Camping games can help fill the void and enjoy downtime in the outdoors. Nearly any coffee-table game you would play at home can be retrofitted to play around a campfire, or next to it. Plus, small, lightweight games are great to bring along if you're backpacking or find yourself stuck in a tent during a torrential downpour.
Whether you return to camp after a day on the trail and the sun is still high enough for a game with friends, or you're looking for something to fill time around the campfire, here are 12 summer game suggestions for your next camping trip.
Our Favorite Camping Games
1. Bocce Ball
Think bowling without the lines. Form two teams with two to eight players each and flip a coin to determine who gets to throw the jack, or the white target ball. Then take turns tossing the bocce balls as close to the jack as possible. Points are awarded based on just how close you can get them, and the first team to 12 points wins. Most bocce sets are extremely heavy, but this lightweight camping version can be carried in a backpack.
2. Ladder Golf
Also known as ladderball, you’ll need two three-runged ladders placed about 15 feet apart and two sets of different colored bolas to play. Each player’s objective is to toss a bola (two balls attached by a cord) so that it lands on or wraps around a rung of the ladder, the top rung being worth one point, middle two, and bottom three. The first team to get 21 points wins. The sturdier the set, like this metal version, the better.
3. Corn Hole
Like the other tossing games, corn hole doesn’t involve a lot of running around, which makes it the perfect game for small campsites. Two teams of two to four people stand 27 feet apart, each group with one board with a hole cut into it. Each team tosses four beanbags across the span trying to get the bags into the hole. The first team to get 21 points wins. Don’t have the boards? Get creative by drawing a goal in the dirt and tossing pinecones.
The notoriously uncontrollable stacking game, Jenga, works just about anywhere except too close to the campfire. Stack all 54 blocks into a tower, and take turns poking or pulling out one at a time—with caution. Whoever causes the tower to fall over loses the game. This National Parks edition comes with fun park facts on each hardwood block, so you can quiz your teammates on trivia, too.
There’s no better tossing game than a traditional round of horseshoes. And for those of you who don’t want to lug around a set of steel horseshoes on your next camping trip, here’s a lightweight version complete with indoor and outdoor stakes. Divide your campmates into two groups, then throw your shoes within one horseshoe-length from the stake (or smack on top of it) to get points.
Charades is a perfect campfire game for any size group. On slips of paper, have everyone write down a couple of ideas to act out and place them into a hat (or an empty coffee mug, hiking boot—you get the idea). Go clockwise around the campfire and draw slips, acting out clues to your phrase until your companions get it right. Winners get any prize decided upon by the group, like the tent site of their choice.
7. React and Act
Again, get out those slips of paper. Everyone in camp writes down as many camping or outdoor situations as they can think of (a bear walks into camp, you find a snake in your sleeping bag, you realize you forgot to pack the trowel), and puts them into a hat. Then players draw a scenario and must act out the appropriate reaction to it, while everyone else tries to guess what was on the paper.
8. Two Truths and a Lie
Some of the best games don’t require any props. Everyone around the campfire must share three facts about themselves–two of which are true, and one a lie. You guessed it: The other players must correctly guess the falsehood.
9. Roll the Dice Games
There’s normal Yahtzee, and then there’s National Parks Yahtzee. Both games are perfect for when you’re confined to a small space. In this rendition, instead of numbered dice you have a hiker, pine trees, binoculars, a tent and a canoe. Roll all five at once and you’ll score an impressive forty points.
10. Card Games
Only have two players? Kings Corners is like solitaire, but for two. Each player gets seven cards, and the rest are placed face down in a pile in the center of your playing space. Flip four cards from the pile and place them to the north, east, south, and west of the pile. Then take turns playing your cards lower in rank and in opposite color on these piles. The Kings are placed in the corners, and when the feeder stack is gone, the first person out of cards wins.
This is arguably one of the most high-intensity card games around. Place however many spoons (pinecones or rocks work too) equals one less than the number of players (for example, five friends, four pinecones). Deal four cards to each person. All players simultaneously take out one card and discard it to their left; then each person picks up the card that has been placed on their right to continue the motion. The first person to have four of a kind picks up a pinecone on the sly. When the other players notice, they pick up the remaining items. The person left without is out the next round.
12. Word Games
For those who want to get their intellect involved, word games are excellent ways to pass the time while stuck inside a tent during a rainstorm. Bananagrams, cleverly packaged in the shape and size of a banana, is similar to Scrabble and is a favorite for backpackers tight on space.
Have any games to pass time while camping? We'd love to hear your favorites in the comments below.