From Drab to Fab: Elevating Your Summer Camping Adventure

Summer is upon us. The weather has warmed up and it’s time to enjoy the wonderment of nature on a good old-fashioned camping excursion with family or friends. After being cooped up for so long during the pandemic, getting back outside and away from home is the perfect way to reconnect with the great outdoors and the many beautiful state parks and campgrounds that are available around the country. Whether your ideal destination is the mountains, lakes and rivers, or a favorite campground, taking in the fresh air and epic scenery can make for a very memorable trip, especially if you elevate the adventure with a few easy-to-include activities that will help amplify the experience.

Activities for Camping

The best way to ensure a stellar summer camping trip is to plan ahead. This means choosing the right location, making reservations in advance, stocking enough tasty foods, and adding in some simple activities that will turn the average camping trip into an experience that will last forever.

The goal is to increase the fun factor. Which can happen during morning, afternoon, or nighttime camping activities that will provide something for everyone. To get started, bring along some board games, organize group sports, and scout the area for hiking trails. Whether it’s simply making s’mores, pointing out different star constellations, or using the terrain to determine what offers the most possibilities—curating a unique memory for you and your family or friends is what matters most.

Use these tips to assemble a list of enjoyable entertainment for your next summer camping trip:

Play Games

Sure, you can have some board games handy. That’s fine and will pass the time with a lot of engaging family interaction. They pack easily, don’t require a lot of set up, and are great for gathering around the picnic table or campfire. But how about leveling up with some fun camping games like a round of flashlight tag, releasing sky lanterns, or finding out who can make the best shadow puppets? Or take the stargazing seriously by seeing who can spot the most shooting stars, satellites, or even the space station? Phone apps like Google Sky Map can be very helpful when identifying the most prominent constellations.

Engage with the Environment

Nature is a great backdrop and setting for any summer camping activities. Find a nearby meadow or stretch of grass and get everyone active. Play flag football, ultimate frisbee, or capture the flag. For young or old, even a simple round of Duck Duck Goose around the campfire will energize any moment around the campfire or picnic table. If there is water nearby, bring along or rent a recreational kayak and go for a paddle. Being on the water is relaxing, and provides a unique view of the setting that will exhilarate everyone in your camping crew.

Venture into the Wild

Everyone loves a good hike. Whether you’re heading to a spot with a great view, want to explore and try to identify the indigenous wildlife, or simply surround yourself with the local flora and fauna, this will always be a winning camping staple. You might even consider an extended trek—a three-day, two-night camping and hiking excursion—that provides more exercise and a longer sensory experience. Hikes tend to invigorate and open people’s eyes to an entirely new world that totally contrasts their life in the city or suburbs. Another variation is to add in elements of nature into a scavenger hunt. Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt, and using items found in nature, along with camera phones to text a photo of “who finds it first,” can add a whole new twist to a summer camping getaway.

  • How to plan a scavenger hunt: Make a list of different items to search for, and include the group in helping you create the list. Some ideas may include looking for a spider web (with bonus points if a spider is on it), four different colored leaves, five different kinds of trees, litter (be sure to pick up any litter), a special kind of rock, a bird in a tree, a bird flying in the air, berries on a tree or on the ground, etc. Once a discovery is made, snap a pic and send it to the group to announce your precious find.

Swap Stories

Storytelling has long been entrenched in the lore of camping trips, particularly in the evening, after the sun goes down, while the campfire is blazing and it’s just your tight knit group, one-upping each other based on who spins the best yarn. Surrounded by pitch darkness, ghost stories are always popular, or a good mystery will do the trick. Chain stories are also fun, where one person starts the story, makes up a plot and starts the narrative, and then passes it on to the next person.

Meals Made Together

Cooking can be a team effort that brings everyone together. It’s a way for everyone to participate, feel like they are a part of the finished meal, and take ownership of their part of the outdoors experience. Go all out and try a delicious recipe with local foods that are prepared in a Dutch oven. When everyone is involved in making dinner, the vittles are just that much tastier and more intimate.

Coordinated Campfire Building

Assigning each camper a task that will help build a roaring and safe campfire is exhilarating. Just make sure you bring a dry accelerant and set up your fire in an area specifically designated in the campground. Once it’s time to light the match, it’s also important to make sure no one, especially children, are near the fire when it’s time to ignite the blaze.

Perform Skits

Add some humor and lightheartedness to the outdoors equation by asking each camper to show off their best, and sometimes corny, acting skills. Your crew is out in the middle of nowhere, with no one but loved ones and friends watching, so it’s natural that they will let their guard down and feel comfortable performing a repartee that can create some great memories. The “Ultimate Camp Resource,” a site online, has dozens of skit ideas that are perfect for any summer camping adventure.​ This is fun for a bigger group and can keep family or friends busy while they rehearse their skits.

There are so many activities that will elevate a simple summer camping trip into an amazing adventure that is memorable and strengthens the human bond between all those who attend. Get creative. Plan ahead. Have each day and night mapped out in terms of the activities that will bring everyone together in a shared outdoors experience. And, most of all, have a blast doing it!

Based out of Southern California, Derek Edwards has a passion for the outdoors and sharing it with others. You can follow along his Californian adventure over on his blog Outdoor with Derek. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out his previous contribution here!

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