Whether you're a seasoned outdoorsman, well versed in the intricacies of camping or a novice looking for a little fun in the open air, garden camping is a really good option for you.
A lot of people say – "You want me to just camp in my garden instead of a campsite?" – yes! In this article we're going to explore all the benefits of camping in your back garden with your family, what you'll need for a successful home camping holiday, things to do when camping and what different things you can do to make the most of the time.
If you're looking for some information and guidance into the world of home camping, this one is definitely for you!
What Is Garden Camping?
Garden camping has risen in popularity in recent times, especially with the state of the world at the moment, travelling to new places for camping trips or holidays is a little uncertain, so a cheap, easy and fun way to still get that holiday feel is by garden camping!
Garden camping is quite literally doing everything you would usually do while camping at a campsite, but in your own garden instead. A lot of people scoff at the idea initially, but the benefits are abundant!
From the use of your own toilet to saving money in fuel, easily making camp food and having access to electricity! Of course, another big bonus is not having to book and pay for a campsite, which can be surprisingly expensive depending on the amenities and popularity of the site.
A lot of people camp in the back garden as a vacation, especially if there are young children in the family that haven't experienced camping before. Taking young children camping in the back garden before setting off somewhere bigger and more adventurous allows them to learn about camping safely while being comfortably close to what they are familiar with.
Some people go camping to celebrate other things like birthdays, the end of the school year or for children sleepovers. It's really exciting for the children, but they are nice and safe in the back garden - within earshot and you can monitor them much easier!
The Benefits of Garden Camping?
So, what benefits can you enjoy from garden camping with your family? In this section, we break them down into some categories to explain how to get the most out of each one.
Being in Nature
There's something so fantastically refreshing and relaxing about being out in the open and at one with nature. It's something we should all probably try to do more often. However, the responsibilities of modern life often prevent us from getting out into nature, whether just for the day or for a camping break. But instead of going to nature, why not bring nature to you!
Camping in your own piece of open-air is just as beneficial as travelling a few hours to somewhere different. Think about how many times you've spent time relaxing in your own garden, and I don't mean sat outside for half an hour.
I'm talking about really spending time admiring your own little piece of nature. If you have flower beds or trees, you're probably missing all of the rare birds and creatures that roam you garden when you're at work or school.
It's also a great way to teach your children about nature and the outdoors. By letting them explore somewhere comfortable and close, they'll get a real understanding of the world around them, only making the next big camping trip somewhere new all the more beneficial to them and you.
We all know how stressful life can get, whether it's work, school exams, personal troubles, or simply just burning out and needing a holiday.
The problem is, holidays usually bring new stresses with them. First, you have to find somewhere to visit, organise accommodation and flights, pay for the holiday and ensure you have money to spend during your visit, and then there's the journey itself.
Even a camping holiday within a few hours of your house can be stressful from finding a site, loading the car, spending money on petrol, spending money on equipment to keep food fresh and a multitude of other issues.
All of these problems disappear when you camp in the back garden. All you have to worry about is turning off your mobile, playing some games, eating some camp food and enjoying a few days away from the rat race.
We're going to delve a little deeper into all the different kinds of food, games and entertainment you can set up for your garden camping trip. Still, there's something incredibly satisfying about kicking back at sunset with a nice drink, some warm cookies and a board game with your loved ones.
You'll never even consider it any less enjoyable simply because you're on your own property.
Break From Screens & Technology
The technological advancements that have both helped and hindered the modern world are apparent all around us.
Everywhere you look, you'll see a screen, whether you're walking through a city centre, waiting at a bus stop or driving on the motorway, and you're more than likely to always have one sat in your pocket.
There are obvious benefits to this as is proven with real-time updates on traffic, advertisements for new products or services and the ability to connect with people anywhere in the world from the tap of a screen.
However, the more we rely on technology for our connections, the less we use our ability to connect with a person face to face and in the moment.
Taking a break from technology and screens are becoming more and more encouraged for our health, both physical and mental. For one, the constant blue light that emanates from screens has a detrimental effect on our sleep patterns as it sets of brain receptors that keep you awake.
Without a doubt, the constant exposure to social media impacts our mental health. Sometimes we just need to have some time out to remind ourselves that it's not always real and that we're only seeing what people want us to.
A digital detox can be tough to maintain, especially when there isn't much else to occupy us. So what better way to help us with a digital detox than a few days break camping. Leave the phones, tablets and laptops in a drawer upstairs, take the camping equipment, food and board games outside and spend some time connecting with your family. Tell stories and learn about each others day.
You won't miss your phone, you won't miss seeing what Kanye West has tweeted about, and you certainly won't miss the workgroup chat discussing yet another meeting this month. Leave it all inside and spend some quality time interacting with you loved ones.
Our time is valuable, especially with everything else that we do as parents and as people. Whether its work, school, activities or general chores, free time to spend as a family is pretty limited for most households. So, when you have the opportunity to set everything aside for a day or so, to spend some quality time with your family, grasp it with both hands!
With longer working hours, more time spent on phones and tablets and much less opportunity to sit down as a family each night to eat or play games, some families have reported a disconnect in relationships that often feel out of their control to fix.
This is a sad situation that many find themselves in, made harder when vacations and camping trips are so costly. But garden camping solves all of the problems in one fell swoop!
Less Planning Time
How many times have you inadvertently found yourself with a free weekend with nothing planned and the sun shining high in the sky, cursing yourself for not planning something? Well, we have the perfect solution for you. Back garden camping!
It is as simple as nipping to the supermarket for a few snacks and drinks, dragging your camping kit out from the garage and setting up camp in your back garden. It requires no prior planning, no rushing down motorways or furiously calling campsites hoping for a free spot.
The beauty of garden camping is that it can be done at the drop of a hat. Are the kids bored of a Friday night? A quick nights camping in the garden entertains them easily. It's true that it's a novelty, but kids love anything that's a break from their usual routine.
Holidays abroad are expensive, and there is no avoiding that fact. No matter how good of a deal you get, you still need to find extra funds for spending money, travelling, clothes and many other things. Camping in the UK can still be quite costly with pitch prices coming in at anything from £20-£50 per night at peak times.
The extra equipment that you'd need for staying away from your home - like a cooler box and power banks - increase the cost even more. Add to it the cost of petrol and your cheap camping break has suddenly cost more than you had anticipated.
Instead, save yourself all the hassle, fuss and expense by camping in your own back garden. There are tons of camping activities for kids that don't involve more cost, and there are so many things to do while camping that doesn't break the bank.
It's never been more important to look after the pounds, so give back garden camping a chance, you'll be surprised how enjoyable it is!
Garden Camping Kit
So, what equipment do you need for the perfect garden camping holiday? What do you need to have ready, so you're ready for a last-minute camping trip at the drop of a hat? Well here are the essentials to make any trip perfect.
Tent or Tepee?
The obvious first essential on the list is a camping home for you and your family. Now, you have a few options in this regard. You can either opt for the classic tent or get creative and build a tepee for a unique experience.
Tents are the easier option as they come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and designs. Some styles have the added benefit of separate sections reserved for sleeping with a central space for socialising.
Creating a makeshift camp without a tent can be tough but very rewarding. Tepee's take much more effort to erect, but they're worth it for a unique and classic camping feel. You can find a lot of different guides on YouTube on how to create a tepee perfect for your family, but the general components are four long poles and a sturdy covering to wrap around them!
It's important to dress up your tent or tepee with some different decorations to make it look different and special. Even some fairy lights hung around the tent can look wonderful at night, or maybe try some electric candles!
You need to ensure that everyone is nice and comfortable inside whichever accommodation you choose when camping. There's nothing worse than a cold or uncomfortably sleepless night, and if this is a child's first experience of camping, it may be tough to convince them to give it another try.
Of course, if you have them available, or want to purchase them for further use, good quality sleeping bags are a great option. They're light, pack down small and great in all temperatures.
However, if you don't want to purchase sleeping bags, why not just take duvets and blankets from the house and lay them in your tent. The kids will love getting wrapped up in a blanket and sat on a soft duvet while telling stories and eating camp snacks!
Stove or Firepit
To make sure the campfire feel is in full flow, you'll need something to toast your marshmallows on. Now, you have a couple of options here. You could build a real fire made safe by surrounding it in bricks and having ample means of extinguishing it, however, we wouldn't suggest this option.
A better option is to purchase a fire pit. Firepits are usually large metal bowls or cylinders that have a large, heavy lid required to starve the fire of oxygen when it's time to put it out. This options very safe, very impressive and the firepits can be bought quite cheaply.
The only other option is to use a standard camping stove, and while it won't be as impressive, it's the most cost-effective option.
The beauty of garden camping is that everything you need is on hand in your home. If you don't want to cook outdoors, just cook inside and bring it out on plates. Or, if you don't have sleeping bags, bring out the duvets, or even the mattresses! Everything you need is a matter of metres away!
Garden Camping Food Ideas
The best way to ensure your garden camping trip is received well by all is to have a great food menu! When you go away camping, you may struggle to create tasty meals and snacks that suit everyone, as you're usually limited with cooking equipment and ingredients.
The instant noodles fast become quicker and easier than any fine cuisine. But, when you're in the vicinity of your own kitchen, you can get creative with the camping menu on offer. Here are some of our favourites!
A traditionally American camping staple, the smore has risen in popularity over the water in the UK. It's essentially made up of three key ingredients – biscuit, chocolate and marshmallow. But, you can get inventive by adding fruit, sweets or anything else you can think of. You can find loads of different recipes for smores online, but here's our pick of the bunch:
- Take a digestive biscuit and lay it on a baking tray.
- Add a chunk of your chosen chocolate and a large marshmallow.
- Grill under high heat for 4 minutes, or until the marshmallow has browned.
- Top it with another digestive to make a sandwich and enjoy!
There's nothing more relaxing and satisfying than chilling out under the stars with a nice, warm hot chocolate! It will keep you warm, and the kids will love them. You can get a lot of different instant mixes, but you can take this opportunity to spice them up a little and make them memorable.
Try adding whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles, marshmallows, cinnamon, fruit or anything else you think would go well. You could even let the kids decide what type of hot chocolate they'd like or let them make their own!
It's a BBQ and camping classic, they're easy to make, and they can be customised as much as you like. They're also really cheap to buy! A popular choice with hot dogs is a topping station in the kitchen.
The kids can come inside, grab a few dogs, and head over to the topping and sauces. You can use onions, bacon, cheese, sauerkraut, coleslaw and anything else you think they may enjoy. Then they can head back out to the tent to enjoy their wonderful creations!
This is one for the kids and the parents! You can make a bulk amount of cocktail mix with anything you usually like.
You could mix orange juice, pineapple juice, cranberry juice and some grenadine to make a colourful and delicious drink for the kids, while you could add a little tot of vodka or rum to yours to congratulate yourself on a successful garden camping setup!
Popcorn on the Campfire
If you managed to source a firepit, why not put it to extra use and rustle up some campfire popcorn? Take a large frying pan with a lid, empty into it some popcorn kernels and something to make it tasty, like sugar or chocolate powder, then settle it over the heat while everyone watches their snack burst into life!
This is an option that's often overlooked by garden campers all over the world! You're already enjoying the outdoors, so why not do your cooking there too?
Light the BBQ, grab some burgers, chicken, sausages and steaks and throw them over the flames. You can cook up some sides in the kitchen like fries, corn and salads, and all enjoy your food in the great outdoors.
Garden Camping Games
So, you've set up camp for the night and compiled an award-winning menu (voted for by the campers), now all that's left is to organise some activities to keep everyone entertained until its time to sleep. Here are some proven winners:
We mentioned before about how much fun it can be to explore your own garden because you've probably never done it before. There's no better way to do this than with a scavenger hunt, which can be just as much fun for the adults organising it than it is the kids completing it!
You can ask to write the names of leaves, plants, flowers or hidden items on paper bags and let the kids loose to explore and find them to win a prize! All kids love being let loose on their own to discover hidden treasure, so this is a sure-fire hit and will also give you plenty of time to cook the food while they hunt!
Lawn games are the best way to take advantage of camping in your garden, and they can be literally whatever you want them to be. The best types of lawn games usually involve throwing something at a target.
You could get some bean bags and a small pot, while the kids take it in turns to try and throw a beanbag into the pot. You can play badminton, frisbee, giant Jenga or lawn boules. It will keep everyone engaged and interactive throughout and everyone loves a little bit of family-friendly competition!
Grab your favourite board games from the loft, gather round and play them as a family! Scrabble, trivial pursuit and snakes and ladders are all great choices, and you could even play in teams.
If your planning on playing these games close to sunset, make sure you have ample lighting available or the game could get very tough very quickly. It may be worth investing in a couple of electric lanterns which you can get for no more than £10, or use head torches if you have any available.
Of course, one of the biggest selling points of the garden camping trip is to spend some time away from the screens. However, a real campfire hit is an outdoor movie. Now, you will need a few things to make this a success.
The first is ample seating for the campers, with beanbags being ideal, but camping chairs working just as well. Secondly, you'll need a large, white bed sheet to act as your 'screen'; you need to hang it, so there are as few creases as possible.
Lastly, you'll need a projector. A projector a few years ago would have cost hundreds or thousands. However, the standard of them has greatly improved in recent years, meaning you can pick one up for less than £100. You'll also need to plug some form of media device into it to play your movie.
Once it's all set up, you can break out the campfire popcorn and smores, and watch a classic movie in the garden. You could even choose a camping themed movie like The Parent Trap or Camp Rocks.
The Word Association Game
Some of the best games don't require any equipment whatsoever, just like the word association game. This is very easy to play and is no harder for children to win than adults. All you need to do is select a category such as animals, countries, food etc.
Then take it in turns picking a letter, then everyone takes in turns to pick an answer within the category until you can't think of any, then you're out. You can play this many times and not get bored of it, and kids really love it.
We all long for a long vacation, whether it be thousands of miles away in warm climates, or a few hours away on a UK break. But these trips often involve a great deal of time, stress and money, something which a lot of families don't have the luxury of.
Instead of spreading yourself too thin on payday, or taking time off that you can't afford to, take yourself and your family into the garden for some quality time together. After all, whether you're in Bali or Bradford, it's not the location that makes time special, it's the people you spend it with.
Give yourself and the kids a break from normal life, pitch a tent in the garden, eat some nice food, play some fun games and take the time to just relax!
Q: Is there a way to keep mosquitos away from me while camping?
A: Yes! Mosquitos can be a real annoyance when camping, but the best way to keep them away from you is by using certain creams, sprays and smalls. You can buy mosquito repellent spray which smells very citrusy, so pleasant to humans but not to mosquitos.
You can also wrap herbs together like sage, lavender, cinnamon, citrus peels and thyme in a little package and leave them around the camp area.
Q: Where could my dog sleep while garden camping?
A: Dogs love to camp out just as much as humans and are usually very comfortable anywhere. However, if you want to make sure they are fully comfortable on their trip, use a dog bed or a yoga mat for them to sleep inside the tent on.
Q: Are fire pits safe?
A: You want to make sure that your camping activities for kids are safe as well as fun. So using a purpose-built fire pit will be the safest option.
As long as the fire pit is on sturdy, solid ground and your children know not to play around the fire, you should be fine. Just remember to keep a fire extinguisher close in case the fire needs to be extinguished quickly.
Q: How can I stop my kids asking to go back inside when we're garden camping?
A: Spending all their time in a tent can be a little repetitive for a child, especially if they are used to spending a lot of time in the house.
Just make sure they understand that once they are outside in camp and the door is shut, that's their home for however long you plan to camp for.
Just make sure there's lots to keep them occupied, even if it's in the form of books and comics during the times when your not eating or playing games!
Q: What's the best way to remember our camping fun without phones and tablets?
A: It's essential to stay in the moment on trips and breaks like these, and all the pictures in the world won't be able to match the laughs and fun you have. But, a fun activity for the kids and adults to both take part in is with a disposable camera.
You can buy a pack of five for less than £10, and you can hand them out to everyone to snap away at their leisure while you’re camping. Then when you get them developed in the weeks after you garden adventure, you can all look back at the fun you had and start planning you next camping ideas!