How to Camp in Your Backyard
Sometimes the best campsite is a few steps out the back door
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
Microadventures are to weekdays as epics are to weekends. When we can’t escape the responsibilities of the day-to-day, they’re little ways to spice up life, like an evening hike by headlamp light, a few laps on the closest singletrack, or—my favorite—camping in the backyard. Even if you’re not venturing from your own property, there are some secrets to optimizing sleeping under the stars when the mood strikes.
Treat It like a Real Camping Trip
The beauty of camping in your backyard is that you don’t need any specialized gear. Making do with what you already have (and testing to see how minimally you can get by) is part of the fun. Have you always dreamed of bringing only a lightweight bivy and a tarp on a trip? Your backyard is a great low-consequences spot to see if you’re ready to take that system into the backcountry.
While the stakes are low, consider it a real camping trip and try to limit trips inside your house. I even go as far as to pack my cooler full of food and drinks even though my kitchen with a stocked fridge is a dozen feet away. Take this opportunity to bust out your camp chairs and Jetboil.
But Don’t Be Too Hardcore
As much fun as it is to pretend you’re farther afield, don’t take it too seriously. Too often, I obsess so intensely about using only the gear I bring outside with me, and not running into the house for anything, that I lose the benefit of a microadventure: relaxation. If your sleeping bag is wet and smells aggressively of mildew, just throw it in your washing machine and grab blankets off the bed.
Practice with a Camp Stove
Use your gear instead of your oven to keep the backyard camping trip feeling authentic, but don’t go as far as to subsist off gorp and ramen. Hone your camp-chef skills and try something ambitious (like cast-iron beef stroganoff)—after all, no one will go hungry if you mess up. If it doesn’t work out, order pizza.
Turn Off Your Sprinklers
Have you ever been woken up by a direct hit from a sprinkler while sleeping under the stars? I have, twice. Unless you are specifically testing the waterproofing on your tent, double check to make sure the sprinkler system is shut off before you call it a night.
Don’t Bother with a Shit Kit
You’re only a few steps from the bathroom, you animal.