Camping is great in theory, but in reality, when you factor in packing several day’s worth of supplies and snacks, dealing with kids repeatedly asking if you’re there yet during the car ride, unpredictable elements, and a possible absence of electricity or plumbing, it can all sound exhausting before you’ve even stepped out the door. But camping in your backyard (or even in your living room if you don’t have a backyard) can be a fun way to experience all the greatness of the outdoors without the hassle (and you still get the private, clean bathroom).
You don’t need a pop up camper or even a camper van. Creating a camping experience at home takes just a little imagination, and a willingness to find adventure in unexpected places. It’s the little things you do outside— whether that’s cooking over a fire, sleeping in a tent, stargazing, or getting a sugar high eating too many s’mores. Perhaps the best part of backyard camping though, is if you or your kids quickly get over it, or you need any backup supplies, home is just a few steps away. Here are nine products to turn your next staycation into your very own family camping trip.
You can’t properly camp without a tent. This Coleman Sundome Tent is weatherproof, is rain and wind tested, and has large windows and vents. Since there are models for anywhere from 2-6 people, the tent is roomy enough for the whole family to fit inside without everyone feeling squished on top of each other. There are storage pockets sewn into the walls to hold small valuables, and an e-port, if you need to bring an electrical power cord inside. But best of all, it’s easy to set up, with most reviewers saying it takes about 10-15 minutes to put up, because no one wants to spend half the day wrestling with a tent.
One reviewer said, “We loved this tent. It fits two queen mattresses perfectly. We are a family of four, including two children and it was perfect. It’s cozy and helps us stay warm (as opposed to huge tents). It was roomy enough to allow four small suitcases as well. Perfect purchase. Definitely recommend.”
If you thought snoozing in a sleeping bag couldn’t be comfy, think again. The Sleepingo double sleeping bag can be used as two separate sleeping bags or as one giant queen-sized one measuring 87” x 59”, big enough for two adults. The exterior is waterproof and the interior has a rip-resistant polyester lining. It’s lightweight but warm, and two travel pillows are included. Sleepingo also makes an inflatable sleeping pad mat if you like to sleep with additional cushioning beneath you.
One reviewer said, “The Sleepingo sleeping bag is really cool. It’s wide and long enough to fit two adults! There’s actually a zipper on each side so you can get out on either side and a Velcro bar on the top of each zipper to keep you zipped in. It’s a really good quality fabric. Even the bag is high quality and allows you to actually get the sleeping bag back in there with pulley fasteners on the side of the sleeping bag’s bag. The sleeping bag even came with two pillows. I was really impressed to find a high- quality sleeping bag like this and it makes me feel more comfortable knowing that I can starfish and spread out in a big sleeping bag instead of feeling claustrophobic in a regular one. Try this out! It’s cool and honestly really good quality.”
These mugs will make you feel like you’re truly camping, even if you haven’t strayed far from the comforts of your home. The 12 ounce cup is made with 18/8 stainless steel, is BPA-free, and is double wall vacuum insulated to keep drinks hot for up to six hours and cold for up to 12 hours. There’s a press-on lid to help beverages stay warm (and keep them from spilling), and the mug is top-rack dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. Every MiiR product sold also helps fund giving projects that support clean water, a healthy environment, and strong communities.
One reviewer and camper said, “This is an excellent insulated camping mug. Even in cold temps is keeps morning tea and coffee hot for quite a while and also keeps cold drinks cold. Durability is great, I have taken this on three camping trips and subjected this mug to a few drops. There are currently no dents and only minor scratches that are only visible upon close inspection. The scratches all came from knocking this off a stump and onto some rocks so not at all the fault of the mug. I will be adding more of these to my camping gear.”
One of the best parts of camping is enjoying warm, gooey s’mores, and that holds true regardless if you’re roasting marshmallows over a fire pit or melting them in the microwave. This caddy will help store all your chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows neatly organized in one place and safe from bugs and dirt. Make sure you also pick up the actual ingredients, like this Hershey’s S’mores Kit, which has everything you need to make s’more s’mores (18 in total).
Says one reviewer, “This caddy was such a hit at our last camping trip! We went to Fort Wilderness at Disney and brought it to the Chip and Dale sing along and camp fire. I have never received so many compliments about a purchase. It was very useful to have everything organized and in one place. Less to carry and easier for the kids to use. Would definitely recommend this (as I did numerous times already) to anyone!! We call it our smores tackle box!”
Make s’mores time s’more fun with these Stuffed Puffs, which have milk chocolate inside the marshmallows themselves. You’ll get the delicious gooey marshmallow/chocolate combo without dealing with melted chocolate dripping all over the place (sorry, sticky fingers will probably still be inevitable). They’re great for campfire s’mores, melting in the microwave, or just snacking straight out of the bag. For chocolate lovers, this variety two-pack also includes a bag of cocoa marshmallows filled with, you guessed it, s’more chocolate.
Says one reviewer, “A friend had come across these once when they had gone camping for making smores. I thought that they would be great for our “camping” that we have done during our lockdowns. They make the smores making experience so much easier. I love how the chocolate gets all warm too. I have been brave and even tried some of their recipes for other uses for the marshmallows like making hot chocolate for the chocolate/chocolate ones. Super yummy, just make sure to cut them in half and that your milk is very warm before adding them.”
When night falls, you’ll need a little extra light. Flashlights are great, but headlamps can add some extra adventure, and they free up your hands to hold books, toys, or snacks. The BioLite headlamp comes in four different colors, is compact and lightweight, and has an adjustable, moisture-wicking band. The angle of the light can be changed depending on where you want to see, and there are multiple settings such as spot or flood light. You also don’t need to stock up on extra batteries, as the headlamp is USB rechargeable with 40 hours of battery life on low or 3.5 hours on high.
Says one reviewer, “I’ve gone through tons of headlamps over the past 3 decades and this is by far the most comfortable one I’ve ever worn. It stays put too. No bouncing around when your running etc… It’s also very bright when needed and it has a nice floodlight too. Generally, I’m not a fan of the battery pack being on the back or rechargeables but, this one is small and not an issue.”
Keep all your camping snacks and beverages cool, fresh, and within arm’s reach with a reliable cooler. The Igloo cooler is insulated and has secure rubber latches to seal in the cold. It has durable construction and a stainless steel-reinforced handle. The cooler has a 25-quart capacity, so after filling it with water and juice packs for the kids, you’ll still have room to squeeze in some beers or wine to enjoy once the little ones finally fall asleep.
One reviewer with a good ice hack said, “I freeze about 8 16oz. bottles of water and use these instead of ice. And then add other refrigerated drinks and any other food I want to keep cold. The best part is after 3+ days I have ice cold drinking water left over from the frozen bottles without the watery mess and taking up food space. This cooler is great, I use it all the time on multi-day road trips. Keeps cold for at least 3 to 4 full days in 72 to 80 degree outside temp. Great value compared to those others selling for hundreds of dollars.”
Let your kids find their own adventure in the great outdoors with this explorer kit, which is both fun and educational. The 9-in-1 set includes kid-friendly rubber binoculars, a crank flashlight, a handheld fan, a magnifying glass, a multi-tool with a compass and whistle, and a convenient carrying case to hold everything. Create a scavenger hunt to help your kids explore nature right in your backyard, and as an added bonus, you’ll make sure they stay busy and out of your hair for at least a few minutes.
One parent and reviewer said, “This is such a great kit. My (3) year old loves it. A gift for his birthday. He’s a big outdoors guy. Now I have to buy another one for his sister (6). All the parts work and even with some dropping and dragging along the trail, nothing has broken! I would buy these for all my little adventure buddies!”
A portable speaker can help set the mood of your camping experience, such as playing family favorite tunes in the day or soothing music at night to help the kids wind down. The Bose Soundlink speaker has Bluetooth connectivity so you can play any music, podcasts, or more directly from your phone, and it has a rechargeable battery and eight hours of playtime. It has a durable silicone exterior and is also water-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about splashes or accidental spills damaging it.
One reviewer said, “After going into a Bose store while on vacation, I came across this portable bluetooth speaker. It has amazing sound quality for its size and is very durable. I bring this to the pool, on my patio, in the driveway, literally anywhere I go. It’s made of a rubberized material and very compact and travel-sized. This is a water resistant speaker, NOT water proof so make sure you don’t submerge it under water or in anything else. The sound quality is loud, crisp, and clear. Connects very easily to not only my bluetooth phone but also my laptop. The battery lasts around 6-8 hours and charges pretty quickly.”
Spending all day outside requires proper sun protection, and this sunscreen spray will be able to keep up with all the activities your kids get into. Babyganics sunscreen is gentle enough for kids, and it’s non-allergenic, reef safe, and parabens- and fragrance-free. But it also has broad spectrum SPF 50, is water- and sweat-resistant for 80 minutes, and made with plant-derived ingredients, and you won’t mind using it on yourself as well. It sprays on white to help you not miss any spots, especially when trying to apply on wriggling kids. This pack also includes gentle, DEET-free bug spray that’s made with natural essential oils such as citronella, peppermint, and lemongrass.
Says one reviewer, “Love all things Babyganics, the sunblock & insect repellant combo is perfect. Worked great at the fair, while by the pool, at the park, everywhere we’ve been. My daughter is fair-skinned & burned after several hours at a festival with use of a previous brand (even while applying every hour, hour and a half). After that I ordered this. She hasn’t had any issues with Babyganics. Both the sunblock & repellent have been effective.”
For more great ideas to keep your little ones entertained, check out our picks for summertime kid gear.