Skip the hassle of family travel and find adventure just beyond your backdoor.
Skip the hassle of family travel and find adventure just beyond your backdoor. (Photo: Sarah Jackson)
One-Mile Challenge

How to Camp in Your Backyard

Sometimes the best campsite is a few steps out the back door

Skip the hassle of family travel and find adventure just beyond your backdoor.

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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.

(Sarah Jackson)

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.

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Lead Photo: Sarah Jackson