“Can we camp in the backyard tonight? Pleeeease?”
It’s a question parents know all too well. And, unfortunately, it usually comes just before sunset. After all, children aren’t exactly known for their planning skills. But when thinking about letting your kids camp in the backyard, there are many things to consider. Most of these considerations fall under the umbrella question of ‘is backyard camping safe?’
Backyard camping is generally a safe, fun outdoor activity that lots of families enjoy. However, if you live in a high crime area then it may not be safe to camp in your backyard. Of course, other factors such as dangerous insect and animal populations will also factor into whether or not you should camp in your backyard.
In this article, we’ll go over how to determine whether backyard camping is safe for your particular situation. We’ll also discuss how to make it as safe and as fun as possible. When done right, backyard camping is a wonderful idea and can be fun for the whole family.
Even if your kids haven’t brought up the idea, backyard camping is a great first step in getting your kids excited about the outdoors. Taking a young child out into the wilderness can be a little overwhelming, so a good place to start is in your own backyard. It’s also an excellent way to get your kids away from screens for a while.
As a bonus, you can teach them about responsible camping. So, let’s dive in and look into what you can do to make backyard camping fun, enjoyable, and most of all, safe, for you and your family!
What Does the Weather Look Like?
The first thing you’ll want to do when considering backyard camping is look at the weather forecast. While the weather may look peaceful at the moment, you never know what’s coming over the horizon. A sudden storm can turn a pleasant backyard camping experience into a nightmare.
Of course, if you plan ahead, a little rain could be nice if you’re cozy and dry in a tent. But, if it is going to rain, make sure your kids know it. It may be difficult for them to stay stuck in a tent when they wanted to goof around in the yard all night.
Plus, if there’s lightning in the forecast, you may want to skip the camping. According to weather.gov, lightning strikes kill an average of 49 Americans each year. So, while lighting strikes are rare, they do happen. Better to take shelter if at all possible.
Another thing to consider is the possibility of falling objects such as tree branches. A strong wind can knock dead branches loose and send them onto your camp. A quick check and a strategically placed camp can help you avoid any weather-related mishaps.
Is Your Neighborhood Safe?
You should also ask yourself if your neighborhood is safe. Chances are you have a pretty good idea of how safe it is, but you can always check crime statistics at cityprotect.com and sex offender registries at familywatchdog.us.
Unless you have a lot of acres or a high fence around your backyard, camping may not be the best idea. Of course, this all depends on your neighborhood and whether people can see easily into your backyard. If you have an open backyard but know and trust all your neighbors, it may be okay. This is, of course, a judgement call that you’ll have to make.
Do You Have a Dog?
If you have a dog that barks at intruders, you may want to have him or her sleep outside with the kids for the night. Dogs are not only great protectors, but they can also provide entertainment and comfort to your kids.
Is Your Backyard Safe?
If you’re comfortable with your neighborhood’s safety, the next question is whether your backyard is safe. Aside from the possibility of falling branches, you’ll want to consider other things.
It’s easy to forget about insects until they’re buzzing around or stinging you. If you live in an area with high concentrations of ticks, mosquitoes, spiders, scorpions, or bees, be sure to take them into account.
According to the World Health Organization, mosquitoes carry many diseases and are responsible for over a million deaths a year. Most mosquito-related deaths are rare in North America, but it’s still something to consider.
Ticks, for their part, carry Lyme disease, and their populations seem to be exploding on the east coast. So, make sure to check for ticks after backyard camping.
Poisonous spiders are relatively rare unless you live in an area where brown recluse spiders are common. These spiders can be deadly to young children. Look out for black widows, as well. They live in many areas across North America. Scorpions can also be very dangerous, although they live mostly in desert regions. Bees and wasps are also a worry, mainly if your child is allergic.
Will You Spend The Night With Them?
The next thing to consider is whether you will sleep outside with your child or children. Sometimes older kids want to camp in the yard to get a little time for themselves away from the parents. If that’s the case, you may be happy to have the house for the adults. If you’re not planning on spending the night in the yard, you’ll have to decide your level of involvement.
If your kids are older and you’re confident that they can responsibly set up the campsite and behave themselves, then a limited amount of supervision is probably okay. But this also depends on other factors listed below.
Even if your kids are older, it’s a good idea to check on them once in a while throughout the night. If your spouse is present, you can both discuss how much supervision is adequate.
Whether or not you’re staying with them through the night, it’s still good to set up some ground rules.
What Are the Ground Rules?
Set some ground rules and expect them to be broken. Unless you’re going to stay with them all night, you can be sure that your kids will get into a little mischief. It will probably be harmless mischief but expect it to happen nonetheless.
After all, camping in the backyard is fun and exciting. The last thing they’ll want to do is sleep. So they may be running around the yard in the middle of the night, or simply staying up late telling ghost stories. But, make sure you set some rules that absolutely must not be broken.
For instance, leaving the yard is a definite no-no. If you want to take the opportunity to relieve your kids of screen time, make that one of the rules. Of course, you may leave a phone with them just in case of emergencies. If so, the screen time rule may be broken. What kind of rules you set depend on your kids, and how much supervision you’re going to employ.
Do You Have All The Supplies You Need?
It can be a real bummer to get excited about backyard camping only to realize that you don’t have all the supplies you need. While backyard camping isn’t as involved as camping in the wild, you will need some essentials to make it happen.
Unless your kids are feeling particularly adventurous, you’ll definitely want a tent. We’ve included a couple of our favorites from which to choose.
If you have a big family or just want a big tent to act as a second home while you’re camping, check out the Core 9-Person Instant Cabin Tent. It’s durable, easy to set up, and great for all seasons.
For a smaller, cozier camping experience, the Coleman Sundome Tent is fantastic. You can set it up in about 10 minutes, and it’s designed for wet climates, but great for warm or cold weather.
Next, it’s not camping without sleeping bags. For those of you in cold climates, the Teton Sports Celsius Sleeping Bag is a great choice.
For warmer climates or warm weather camping, check out the Oaskys Camping Sleeping Bag.
The HiHiker Mummy Bag and Travel Pillow is an excellent choice for all-weather camping.
Or, if you want sleeping bags just for your kids, try the glow in the dark Coleman Kids 50.
Lanterns and Flashlights
When I was a kid, the best lanterns out there used butane or propane. Whenever we went camping, we had to haul a few heavy fuel containers along with the bulky lantern. Plus, the use of it was limited because we didn’t want to run out of fuel. Of course, backyard camping is a little bit different.
They still sell butane and propane lanterns, but you can get a rechargeable lantern that works just as well and weighs much less. Plus, electric lanterns are much easier and safer to use. So, if you need a good camping lantern or two, we’ve got some suggestions.
First up, Ezorkas 2-pack camping lanterns. They’re rechargeable via USB and also include the option of using AA batteries. They’re also water-resistant and include four lighting modes.
Next up is the Wsky Rechargeable Camping Lantern. It has six lighting modes, doubles as a flashlight, includes an S-hook for hanging, and is water-resistant.
Other Camping Supplies
Those are the basic supplies you’ll need for backyard camping. Depending on how rustic you and your kids want to go, here are a few more items you may or may not want to have on hand!
- Marshmallow Roasting Sticks
- Camping Cookware
- Portable Camping Chairs
- First Aid Kit (Always a good idea to have a first aid kit handy!)
Will You Have A Campfire?
One of the attractions of camping is sitting around a crackling campfire. But, whether you decide to have a campfire in your backyard depends on several factors.
First, you’ll want to check if it’s legal and safe to have a fire in your area. If you live in a dry climate, you may have a burn-ban in effect. Even if it is legal to start a fire in your backyard, you’ll want to make sure that you clean any dead leaves, dry grass, branches, or other items that can catch fire.
If you do decide to have a campfire, it’s always a good idea for an adult to supervise while the fire is blazing. It’s all too easy for a child to get burned by a campfire. It could be a great opportunity to teach your child or children how to safely and adequately start a campfire and how to put it out when they’re done.
Setting Up Your Camp
Speaking of teaching, setting up your backyard campsite is a great way to teach your young ones how to choose an adequate area, erect a tent, organize supplies, and be aware of their surroundings. If you decide to let your kid set up the campsite, you can bond and teach at the same time. And what’s better than that?
Backyard camping is an excellent way to ease your child or children into the idea of camping in the wilderness. It can be a chance to get them away from screens and unplug for a night or two. But, make sure it’s safe first by considering your neighborhood, bugs, animals, weather, and supervision requirements.
Plan ahead by realizing that your children will probably stay up late goofing around and playing. Gather supplies and make it a family experience for younger kids or a chance to develop some trust and independence for older kids. Check for fire safety laws and make sure that you and your kids have a great time!
While it’s impossible to eliminate all danger, backyard camping is generally as safe as you make it. It can be the first step in introducing your kids to the great outdoors and all the wonder that comes with it!