Camping games are a great way to boost morale and enjoy some quality time together when you’re in the great outdoors. Whether you’re in a group of kids or adults, games can help bring people together, especially if you have a lot of free time in camp in the afternoon.
There are hundreds of great games out there, so choosing just a few to play on your next camping trip might seem like a bit of a challenge. To help you out with your brainstorming efforts, here are 21 of our favorite ways to stay entertained on your next camping trip.
21 camping games and activities to keep your group entertained in the wild:
Cornhole is a classic lawn game that’s perfect for some campground fun. To play, you’ll need 8 beanbags and two boards with holes cut into them. Then, split your group into two teams. The teams will stand 27 feet (8.2m) apart and each will have one board each that’s facing the opposite team.
One team will toss its four bean bags, attempting to get the bean bags into the hole on the other group’s board. Then, the other team will take their turn. Every successful toss earns a team 1 point and the first team to 21 points wins.
The best part? If you don’t have cornhole boards or beanbags, you can still play. You can either buy a lightweight set or draw circles on the ground and toss pinecones, instead.
A time-honored fan-favorite, horseshoes is a great game for front-country camping trips. To play, you’ll want to get a pre-made set, unless you happen to have actual horseshoes lying around. You can also look for a lightweight set if you don’t want to lug around a full-sized game.
Once you have the right equipment, you need to divide your group into two teams. Then, place your two stakes 40 feet (12.1m) apart. Each team will alternate throwing their horseshoes, attempting to get their horseshoes within 1 horseshoe-length of the stake or right on top of it.
Each “ringer” (horseshoe that lands on the stake) nets you 2 points while near-misses earn you 1 point. The first team to 20 points wins the game.
3. Two Truths and a Lie
For a simple, yet fun game you can play around the campfire, try “Two Truths and a Lie.” The game is quite simple: Each person needs to come up with three facts about themselves, two of which are true, and one of which is a lie.
You then go around in a circle and give each person a chance to say their three statements. The rest of the group then has to guess which of the three statements is a lie. This is a great ice breaker game for a group that’s just getting to know each other, especially during the first few days of a backpacking trip.
Bananagrams is a very popular Scrabble-like game that requires minimal equipment. All you need is to get yourself a Bananagrams set and remember to pack it on your next backpacking trip. Then, the next time you’re waiting out a storm in your tent, you can set up the game on your sleeping pad or tent floor.
The goal of the game is to create your own miniature Scrabble board using tiles you pick out of the communal pile. If you’re stuck, you take another tile from the pile as you try to arrange your board. Once the communal pile is empty, the first person to run out of tiles wins.
5. Bocce Ball
Bocce ball is basically a mobile bowling game without lanes. To play, you form two groups and then flip a coin to see who gets to throw the “jack.” Once the jack (a.k.a. white target ball) is in place, each team alternates throwing their bocce balls, with the goal of landing the balls as close to the jack as you can.
The teams earn points based on how close your bocce balls are to the jack and the first team with 12 points wins.
Bocce ball sets are known to be quite heavy. But, there are some lightweight options available that are small enough to pack for both car camping and backpacking trips.
6. Nature Bingo
Before you leave for your trip, create a small “Bingo” card with a 5×5 grid that’s filled with the names of different flora, fauna, and geologic features that you may see in the backcountry. At the start of the trip, you can give everyone in your group a card. During the course of your time outside, everyone in the group will try to spot as many of the Bingo objects as they can, whether it’s a specific bird, flower, or a tree.
As soon as someone completes their bingo card, they win. You can choose to declare multiple winners for people who complete 5 in a row or the entire card. This is a great game to play if you’re going out on a longer trip with kids as it gets them excited and interested in learning more about the natural world around them.
You can even make the prize a treat, like an ice cream cone, that the winner can claim when you’re back from your trip.
7. Light Tag
For a fun, no-contact twist on tag, you can try “light tag,” instead. Before it gets dark, find a wide, open space with no rocks or other obstacles to trip over. Then, designate one person to be the “tagger.” But, instead of physically “tagging” each other, the tagger just needs to “hit” people with the light from their flashlight or headlamp.
8. Water Relay
Water relay is a fun game to play on a hot summer’s day in a campground. To play, you’ll need to split everyone into two groups lined up single file, with people standing 1-2 feet (0.3-0.6m) apart. Each person will have a cup in hand, but only the first person in the line will have water in their cup.
Once the game starts, the first person will dump the water from their cup up and over their head while the person behind them attempts to catch the water in their cup. The process repeats until whatever water is left finally makes it to the person at the end of the line.
You can continue playing by having the kids run to a water fountain to fill up their cups whenever they run out. Then, the last person in line runs to the front to start over, so you can keep playing until everyone’s tired.
9. Backpacking Olympics
Backpacking Olympics is a great game to play with groups that are trying to develop outdoor living skills. To play, you just need to set up 2-3 teams and 3-7 different “events” for people to participate in. Good events include:
- Backpack packing contest
- Water filter pumping contest
- Tent pitching contest
- “Masterchef” cooking challenge
You can assign points based on place (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) in each event and then declare the overall winner once all the events are complete. This is a great way to help people build confidence in their outdoor skills while also having a bit of fun along the way.
10. Glow Stick Ring Toss
Glow stick ring toss is basically an ultralight way of playing horseshoes that’s quite fun to play in the dark around a campfire. You’ll need at least 4 necklace-shaped glow sticks that will act as the “horseshoes” and 2 standard glowsticks that will be your stakes. Then, create groups and play just like you would with a regular horseshoe set.
Hopscotch is a great childhood game that can easily be modified for younger children on a camping trip. Simply scratch out a hopscotch course in the dirt using a stick. Then, have one player toss a rock into one of the squares.
The next player will then hop through the hopscotch course, taking care to skip over the square with the rock in it. You then keep alternating between players until everyone is tired and needs a break!
12. Wink Murder
Wink murder is a fun game to play on longer trips. To play, get a deck of cards and pick out just enough cards so that you have one for each person in your group. Be sure to place one joker in the pile or ensure that there’s just one ace in the pile if you have no jokers available.
At the campfire one night, give everyone a card. Tell them to look at their card without showing anyone else. The person that has either the joker or the lone ace in the pile is the “wink murderer.”
Throughout the rest of the trip, the wink murder needs to try to stealthily make eye contact and wink at other people in the group without anyone else noticing. Anyone that gets winked at needs to wait 5 minutes before making a dramatic scene of their “death.”
Each night at the campfire, anyone that’s still “alive” can make accusations to try and reveal the identity of the wink murderer. If the wink murderer “kills” everyone before their identity is revealed, they win the game.
13. Simon Says
Simon says is a great game to play with younger kids. Line everyone up and designate one person to be “Simon.” The rest of the group must do what Simon says, but only if they begin their commands with “Simon says.” For example, Simon could say, “Simon says rub your belly,” and everyone would have to follow along.
Anyone that doesn’t follow the command is out of the game. However, anyone that follows a command without hearing “Simon says” is also out. The last person standing wins the game.
14. Rock Paper Scissors Tournament
A great game for a free afternoon in camp that requires no equipment, a Rock Paper Scissors Tournament is always good fun. Everyone will start by finding another person in the group to play Rock Paper Scissors with. The loser of the match up then becomes a “cheerleader” for the winner as they find others to play against.
Every time someone wins, they gain their opponent and all of their opponent’s cheerleaders as part of their squad. The cheerleaders follow their leader in a single-file line and try to cheer them on as they attempt to beat everyone else in the tournament. The last person standing is the winner of the game.
This is a fun game if you have a group that’s particularly imaginative. Start by sending two “players” off to hang out as the rest of the group comes up with a story that the two players need to guess by asking yes/no questions. The trick is that there is actually no story – the two players will unknowingly be making it up as they go.
The rules are simple. If either player asks a question that ends with a consonant, the group needs to answer “yes.” If the question ends in a vowel, the answer is “no.” If the question ends in a “y,” the answer is “maybe.”
The game tends to go on for quite a while, but it all depends on the imagination of the two players. Eventually, they’ll start to catch on to the game and it ends up being a good laugh for everyone involved.
Fun and highly portable, a pack of Uno cards can supply endless fun for a group, especially a group of kids. Just pack a regular-sized Uno card game or try an extra-small version for lots of fun on your next camping trip.
Create an outdoor-themed Jeopardy game on some pieces of paper for the entire group to enjoy. It’s best to prepare the questions and Jeopardy board ahead of time, but with some spare paper, it’s possible to make the game while you’re outside.
Then, set aside an evening for some Jeopardy fun. If you’re in a large group, you can consider placing people into teams to keep things entertaining. The team with the most “money” from their correct answers at the end of the game wins.
18. Twenty Questions
20 Questions requires no equipment and is a great game to play on the trail. Simply have one person think of a person, place, or thing. The rest of the team can then ask up to 20 yes or no questions as they try to figure out the identity of the person, place, or thing.
Tic Tac Toe requires minimal set-up, so its a nice way to pass the time on a backpacking trip. If you have a notebook on hand, you can draw a 3×3 grid on some paper and start playing. Alternatively, you can draw a 3×3 grid in the dirt using a stick. Each player can then gather 6 rocks or 6 pinecones to use as tic tac toe pieces for endless fun.
20. Card Games
A good ol’ fashioned deck of cards is often enough entertainment for a group, especially a group of adults. With hundreds of different games to play, a deck of cards is a must-have for any camping trip. A waterproof deck of cards is particularly useful if you’re camping in a wet environment.
21. My Personal Favorite – Fishbowl
Okay, now for my personal favorite: fishbowl. To play, you need to split your group into two teams. Give every person in the group three small pieces of paper. On each of these pieces of paper, participants should write the name of a person (real or fictitious) that everyone else in the group should reasonably be able to guess. Then, all of these papers will get folded up and placed in a hat or a pot.
This game has three rounds, each of which is slightly harder than the last. In round 1, team A will elect one person to draw papers out of the bowl. The “drawer” will then describe the person whose name is written on the paper without saying that person’s name.
The rest of the group will then have to guess the name of the person that is being described. When the person is named correctly, the paper is put to the side and another name is drawn.
Team A will have 60 seconds to name as many people as possible before giving the bowl to Team B for their turn. The round continues and each team will nominate a new paper “drawer” for each turn until all of the names have been identified. Each team will tally the number of names they identified and keep track of this score.
For round 2, the process is the same. But, this time, the “drawer” can only use one word to describe the person on the paper. In round 3, no words are allowed. Rather, the “drawer” needs to act out the person in question. Since you’re using the same names in each round, it becomes easier to identify people as the game progresses. At the end, the team that identified the largest total number of names after all three rounds is the winner.
Fishbowl is one of my all-time favorite games. I’ve played it on backpacking trips deep in the mountains with outdoor education students and on personal hut-to-hut ski trips as a fun activity. Fishbowl is even a great party game, so you can play it anywhere in the world, with children and adults, alike!
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David is an accomplished mountain endurance athlete who has completed over 25 ultra marathon races (follow on Strava). He is most proud of his finish at The Drift 100 – a high elevation, 100 mile winter foot race that zigzags along the Continental Divide in Wyoming. In the future he hopes to compete in the ITI 350 and ultimately the full 1,000 mile Iditarod Trail Invitational that follows the same path as the historic dog sled race.