Trail Life USA, a Boy Scouts counterpart that focuses on Christian values, is holding a nationwide backyard campout event for families across the country.

There is nothing better than the smell of a campfire. Even all these years later, the smell of a campfire always brings me back to the time when I was a kid and we would take our motorhome and go camping throughout the Western States. We went to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, California, Montana, Colorado and numerous other places, and saw bears, bison, deer, moose, elk and other wildlife. There was a time or two where we got a little too close, but everything ended up okay (a crazy story for another time).

Though the weather is finally getting better, the coronavirus is forcing the closure of many national parks, which I’m sure most of the animals appreciate but a disappointment to those who love camping. So, Trail Life USA wants to encourage families to take a night and explore the great outdoors, even if that’s your own backyard.

So tonight, April 17, consider taking some time and spend an evening “camping” with 4,500 other families.

“At time when outward bound has become homeward bound, Trail Life is inviting families to join the 30,000 Trailmen across the nation for a one-night event in the great outdoors,” Trail Life said in a statement on its website. “Set up a tent, cook over a fire, create a backyard family adventure, and share your experiences virtually through a safe, filtered, community portal. Discover games and activities to connect as a family, as a community, and as a nation. Pitch a tent, hang a hammock, or build a furniture fort and make a memory.”

(Find out how you can join here.)

Trail Life provides some great ideas for games, learning outdoor skills and other activities, like stargazing (there are apps that you can use to help you identify various stars and planets too).

But if those don’t entirely work, here are some other ideas. You don’t need a fancy game to have fun, any board game will do or an old style one like telephone. One of our favorite camping games was something we learned through the grapevine called Give Me Five, and there are tons of other fun options that can keep kids entertained and engaged. Take this time to discover your own favorite family game. Camping is also a great time to do some crafts and activities where you can use your hands. There may also be a chance to find some interesting creatures around your home. Get together and work to identify what “wildlife” you see, no matter how small or well-known like a pet dog or cat. You could even pretend they’re a mountain lion or a wolf and talk about those animals and what they’re like in the wild (a quick Wikipedia search would suffice).

Of course, there is always the food too. Now, are you a slow cook marshmallow roaster or do you like to catch yours on fire? I always tried to slow cook the marshmallow, but I usually didn’t have the patience to stick with it to the end. A great trick to try with smores is to add peanut butter to the graham crackers. Trust me, it’ll elevate this traditional camping snack.

For those that either don’t have the tent camping supplies, maybe the weather is bad or the idea of sleeping outside gives you hives, creating a tent within your home with sheets and furniture should be fairly easy and a great way to still enjoy the event. (And, if it makes you feel any better, our family went tent camping only one time. After that, it was trailers and motorhomes.)

So, don’t worry if the kids (or you) can’t make it through the night or can’t get the supplies in time. Camping is about having a television free night of fun, exploring and enjoying time with your family. The memories your kids make will last a lifetime.


Photo by Jonathan Forage