Just because the sun goes down, doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. There are plenty of things to do while camping at night on just about any trip, whether it's a family vacation or a backpacking adventure with friends.
There are campfire classics such as storytelling, music, and campfire games. And there are more active ways to pass the time, such as night-hiking, flashlight tag, and even night bowling. Plus, there are tent activities, such as playing cards, reading, and writing.
Check out our complete guide to night-time camping activities below.
Everyone knows that the campfire is the center of the camping experience. Not only does it bring everyone together at night, but it’s a source of entertainment in and of itself.
Staring at the fire, adding wood to the fire, and adjusting the fire are enough to keep you happy for hours. But if you want more, here are five of our favorite campfire activities.
This one’s a bit cliché but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great campfire activity. Be creative and be bold. This is your chance to flex those story-telling muscles.
Another obvious choice. Depending on the style of camping you’re doing, you may not be able to bring a guitar. But harmonicas are a great substitute, and you can make a drum out of almost anything. Choose a song that everyone knows and make it a sing-along.
You can even turn it into a game of “guess the song” in which one person sings a tune and everyone else races to guess it first.
Just make sure you’re not disturbing any of your neighbors.
Does your idea of a fun evening include stuffing your face with dessert? We don’t blame you. And in fact, a fun dessert is an easy way to liven up a campfire.
Cook up some s’mores. Try making banana boats. And if you’re feeling adventurous, roast starbursts over the fire (you’ll be surprised how delicious they are).
Duh. We had to include it, and it’s worth keeping in mind. You can learn a lot of new things about your friends in a few talkative hours around a campfire. Be deliberate about it, and bring some subjects you’d like to discuss.
Any game that doesn’t require any pieces or equipment can be a campfire game. That might sound boring, but you’ll be amazed at how many games you can play with nothing more than your words, your mind, and a few friends. We love these campfire games so much we’re going to list eight of our favorites..
In this game, someone says three statements about their past. Two of them are true and one is a lie. Everyone else around the campfire tries to guess which is the lie. This is a great way to learn about the people you’re camping with. Take turns, of course.
This is a good way to keep things active. Just make sure your campfire is bright enough for everyone to see the person acting out the charades.
Each person in the circle starts with three fingers up. Then, you go around the circle saying something you’ve never done before. If someone has done it before, they put a finger down. Keep going until someone doesn’t have any fingers left.
This is another fun way to get to know each other, but only play if you’re all comfortable with each other. Some questions can get personal.
This one does require some equipment – post-it notes and pens – but it’s a fun campfire game nonetheless.
In this game, only one person is guessing at a time. Everyone else chooses a group category: for example, childhood home. Then, in turns, each person tells the guesser what there’s is like (e.g. mine is in Virginia, mine is boring, mine is big, etc), until the guesser figures out what the category is.
One person choose a category: for example, ice cream flavors. And then everyone takes turn naming something in that category with no repeats: chocolate, vanilla, cookies and cream, etc. If someone can’t think of one, they’re out. Last person standing wins.
You probably remember this one from when you were a kid. Try it on your next camping trip. It’s good for a few laughs. Our Brisitsh readers will know it better as Chinese Whispers.
This is another campfire classic. In fact, if you’ve already played it, it was almost definitely on a camping trip. The rules are a bit too complex for us to explain in this article. So go here to learn more.
This is one of our favorites, but it takes a little while to get the hang of.
It’s, unfortunately, difficult to explain, so we won’t give you a full explanation here. You’ll find a detailed explanation here.
Once you and your friends know how to play contact, you can play it anytime you want anywhere you want.
Sitting around a campfire isn’t your thing? You prefer to be more active? Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean you can’t play outside. Here are five night-time camping activities that will get you moving.
There’s something special about hiking at night. It’s as unsettling as it is exhilarating. Your senses heighten and your mind processes your surroundings with laser-like focus. It’s a primal feeling. Beyond the magical feeling it gives you, night hiking is also a great opportunity to look for wildlife, as a lot of animals are especially active at night.
We recommend you bring a flashlight, but don’t turn it on unless you need it. Give your eyes a few minutes to adjust and you’ll be amazed how well you can see, even under thick forest canopy. Make sure you follow a well-defined trail and retrace your steps once you want to return to camp.
This is a good activity to do after your night walk, when your night vision is at its peak. Find a comfortable spot, lay on your back, look up, and start contemplating. If you’re in a thoughtful mood, staring at the stars may be all you need. If you’re feeling more exploratory, look for your favorite stars and constellations.
It doesn’t get much more luxurious than a night swim. After the sun goes down, the temperature of the air starts to drop below the temperature of the water, making that lake you set up camp next to feel like a giant hot tub (ok, maybe more like a warm tub). It’ll feel amazing, and thanks to the darkness, you don’t even need to bring a swimsuit.
For something a little more active, try this classic. It’s a great option if you have kids with you, but even if you don’t, give it a try; you’ll have more fun than you expect.
To play the game, choose one person to be “it.” Have everyone else run away and hide while the person who’s “it” counts to 30. Then, all the hiders try to make it back to the base before the “it” shines their light on them; otherwise, they’re out. Go here for some other variations.
We probably don’t need to say this, but running around at night can be dangerous. So find a spot to play with even ground and no obstacles.
If flashlight tag is too slow for you, try capture the flag. Split up into two teams, set up a dividing line, and have each team hide their flag. Then, each team tries to bring the other team’s flag back without getting tagged. We’re sure you’ve played before. And again, even if you’re “an adult,” we recommend you give it a try.
Bowling might seem like overkill for a camping trip, but it’s actually pretty easy with a little preparation. You’ll need six empty two-liter bottles, at least six glow sticks, and a ball. Stick the glowsticks in the two-liter bottles to make glowing pins and set them up anywhere there’s space. It’s not quite the same as going to the bowling alley, but it will keep you entertained nonetheless, especially if you have kids.
You can’t always rely on a campfire to keep you entertained. Sometimes they’re not allowed, sometimes it’s raining, and other times you just want to be in your tent. But just because you’re in your tent doesn’t mean the night’s over (especially if it’s a family-sized tent). Here are seven of our favorite tent activities:
Always bring cards. Even if you’re on a backpacking trip, they’re often worth their weight with how much fun they provide. We’re not going to give you a list of card games to play. But a good way to get some variety is to play “dealer chooses.” Pass the deck around in a circle, and whoever is dealing chooses the game.
Not feeling very social? Curling up with a good book is a timeless, luxurious camping activity. If you’re backpacking and don’t want to carry extra weight, you can download books to read on your phone. Normally, we wouldn’t advocate phone use on a camping trip, but reading is good enough for the soul that it earns an exception.
With so much access to movies and TV, you probably forgot this was even an option. But a group reading is a great way to spend a night in a tent. Choose a good short story, or if you’re on a multi-day trip, choose a longer book and read a little bit every night. This will give you and your friends something to discuss during the day.
There are many lightweight craft activities that are great for killing time at night. Consider knitting, sewing, whittling, or drawing. And as an added bonus, you’ll have something to take home with you when you’re done with your trip.
Dice are the slightly lighter, less versatile cousin to the playing cards. They’re nice to have if you know a lot of dice games and weight isn’t an issue. Otherwise, cards are probably a better choice.
Never bring board games backpacking, and think twice if you’re car camping. A board game is a big weight and space investment and set-up can be a pain. But if there’s a board game you and your friends love, and you know you’ll play it, then go ahead and bring it. It’ll provide a couple hours of guaranteed fun.
A day in the wilderness can really clear your mind up. So why not take advantage of that clarity and write in your journal? Don’t expect all your problems to melt away just because you’re in the woods, but don’t let the moment pass you by either.
The best things to do while camping at night will be different for everyone, but hopefully this guide has given you a few ideas. In fact, there’s really no excuse to be bored at night on your next camping trip!
With these activities in mind, night-time may just become your favorite part of camping (if it wasn’t already, heh).
Don’t let our list limit you. There are infinite ways to pass the time with a group of friends and some creativity.
And remember, fun is only part of the camping experience. Don’t be afraid to let yourself be bored and your mind wander. You’ll be busy again soon enough. =ZIP=