The Smart Prepper

Life is hard, it's harder if you're stupid – John Wayne

October 19, 2015

Must try camping games

Going camping is not only a great way to get away from all the modern distractions of life, but it is also a great time to build family memories. It doesn’t matter who you go camping with – family, friends, scouts, church members – you can can build memories that will last a lifetime (especially if you photograph them) by playing camping games. My family loves to go camping. For some reason the food always tastes better when camping. Often times my family will play various types of games. Camping games are awesome because they get you outside enjoying nature and entertain you at the same time. This list of camping games is not every possible game you can play when camping, but rather several games that I play with friends and family when I go camping. These specific games are very popular and everybody involved usually loves them.

Must Try Camping Games


  1. Snipe hunting – A great activity to help haze or initiate people who are unfamiliar with camping or being outdoors is to have them go on a snipe hunt. The basic idea of snipe hunting is to convince someone to look for an animal that isn’t real and watch that person act ridiculous in the pursuit. I remember my first encounter with the elusive snipes was the first campout I had as a youth with my scout troop. All of the older scouts tried to teach me what a snipe looks like and how fun they are to catch. They tried so hard to convince me that it was legal to hunt and they were worth a fortune – pretty much say anything to make the sale. A snipe can have any description you think will help convince someone to go catch them. A snipe I guess is a metaphor in life – sometimes we chase things that we think are real but are not and we waste our time chasing fools errands. I have seen snipes be described as everything from a friendly furry cat like animal to a water fowl with a furry tail. Not only do you need to describe what a snipe looks like, but also how to track them. Teach the unsuspecting victim about to embark on a snipe hunt about the trails to follow. Make up some absurd mating sound or whistle, and tell the snipe hunter to make that sound as it attracts snipes fast. Hazing can easily go south, but this is something most outdoor enthusiasts have been persuaded to do at some point or another. We would hate to see someone miss a golden opportunity to join our club of snipe hunters.
  2. Capture the flag – We all know one variation or another of this classic game. The idea is you split your group into two teams. Each team takes a flag and puts it in a designated territory. The object is Team A is going to try to capture Team B’s flag, and visa versa. If you get tagged you need to go to jail. The jail is usually some area in enemy territory. A teammate can rescue you from jail by tagging you and running back to your teams territory. The overall premise of the game to capture the enemy’s flag and return it to your teams territory. This game can be a lot of fun if you go to dollar tree and pick up several glow sticks of two different colors. Take the glow sticks and make a bracelet or some other way of attaching it to clothing to help designate teams. Playing in the twilight or night makes sneaking around that much more sincere. Capture the flag usually requires a larger group to play.
  3. Laser tag – There are several places near my house where my family and I go to play laser tag. We usually just go rent the equipment and play a couple of games because the arenas are all set up and the equipment is very expensive. If you are interested in purchasing commercial grade equipment laser-tron is a good place to start looking. This can easily lead you into spending thousands of dollars for all the vests, guns, base stations, charging stations, and etc. A cheaper yet still slightly expensive option is to buy Hasbro’s laser tag guns. The game is a bit less complex then a commercial laser tag arena because they don’t have base stations to protect and you don’t need to wear a laser tag vest. You simply just aim at the opponents gun and fire. Playing laser tag outside, especially in the dark, is super fun and great exercise. I always work up a sweat when I play with my friends. The fun part about playing outside is the arena is huge and it’s up to you to be able to camouflage from your enemy.
  4. Flashlight tag – A very cheap alternative to purchasing laser guns is to play flashlight tag. The biggest drawback is trying to keep people honest. If you tag a person and he or she disputes your claim, it’s only your word against your opponent’s word. You can spin this off into kind of a hide and seek style so only one person has a flashlight. When the person who is ‘it’ tags someone they get one minute to run away and hide before the new seeker goes out trying to tag people. We usually have flashlights that look like lightsaber handles because it makes it more fun for kids when they are the tagger. They just pretend they are a jedi or sith trying to tag people.
  5. Story telling – Almost all campers have either heard or told ghost stories around the campfire at some time or another. One of my favorite experiences was going on a campout with all the boys and their dads in a youth group. We sat around the campfire in the backwoods near where we live. One of the dads that came had a full gorilla costume. Another adult proceeded to tell the story of Bigfoot and how he saw him up there when he was a kid. He then proceeded to take the group to where he saw him 10 years ago. After walking a few minutes down a trail we came to a spot where the guy in the gorilla costume came out and gave everyone a fright. Good story tellers know how to engage their audience. You can pretty much make up any story you want. Try and put yourself in the story somehow – like you experienced the scaring factor for yourself. If you want to get some ideas there is a book that comes from a podcast about campfire stores that is really good – True Ghost Stories by Jim Harold.
  6. Fire starting – A camping game I usually do with boy scouts or anytime I go camping with my family is try to see who can start a fire without using matches. There are several ways this can be done. Some are easier than others. I love this game because it turns knowing how to be prepared for emergency situations into a game that encourages participation. Camping just isn’t camping without a good fire.
    • Magnesium stick with flint and steel. Magnesium, flint, and steel is probably the easiest method to start a fire without matches. Magnesium burns at 5,610 °F. The flint and steel usually comes with a stick of magnesium. You take the steel and scrape shavings of the magnesium stick onto your tinder. Then with one spark you can light your tinder on fire even if it’s wet because the temperature of the burning magnesium is so hot.
    • Magnifying glass. Having a larger magnifying glass is easier to start a fire than a smaller magnifying glass. Also the darker the tinder you are using the more light it will absorb. Remember that black does not reflect much light, which means it is taking all the energy you can give it. Black newspaper works well. This approach can take a little bit of time so don’t get discouraged.
    • Bow drill. Using a bow drill can take time, but it’s not as hard as some of the other drill methods. Innerbark Outdoors has a great video with step by step instructions.

      The only word of advice is don’t get discouraged. I failed the first several times I tried this. I usually took the ember that was made too early or I would let it go out because my tinder wasn’t dry enough.
    • Hand drill. A hand drill is a very similar principle to the bow drill. I have found the easiest way to do a hand drill without completely killing your hands is to cut a slit in the top of the drill so that you can run a small rope or string in the slit attached to your thumbs. The picture to the right shows how to do this. Using the rope will help put a vertical force down for you without having to push harder with your hands. This also helps so you don’t have to use your hands so tight to the drill. Without the cord or rope you can still start a fire, but it will cause you to have blisters unless your hands are like cement already.

    • Battery and gum wrapper. You can also do this fire starting method with iron wool. Quick Clips has an awesome video showing how to start a fire with a gum wrapper and a battery. Every person should go camping with a flashlight – meaning you get a battery by default. Keeping a small package of gum is very lightweight and fits in a pocket without a problem (comes in handy if you don’t get a chance to brush your teeth). This is very fast and works well. As always you need dry tinder to make this work well.
    • Any other creative methods. There are several ways to start a fire, far more than exists in this list. You could make a game where everyone has to try a new way of starting a fire they have not tried before. Let your creativity run wild.
  7. Scavenger hunt – There are several types of scavenger hunts you can play. The traditional scavenger hunt game is to make a list of items that can be found in the area you live. For example your list can include an unopened pine cone, blue water smoothed rock, specific leaves, a weed, various animals, and etc. Another fun list is to make everyone find an item that begins with a different letter of the alphabet. An alternative to traditional scavenger hunts is to make a photo scavenger hunt. Make the same type list but instead of just making a checkmark, you take photos of the items. You can even rate the items in the photo scavenger hunt worth different amounts of points  – i.e. make a doe and fawn worth a lot of points and a person drinking water worth few points. Having a photo scavenger hunt is also a great way to help your photo album grow.
  8. Glow in the dark camping games - water bottle ring tossGlow in the dark – Go to any local dollar store like Dollar Tree. Glow sticks are so common and cheap. They come in various sizes and colors. Any game you can think of is fun with glowing sticks. A very common camping game with glow sticks that a lot of people play is a glow in the dark ring toss. Having both the pole that you toss the rings on to and the rings themselves glow in the dark is best. Usually when I go camping I also have lots of extra water bottles hanging around at the end of each day. Design Dazzle has an excellent idea of dropping glow sticks in the bottles and using those water bottles as the poles for the ring tossing. Having different colors is fun and having each person have their own colors helps keep the uniqueness. Kids love this game mostly because you have to crack the glow sticks to start the glowing chemical reactions.
  9. Archery – Shooting arrows with a bow is targeted for an older audience of adults and teenagers. As with any shooting game safety should be your highest priority and concern. Everyone involved should know how to use a bow and arrow and have respect for them. Most outdoor stores sell great compound bows and reusable targets. Compound bows can have a lot of force to them and if you are not as familiar with archery get a bow that you can disassemble and store easier. Also having a wrist guard will be your friend if you don’t shoot regularly.
  10. Telephone – A game most of us have played at some point or another, mostly in elementary school. Just because it’s a game we most likely played as children doesn’t mean this is not a really fun game to play. Telephone only works well when you are in a larger group of people. The more people the funner this game becomes. My wife is from Vietnam and they have a version of this game called Chinese Whisperers. If you have never played telephone the rules of the game are quite simple. Everybody who wants to play forms a line. The person at the begging of the line whispers a word or phrase to the person next to him or her. That person in turn whispers it to the next person. This process repeats until the last person in line receives the message. The person at the end then shares what he or her herd. There is no winner and everybody takes turns being the head of the line. Try to use longer words or phrases. Words that are harder to repeat for some people like deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) can get very malformed by the end.
  11. Hide and seek – I love this game. Hide and seek is not only a classic game but an excellent camping game. As an adult who is 6’3″ I have a hard time hiding like I did when I was a kid. I still love playing this game with others and I look at playing as an opportunity to work on my camouflaging skills.
  12. Geocaching – As your kids grow a little bit older or you’re going with a group of people who are all older than twelve this game can be a lot of fun. Everyone will need a smart phone (or some other IOS or Android device with GPS). The whole idea of geocaching is to participate in the largest treasure hunt outside in the world. Once you sign up for an account you use GPS and go locate hidden caches. Once you find the hidden cache you can sign the log found within. There are a few variations of this game you can play when out camping. The most common is to see who can find the most hidden caches. Another is to see who can find the first one. If there are no hidden treasures in the area where you are camping then you can create geocaches for others who will camp in the area in the future.
  13. Make up your own game – Bring out your inner creative child and go make up some fun games depending on where you are at. If you are at a beach or near the water come up with some fun water games. If there is a playground develop a new type of tag where nobody can touch the ground unless you are the tagger. Developing your own games helps build lasting memories and can even become traditions for the people involved.

What are some of your favorite camping games? This list of camping games is a very small subset of all possible games people can play when camping? Go ahead and comment below what some of your favorite games to play are when you go camping.