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Whether you’re hoping to introduce your kids to the joys of the great outdoors or you’re craving a staycation that’s a bit outside the norm, a backyard camping adventure is an excellent way to spend the weekend. And we’re not the only ones who think so. According to Pinterest, searches for “backyard camping” are up a whopping 335 percent. But before you pitch a tent just steps away from your porch, consult our guide for the best at-home campout ever. Now, who wants a s’more?

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a family setting up a tent in the backyard
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Let’s go over the most important thing first: the structure in which you’ll be sleeping! If you’re feeling particularly adventurous (and the weather report is ideal) you could go ahead and fashion your own tent with blankets and sticks (hot tip: ski poles are excellent for propping open a makeshift tent door). Otherwise, pick up a brightly colored, roomy tent from any local outdoor store, like REI or Dick’s Sporting Goods. You might have luck finding an older model that’s on sale or buying a refurbished one for less. 

Buy it: Field & Stream 3-Person Dome Tent ($30); Coleman Dome 4-Person Tent ($60); Kelty Discovery 6-Person tent ($104); REI Co-op Grand Hut 4-Person Tent ($299)

two kids playing with headlamps in a tent
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Flashlights, Headlamps and Lanterns

Stock up on outdoor lights to keep the fun going long after the sun goes down—and to banish nighttime scaries for the little ones. Cheap flashlights can be found at most pharmacies, corner shops or grocery stores, but headlamps (the ones real backpackers, explorers and mountaineers use) add a little extra excitement to the outdoor adventure vibe. Then again, to prevent anyone from shining bright lights in anyone else’s eyes, one or two large lanterns might be best. You can be the judge of what works for your yard and your crew.

Buy it: EverBrite 9-LED Flashlight ($15 for set of six); Nebo Poppy 2-in-1 Lantern Spotlight ($17); Black Diamond Astro 175 Headlamp ($20); Black Diamond Orbit Lantern ($30); Petzl Tikka Headlamp ($30)

three kids hanging out in a tent in their backyard
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Emergency Essentials

The best way to get the full camping experience is to make it a rule that everyone needs to stay outside (except for bathroom breaks, obviously). Bring everything you think you might need, and then some, outside and stow it in a basket in the shade. This includes sunscreen, bug spray, bandages and the basics of an at-home first aid kit. You might also want to invest in some citronella candles to keep pesky mosquitoes at bay.

One thing that shouldn't be considered an essential? Electronics. You wouldn't be able to charge your iPad out in the wild, so you shouldn't be able to charge it from the backyard either. Have the second rule of the evening be that all phones, tablets, laptops and other electronic devices should stay indoors. And yes, that includes your phone too, moms.

Buy it: Paw Patrol Band-Aids ($3); Off! Skintastic Family Care Insect Repellent Spray ($4); Banana Boat Kids Sport Tear-Free Sunscreen Lotion ($9); L.L.Bean First-Aid Kit ($25)

setting up a portable mini stove

A Mini Stove for Hot Dogs and S’Mores, and a Cooler for Drinks

You could always use a regular grill, but that’s not necessarily authentic to a camping trip. So seek out a portable stove, like the inexpensive ones you would use while backpacking. Their small size also makes them much easier for kids to use (with adult supervision, of course) so they can roast their own marshmallows. Having a cooler filled with water and juice (plus adult beverages for you!) means fewer trips indoors.

Buy it: Hap Tim Soft Cooler Bag ($29); MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove ($45); Eureka Ignite 2-Burner Camp Stove ($100); YETI Roadie 20 Cooler ($200)

RELATED: 17 Easy and Delicious Camping Recipes

young boy gathering together all his camping supplies
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Plenty of Pillows, Blankets and Sleeping Bags

If you don’t already own sleeping bags, a pile of cozy blankets will do. Even if it’s hot during the day, the temperatures will drop come nightfall so you really can’t have too many warm coverlets, duvets or throw blankets. You might also want to break out an air mattress or try a sleeping pad for some additional comfort.

Buy it: Field & Stream Folding Camp Pad ($20); ZOOOBELIVES Extra Thickness Inflatable Sleeping Pad ($42); REI Co-op Kindercamp 40 Sleeping Bag for Kids ($60); The North Face Dolomite 20 Sleeping Bag for Kids ($90)

kids camping in their driveway with their mom
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Outdoorsy Games

What sleepover would be complete without a bunch of silly activities that will inevitably make everyone too giggly to go to sleep? Before the sun goes down, set up a nature-themed scavenger hunt to see who can find a leaf with four points, a ladybug or the biggest stick in the yard. And don’t forget to lead the group on an imaginary trail around the outside of the house, making sure to point out landmarks such as a beautiful and secret waterfall (aka water trickling out of the roof gutters), ruins left by ancient peoples (aka scratches on the driveway) and even fresh bear tracks (aka paw prints left by the neighbor’s cat). Once the sun has set, take turns telling spooky campfire stories or using your flashlight to read from books (might we recommend the classic Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark?). You can also download a stargazing app to locate and identify different constellations.

Buy it: Spikeball Glow in the Dark Ball ($7); Carson BigEye Magnifying Glass ($12); Bry & BVL Binoculars for Kids ($20); Carson Adventure Pak ($30)

RELATED: 5 Fun (and Stress-Free) Outdoor Activities to Do with Your Kids This Summer

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