Camping in the Backyard

The great thing about backyard camping is that you need a fraction of the gear — just a tent and sleeping supplies. It’s a great way to get into the swing of things. Or so I thought…

After dinner last night we set up the family tent in the backyard. It was to be my daughters first night camping in the backyard. She was really excited and she helped every step of the way, along with my wife (who was excited about a quiet night in bed – no snoring by moi!). Outside with my daughter at the tent: first we put together the poles, discovering the mechanics of elastic chords, then stringing the impossibly long poles through the sleeves on the exoskeleton of the tent, maneuvering the metal ends into the grommets on each of the four corners, then stretching, giant orange swaths of water-resistant fabric etching the sky, expanding dark strands of webbing juxtaposed against the darkening earth, tightening stitched seams, everything zipping into place to create a giant six foot dome of a family tent. Filled the whole backyard.

2 hours later…

I learned that at age three my daughter is too young for sleeping in the backyard. The distraction of light pollution, air conditioning units, the noise of neighbors settling down… it all was too much. By 9:40 PM mama lion came ’round and announced she’d been listening to us for hours yapping endlessly – I could not get my daughter to lay still! – and it was time to throw in the towel. I was disappointed. I comforted myself, remembering the success of sleeping in the woods with my daughter last summer up in Rocky Mountain National Park, where the stars merely glimmered against a dark, dark sky, the only stirrings were from transient Moose, and we had no plan B of heading back into the house…

But rather than think of this as a failure, there was a lot of upside. It was a lot of fun. It was also a great way to trial run the equipment – this is especially true if you’re brand new to camping and setting up your tent for the first time.

A couple things I discovered about my gear:

Firstly, I realized that I still need to get a ground cloth big enough for the footprint of the tent (the one I have currently is about 1/2 big enough).

Secondly, I was reminded how much I dislike blow up air mattresses. We have one that we use an automobile powered pump to blow up – loud as heck, totally ruins the National Geographic moment of any wildlife encounter. The other thing is that blow up mattresses always seem to deflate by morning and run a little chilly. I’d like to get a set of camp pads for everyone… maybe for my birthday next month!


  • Tent
  • Ground cloth
  • Sleeping pads
  • Blankets or sleeping bag
  • Pillows
  • Flash lights or battery powered lattern
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