More Than a Fort: Camping Indoors

Prepare for your next camping trip with an indoor campout.

Spring has sprung and summer is around the corner. With warmer days on the horizon, we sometimes find ourselves longing to spend more time outdoors. Even if the weather or situation isn’t conducive, now is still a great time to begin planning ahead and preparing for the next outdoor adventure.

So why not try camping indoors? There’s no time like the present to get our kids involved. Explore these fun, skill-based activities to encourage smiles and positive outdoor practices to “boot.”  

Let’s get started by exploring Leave No Trace fundamentals so we can all become an outdoor, and indoor, hero. Adults (and kids too if they’re game), enjoy this short Leave No Trace Basics video for tips and inspiration.

Campers, Get Ready

Now the fun begins! Adults and kiddos, follow along with this Leave No Trace Principles for Youth hand signal video that will be sure to help everyone remember those important 7 principles.

Take it a step further:  

  • How many hand signals can you remember after watching the video?
  • Can you demonstrate and name all 7 principles and hand signals?  
  • What additional hand signals would you add for each principle?

Indoor Camping Challenge

Transform the indoors into a great camping adventure! Check out this short video to get those ideas flowing: Camp at Home.

Tackle these challenges to enhance your indoor adventure with the below activities, including Leave No Trace experiences.

  • Plan Ahead & Prepare and “Know Before You Go” by getting everybody involved. Imagine your “trip location” (mountain, beach, jungle), weather forecast and other destination details. For “packing” gear and resources, utilize what you have around the house or plan to set-up your outdoor gear for an indoor test run. 
  • “Know Before You Go” Create a map. Include the tent site location distanced away from water source and food storage (bathroom and kitchen). 200 feet or 70–100 steps (depending on your stride) is recommended.
  • Choose tent/shelter site(s). Is the ground surface clear, relatively level and comfy? Check overhead for anything potentially hazardous (no “broken tree limbs” or other concerns). All clear? Great, start working together to set up camp! 
Whenever you visit the great outdoors, it’s important to keep your trash and recycling with you until you can find the proper bins.
  • Take “a hike” by “Choosing the Right (and safe) Path” around the house or apartment. Journal or take imaginary pictures of your discoveries. Remember, “Leave What You Find” … unless it’s your “trash.” Nice day? Adults and kids, venture outside for a hike while practicing social distancing. Check the forecast and discuss dressing for success. Is someone staying at the “camp” (home)? Share your hike plan. Include important information, such as hiking route and anticipated return time.
  • Enjoy an indoor picnic! Create your own camping cuisine or opt for a camping favorite: hot dogs. 
  • Be sure to “Trash Your Trash.” Properly dispose of litter and store food out of reach from wildlife (and pets). 
  • Create a small “campfire.” One option: create a small “fire” using construction paper and tissue paper for flames. Try using paper tubes as logs. Contain your fire for safety with a small stone fire ring (can be made by blocks or balls). Remember the principle “Be Careful With Fire” and don’t build it too close to the tent.
  • Make a campfire lantern. Try coloring “flames” on a paper lunch bag and add a battery-operated candle or small flashlight inside. Here’s a tip – Keep the bag open by stuffing newspaper or paper towels into the bottom of the bag.
  • Tell a campfire tale. Try allowing everyone to add one word or sentence at a time to create a silly story.
You may not be able to roast s’mores over a fire while camping indoors, but you can make them a different way while at home.
  • Make an edible campfire. Pretzel rods or Tootsie Rolls for firewood fuel; pretzel sticks for kindling; shaved coconut for tinder; a real cherry, red jelly bean or red gumdrop for fire. Remember the safety bucket (small cup) of water.
  • Try making s’mores with your favorite adult. Enjoy some oven s’mores or try the microwave (make sure the marshmallow doesn’t explode!). Ask an adult to use a camp stove (or microwave) to make hot chocolate or another campfire treat.
  • Animal safari anyone? “Respect Wildlife” by keeping your distance and using binoculars. No binoculars? No problem! Make binoculars by creating a long paper tube and cut in half for two identical eyepieces or use the long tube as a telescope. No extra paper on hand? Use your hands to create binoculars. With your gear ready to go, explore your environment while on the lookout for native wildlife. (Stuffed animals and animal coloring pages work well to hide around your habitat.)  Extra challenge: Can spot a bird or squirrel outside a window?
  • Try using the “Rule of Thumb” technique with “wildlife” as demonstrated in this 40-second Leave No Trace video: Wildlife Rule of Thumb Trick  
  • Test your skills with a homemade fishing pole. Get creative and invent a fishing game or research some suggestions and techniques online. Happy fishing!  
Eastern screech owl
If you listen closely, you may even be able to hear bird sounds like those of the eastern screech owl.
  • Enjoy nature’s symphony … even indoors. Listen to nature sounds from a phone, computer or open window to enhance your experience. Close your eyes and listen for a few moments. How many different nature sounds did you hear? Capture the moment by drawing what you heard and imagined.   
  • Cut out paper stars and create constellations for the wall or ceiling, or plug in some white holiday lights for instant “starlight.”
  • Getting dark? Try flashlight tag or a flashlight scavenger hunt I Spy-style, where you highlight items with a flashlight.
  • And as always, “Be Kind To Other Visitors.” Be considerate, share with others and keep noise to a minimum so others can enjoy their environment.
  • Your input counts. Is there a Leave No Trace principle you’d add?  Share with your fellow campers!
  • The trip’s not over yet! Involve everyone in breaking down camp.  Leave your campsite environment just as you found it, or better yet, even cleaner.
  • Last but not least, ask for feedback about everyone’s experience.  What was everyone’s favorite thing? Least favorite thing? What would you include on your next adventure? How about camping outside in the future?

OK, happy campers, good luck, be creative, stay safe and have fun! 

The Adventure Outpost Team