Camping games are a great way to keep kids busy at the campsite. While planning fun family camping activities, teens are a whole other ball of wax. And what we plan for them now is totally different than when they were little.
If you’re wondering how to keep your teens involved in camping fun, and a little less attached to their phones, try these ideas!
When taking your family for a weekend or more outdoors, fun camping activities are a must. Studies show that kids who spend time in nature go on to be happier, more mentally well adjusted adults. Camping gives them the chance to fall in love with nature and encourage their self-sufficiency and survival skills.
Fun Things to Bring Camping
I didn’t grow up camping and actually didn’t camp until I was an adult. I don’t consider myself a camping expert, but I have done my fair share of pitching tents, chasing toddlers away from the fire, and bringing camping games to keep my busy boys, well, busy!
Now that they’re teens, so much has changed. They pitch the tents, empty the top box, set up tables, and basically do all of the heavy lifting. I do almost zero camp setup myself. It makes life easier for parents, and it helps young people build independence and problem solving skills.
The days of sleepless nights of toddlers using my face as a pillow, eating dusty hot dogs, and making them live in their life jackets when there was an unknown creek at the campsite are over. I’m in a new season of life now, where my kids sleep in their own tents and can’t wait to sit around the campfire and look at memes on their phones! What? No. We are here for family time!
With totally capable young people who pitch their own tents and generally make camping a million times easier, the fun things we bring camping have changed drastically for my family. In an age where teens need technology like they need air, I try to make sure we have other options to keep them busy.
I am not an anti-technology parent, at all. I am a pro-get-outside and do-things parent. Balance with technology is necessary, and sometimes, we are out of the cell service range! It seems to take a little adjustment, but before we know it my kids are belly laughing at each other’s jokes just the same.
Teenage Camping Activities
Here are some camping activities I like to make available to my teens. Whether you’re camping with a large group or just your own teens, these activities will make sure everyone has a great time.
Sure, you will pack much, much more food, do less of the setup, and probably have a similar amount of boredom and eye-rolling before you get into the groove of the outdoors. Once you hit your family’s outside stride though, you’ll make memories they’ll never forget!
A few of these suggestions include affiliate links to games or books.
Probably one of the most popular camping activities around, hiking is a great thing to get teens involved in. Pick up some trail maps from the camp host or from a nearby park or trailhead, and let your teens get to work planning!
The great thing about hiking with big kids is that they can carry their own water and snacks, appreciate what they see, and can usually keep up a good pace. Further, I find that walking is just what my kids need to open up and talk to me.
This is a perfect opportunity to let them use their capabilities, get some exercise and fresh air, and for you to hear them and really learn about who they are as people. A hike planned and led by your teen can turn into an unforgettable camping activity you will both love!
2. Camping Scavenger Hunt
Whether you’re on a hike or hanging out at the campground, a nature scavenger hunt is fun for everyone. Does this mean that you need to sneak around and hide things for your kids to find? Absolutely not, now that you have teens, you can scavenger hunt together!
I like to look at local area guides or refer to books about foraging wild edible plants and mushrooms and keep my eyes peeled for these. I have taught my kids along the way, and now they know what to find.
Make a quick list of what is growing in the area. Sometimes it will be a new plant or mushroom you haven’t seen where you live, which is great for your big kids to learn about. They’ll be out in the world without you before you know it!
Grab a book or two before your trip, and your kids can even take a look while you’re on the way, and make a list of what you should all look for. Try these foraging books, and I really like this book about mushrooms that is small enough to take on the trail with you.
There are some great plant identifier apps and mushroom identification apps that are a good choice for those opting for low-technology camping activities for teens.
3. SUP and Kayak
While you can do stand-up paddle boards and kayak with any age kids, it is so much more fun with teens! They can show their independence, find some peace out on the water, help them cool off on a hot summer day, and it can break up some time spent at the campsite.
If there’s water nearby, you can often rent SUP boards and kayaks. Or if your family enjoys water sports, consider buying an inflatable paddle board. One of our team members has one for each person in their family. They’re easy to inflate, deflate, and transport.
Just like setting up the campsite, water activities that felt like a huge task when the kids are little are so much easier with teens.
Outdoor Camping Games
Try some of these family camping games to offer your big kids some movement and physical exercise. Whether you opt for calm games or creating your own camping olympics, a fun activity can make your trip more engaging and less boring for those who have a hard time being away from their friends.
1. Laser Tag
My kids loved laser tag when they were younger, and it’s something they still get out when we camp. Something about getting out in the woods, and disconnected from technology can bring out the younger side of even the coolest teenagers. It can be extra fun with larger groups.
We have a simple vest set that has seen years of use. These are also worth the room to bring if you have an age range of kids too, they’re great for small to tall!
2. Bocce Ball
Bocce ball is the first game we set up at the campsite and the last one to go down. Just find a flat area, and this small and easy packable game is ready to go. It plays in quick rounds, isn’t loud, and is the best way to have a chill-out type of afternoon (like when parents are napping!).
3. Corn Hole
Old-fashioned maybe, but truly standing the test of time, corn hole is a fun camping game for the whole family. If you’ve got more than one teen and leave them to it, trust they will make it competitive.
4. Card Games for Teens
Cards are perfect for bringing camping, they’re small, light, and can offer a variety of games in one deck. They also work great for sitting around a picnic table or if you need to stay covered during heavy rainy days.
Here are some great card games for teens:
Cap: You’ll likely recognize this game that we called a different name growing up. Each player starts with 7 cards, and you go around the table laying down one or a number of cards that are supposed to be in order from Ace to King. If you don’t have the right cards, you must lie, if someone calls out your lie by saying “Cap!”, then you take the whole stack of cards. If they call you out and they are wrong, they take the whole stack of cards. The first person with an empty hand wins.
Hand and Foot: Now that your kids are older, bring on the harder card games! Teach them to play hand and foot for a fast-paced card game that will have everyone laughing as hard as they are rushing! Need a brush up on the rules? Check out this video tutorial that shows how to play and the rules.
Pit: For those who like an opportunity to yell because they are outside, Pit is nice because it can fit any number of people and you can even play it standing up. You just hold out the cards you want to trade and yell the number until someone exchanges with you. Bring your energy!
Mushroom Cats: For teens with low-key energy, this simple game is perfect. It has beautiful art and will reinforce some mushroom identification while you play it. Plus, cats! This is also a great camping game to incorporate younger siblings too.
Hygge: This is a wonderful conversation-starting game that is a great way to get talking around a campfire with your teens. Get cozy and chat, but most of all listen to them.
5. Camping Board Games
In my family, board games always play a major role during any vacation or holiday. When it comes to fun things to bring camping though, we often don’t have room to pack big boxy games. Here are a few games we squeeze into duffle bags and car trunks.
Banana Grams: Similar to Scrabble, but quicker and smaller, this word game packs into a small banana-sized bag. The rounds go quickly, and the tiles are great for any day that is too windy for cards.
Wildcraft: This is a smaller board game that is great for kids of all ages, so you can include the younger kids too. Wildcraft is an herbal adventure game that is a perfect way for kids (and adults!) to learn about healing herbs and wild edible plants. I highly recommend it!
Boggle: Another older game, perfect for wordies, this is one that is great to get teens playing.
Without needing to pack anything, charades are great for teens to get their imagination working. We like to choose a theme and then each do a round. With teens it’s fun to let them choose the theme, then you are in their world.
It could be anything from Dr. Who to famous influencers, video game characters, or whatever they are into! When incorporating younger kids, of course, this fun game will have to be adjusted.
My daughter loves mushroom charades, but my older kids only have about one round of that in them. It’s ok to divide into groups when necessary to keep everyone at their current level of interest.
7. Obstacle Course
Use any items found in nature to create an obstacle course that’s just challenging enough to engage each member of the group. Tailor it to the general skill level of the group. Teens can compete individually or in teams. They probably won’t have any trouble creating a course, but they may need an adult to keep it from getting dangerous.
Nighttime Camping Fun
For some reason, teens tend to be up late and love all things nighttime. In my experience, it is best to just go with the flow and have fun with it! If you are out of the phase of having younger kids, I’m here to tell you that teens are the best age to take camping. Try some of these different activities for big kids and see why.
1. Flashlight Tag
Tag is a classic game, and adding flashlights is a fun way to enjoy warm camping evenings. Bring your flashlights and head out to a spot that won’t bother other campers once it’s getting dark. Agree on a “home base” spot, and whoever is IT waits there with their flashlight and counts.
Once done, the person who is IT hunts around with their light to locate others, shines the light on them, and calls their name. The person called is out and goes back to home base.
2. Hide and Glow Seek
Designate an area with trees or other nature hiding spots, and don some glow sticks necklaces, bracelets, or crowns. Proceed like regular hide and seek, but in the dark with a glow!
3. Lightsaber Fight
Of course, this can happen any time of day. But if you’ve got a Star Wars fan who can stay up late, I definitely recommend bringing any toy light sabers or glow swords to bring out the fun for big kids after dark! Best part? Most lightsabers fold down small enough to pack lightly. Win!
4. Spooky Stories
Teens can get really scary with spooky campfire stories. Great fun that requires nothing extra to pack, grab some s’more fixings and a flashlight to put under their chin, and get some scary stories going around the fire.
Story dice can make for great starter stories for those who have trouble getting started.
5. Finding Constellations
Perfect camping fun, the quiet science of constellations is a beautiful way to wind down a night. Often when out camping the stars are much brighter than in cities. This makes stargazing with kids even more exciting.
Grab a book or constellation map for your teens to help them locate and identify the stars in the sky. Many younger kids don’t have the calm bodies or attention spans for this, so it’s a wonderful activity to do with teens.
6. Catching Fireflies
If you live in an area that has fireflies, set your teens out to catch a few in a DIY bug viewing jar to light up the evening! This is a fun and magical activity, that some will probably make into a competition.
Take extra care collecting them and be sure to let them go right away so they can go forth living long lovely firefly lives!
Rocks, Rock, and Geography
Geocaching is a low-technology global treasure hunt that is great especially for older kids and teens to keep busy. They can use navigation skills to locate a stash of different items. The process is to navigate, locate, take something from the cache, leave something in the cache, and log it in the logbook or geocaching app.
This is like an engaging mystery, and perfect for older kids who need something to do with free time. Learn more about geocaching here.
2. Painting Rocks
Many places have painted rocks hidden around, and it is really fun for kids who like art to paint their own rocks and hide them as well. This can be turned into another type of camping scavenger hunt, or just hidden for the public to find as a happy surprise.
Use glow-in-the-dark paints to make it even more fun!
3. Rock Speaker
One thing that really connects me to my teens is music. I consider this low-technology since we stream music from our phones onto a natural-looking rock-shaped Bluetooth speaker.
We take turns picking songs while sitting around the fire. It’s a calm activity that engages them to talk and gives me an opportunity to learn about their lives and generation through music. This isn’t something we always have time to do in our busy lives at home!
More Teen Camping Ideas
1. Bring Friends Along
It’s developmentally normal for teens to want to be with their friends more than their family. I try to always remember this as I send them off out into the world, adult-sized yet not fully grown.
Keeping this in mind and choosing to not take it personally, I know that their social-emotional development relies on their peers. Is it sometimes good to get a break from their social lives? Yes! But, sometimes, even for me, friends make everything better.
Teens have more camping fun when they have other kids their age to play games or commiserate with. I try to let them bring a friend when we can swing it (more hands make lighter work!), or I plan with other families for group camping as often as I can.
Teens rely on each other, this is their time to practice being adults while they still have their parents at home. Trust yourself and the work you did parenting them when they were younger, and give them space to grow! And, trust me on this: Bring extra food!
2. Make an Awesome Campsite
I always loved the idea of camping that I would see in pictures with roaring campfires and perfectly hung string lights while I read a book and sipped a glass of wine. As a young mom new to camping, I can tell you that was definitely NOT my experience!
However, now that I have teens, we can do those things! We bring string starlights, cozy rugs for the tents, cute tablecloths, and all the little extras I never would have had time for when camping with babies and toddlers.
Making an awesome-looking campsite makes my teens feel like camping is a bit cooler, and more fun. It helps them feel cozy when they’re used to spending so much time in their rooms at home.
3. Campgrounds with Activities
If you can find a campground that has extra activities geared towards older kids, this can be camping gold for teen camping fun. If you can find one with rock wall climbing, obstacle courses, rafting, or even some have bow and arrow ranges and ax throwing ranges for kids.
Look around if your teens need more camping activities to do, you might find something awesome in your area!
4. Campfire Games
Sometimes, simple is best. Especially when you’ve got a car packed to the brim and no room to pack any extravagant camping activities.
This is where campfire games come in! Perfect for teens who have the capability to actually sit still around a fire and roast their own marshmallows without being hovered over, try these games:
Two truths and a lie: This is exactly as it sounds. Each person tells two truths and one lie about themselves, and everyone tries to guess which is the lie.
Twenty questions: Like word charades, give a clue and only answer 20 questions for everyone to guess the answer!
Who am I?: With simple post-it notes (or any paper that can be held up, keep it simple), write the names of famous people and let the campfire crowd pick blindly at random. Hold your paper on your forehead, and let people give you clues until you guess who you are!
Telephone: A classic, this is sure to crack you up playing with your teens!
When it comes to fun camping games for teens, it’s important to remember to meet them where they are. There’s something about being away from daily life and out in nature that connects us, and that’s true with teens, too. See these teen camping games as an opportunity to connect!
With teens, we have to adjust, listen instead of talk, and trust the parenting we did when they were younger. Let them come up with their own ideas and give them the space for trial and error. Teens are their own people, asserting their independence just like toddlers. And, just like younger kids, they will feel confident, included, and important if you let them use their leadership skills and give them responsibilities.
If you have a quiet teen or an excitable energetic teen, these fun ideas of what activities to bring to keep everyone happy and occupied on your next camping trip should be a good start!