Backyard Bliss: What You Need to Camp At Home

With campgrounds closed and coronavirus at its apex, our camping season got off to a rocky start. So we improvised and started tenting up in the backyard on a weekly basis. Sure, it’s not exactly an exercise in ruggedness or bad-assery, but it’s hard to beat the convenience of a full kitchen and bathroom (with double-ply toilet paper!) just a dozen steps away. 

Once you accept the fact that yes, this is a cushy form of camping, the only downside, as far as we can tell, is having to pee in your azaleas rather than the aspens when nature (inevitably) calls in the middle of the night. So even though many campgrounds are open now (hallelujah!), our family is likely to continue the tradition when we need a camping fix close to home.

Here are some of our favorite pieces, many of which are suitable in both the backyard and backcountry.

Big Agnes Bunk House 4

The versatility of the Bunk House 4 separates it from the competition. Use it as a traditional tent with a roomy vestibule, or pitch it with tent poles to create a covered awning perfect for lounging out of the sun with a good book. Not sleeping out tonight? Set it up in shelter mode for insta-shade.

Use it for: Backyard camping and car camping
$480 | bigagnes.com

Primus Kamoto Open Fire Pit

When it comes to simple design, the Swedes know what’s up. Exhibit A: Ikea. Exhibit B: The Primus Kamoto. This easy-to-use, portable fire pit accommodates both wood and charcoal. A handy ashtray catches the remnants so you can maintain your Leave No Trace reputation. Great for cooking or setting the mood.

Use it for: Backyard camping and car camping
$130 for the small (folded: 15.3 inches x 2.4 inches x 20.9 inches) or $160 for the large (folded: 18.5 inches x 2.4 inches x 25.6 inches) | primus.us

Snow Peak Campfield Futon

Sometimes you just have to splurge. And with four different configurations, the Campfield Futon is worth it. Set it up as two reclined-back chairs for happy hour. Reorganize it as a couch for time around the fire. Arrange it as a cot for bedtime. And then, when it’s time to put it away the next day, reconfigure it as three stacked shelves. 

Use it for: Backyard camping and backyard furniture
$750 | snowpeak.com

GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper Cook Set

With a no-clutter approach to camp kitchen essentials, the Bugaboo Camper cook set would impress the great Marie Kondo herself. The sleek set includes mugs, bowls, and plates color-coded for four people, all of which nest inside two pots (2-liter and 3-liter) with strainer lids and a frying pan. The whole kit and caboodle fits inside a carry bag that doubles as a sink. 

Use it for: Backyard camping and car camping
$120 | gsioutdoors.com

Chaco Chillos Slide

Chaco is well-known and much revered for its Z-fit with wrap-around ankle strap. The jury’s still out on the toe loop. This summer, the sandal icon introduces a new member of the Chaco sandal family: the Chillos Slide. Lightweight with an easy-access slip-on entry point, the Chillos are perfect for quick trips between your backyard campfire and the kitchen for a second bag of mallows.

Use them for: Backyard camping, car camping, the neighborhood park, and backpacking
$50 | chacos.com

Eddie Bauer Outdoor Camp Blanket

Whether you use it instead of a picnic table or you snuggle under it for storytime around the fire, a blanket is a must-have accessory for any camping trip where weight isn’t an issue. We love Eddie Bauer’s version with its fuzzy fleece side, waterproof backing, and funky design options. Transport is easy-peasy thanks to an integrated handle.

Use it for: Backyard camping, car camping, and the neighborhood park
$28 (on sale!) | eddiebauer.com

Orvis PractiCaster Fly Rod 

Few of us have a mountain stream running through our backyard. Bummer. The Orvis PractiCaster makes real estate a moot point. This 36-inch, one-piece rod features a cork grip and allows you to mimic the exact motion used in a real cast. Test your aim slinging the line for three hook-and-loop (i.e., unofficial Velcro) “trout.” 

Use it for: Backyard camping, car camping, and the neighborhood park
$49 | orvis.com

iLive Truly Wire-Free Earbuds with Charging Case and Speaker

In an age of (endless) Zoom meetings, wireless headphones have been a total gamechanger. Small, packable and easy to use, we fully expect iLive’s earbuds/charger/speaker combo to infiltrate our camping packing list as well. Pop in the earbuds and finish the last chapter of your audio book while setting up the tent. Then, when everyone needs a little background bluegrass to perfect the campfire vibe, switch it to speaker mode for all to enjoy.

Use them for: Backyard camping, car camping, the neighborhood park, and backpacking
$69 | iliveelectronics.com

NEMO Equipment Tempo Synthetic Sleeping Bag

Side sleepers rejoice! Designed with extra space at the elbows and knees, the Tempo makes it easy to shift positions in the middle of the night. And while I’m definitely sleeping with my memory-foam pillow in the backyard, the Tempo’s integrated pillow pocket (perfect for stuffing extra clothes or an inflatable pillow) will be handy in the backcountry. The impressively low $130 price-point includes a compression stuff sack and mesh storage bag. Available in men’s and women’s versions capable of zipping together to form a double sleeping bag.

Use it for: Backyard camping, car camping, and backpacking
$130 | nemoequipment.com

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