Your camping adventure doesn’t have to end just because the sun has set. Darkness doesn’t mean staying trapped in your tent waiting for morning. Instead, there are tons of fun activities that are enhanced by nighttime.
Not to mention you may not have electricity so it will get dark early and most people aren’t ready to go to bed that soon. So make the most of your trip and enjoy camping even at night!
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Activities in Nature
Just because the sun has gone down doesn’t mean you have to stay at your campground or inside the tent. There are so many fun things to do at night and ways to engage with nature that can be enjoyed in the dark. Of course, bring a flashlight or headlamp along to illuminate your way and prevent you from tripping and falling.
- Go on a nature walk
Head out on your own or look for a nighttime ranger-led or group tour that will take you along nearby trails. Keep ears open for sounds and movement in tree branches and see what you can find. Nature walks at night are a great way to see animals that you can’t experience during the day. Some common nocturnal animals include:
- Do a scavenger hunt
Design a scavenger hunt and play it in the dark. Give everyone a list of items to find or take pictures of and see who can find all of them first. Make sure to include things that can only be found out in the dark like fireflies or a certain constellation in the sky.
This popular daytime activity can also be done at night because it uses GPS so you don’t have to rely upon the daylight to locate caches. Remember to take a flashlight and be extra careful on uneven terrain.
- Go swimming
Campgrounds that have a pool or a body of water can make for fun nighttime swimming. The water is sure to be cool and the beaches or shores much less crowded than during the day. Make sure children are supervised at all times though and are wearing flotation devices. Never swim in fast-moving water such as streams or rivers.
Bring your telescope along and take advantage of the darkness and open skies to see the stars. Or plan a trip around celestial events such as a full moon, meteor shower, or eclipse. Find a campsite that is far from the city for extra darkness and clear views of the night sky when weather permits and there is low cloud cover.
- Catch a frog
Frog hunting is usually done at night because a flashlight will reflect off the frog’s eyes and make it easy to spot them. The bright light also dazes the frog, making it easy to catch. This can be a fun activity to help kids get familiar with wildlife and the frogs can simply be released back into the water after they are caught.
- Light fireworks
If your campground and state permit fireworks then you can wait until the sun goes down and light sparklers or other colorful things. Make sure to light them a safe distance from your campsite but far from forests or other areas that could catch on fire. If there is a high chance for forest fires or it is a dry time of year, avoid all fireworks when camping.
- Get oriented
Practice your navigational skills using a map and compass with the added challenge of being in the dark. Try to locate different mountains, valleys, or landmarks on the map. Alternately, go for a hike using your compass as navigation. You could also try out a sextant and try to orient yourself using the stars like sailors and other travelers did long ago.
- Go fishing
Nighttime fishing has several benefits because it’s much cooler, there’s usually less wind, and you won’t have as much competition since most people will be sleeping. Depending on the type of water and fish, you may be able to catch more at night. Not to mention there are fewer mosquitos and less chance of getting a sunburn. However, you’ll need to make sure you have a bright enough light to safely navigate and should stay close to the shore.
- Make a wish upon a star
Lie on a blanket and look up at the night sky while you wait for the stars to come out. Make a wish on the first bright star you see or look for shooting stars and remember to keep your wish a secret so it’s sure to come true.
- Go for a drive
If you’re camping near a national park or popular location that becomes crowded during the day, it can be fun to drive the scenic roads at night. There will be fewer people and you’ll feel like you have the entire place to yourself. You may also see some animals grazing and the scenery will be much different when viewed at night or illuminated by moonlight.
Around the Campfire
If you haven’t already built a fire, start making one as soon as it starts to get dark. Even if it’s a warm summer evening, a campfire adds an element of coziness and acts as the centerpiece for many activities at night. Plus it will illuminate your campsite and help you to see in the dark, making it safer and easier to stay up late even after the sun goes down.
- Tell stories
It’s somewhat of a tradition to tell scary or ghost stories around the campfire at night. Find some online in advance, retell childhood stories from memory or read from a book of collected stories.
- Sing songs
Campfire songs have long been a staple of childhood camping trips. Teach your kids the songs you grew up singing or make up some new ones together. If someone knows how to play an instrument, they can accompany you to bring to music to life.
- Play karaoke or sing-a-long
Bring along a guitar and play the chords from favorite songs and have everyone else sing along for a makeshift game of karaoke. You could also play some popular songs on your phone that everyone knows the words to and lead the group in a sing-a-long.
- Make colored fire
Buy some colored fire crystals that will make your campfire turn into a rainbow of colors when they are thrown in. Or make your own with a little advanced preparation by soaking pine cones in a variety of salts and then let them dry. When they hit the flames, they’ll create yellow, red, green, and blue flames.
- Do collaborative storytelling
Have one person start a story and then go in a circle with the next person adding a word or sentence and see where it ends up. Chances are you’ll be laughing in no time at the funny things everyone comes up with.
- Play guessing and conversation games
If you don’t have any actual games, use your imagination and play some guessing games. Popular ones include:
- 20 Questions: think of something and have everyone ask questions to figure it out
- Alphabet Game: pick a topic and run through the alphabet naming something that starts with each letter
- Association: start with a word and take turns saying the first thing that comes to mind
- One Minute: pick a random topic and then set the timer and see if you can discuss it for 60 seconds
- Make torches with sticks
Grab some sticks and try to make torches. Wrap old newspaper or cloth around them and light them on fire. See who can make the best one or keep theirs burning the longest.
Socializing with Others
Camping doesn’t have to be a lonesome or solitary activity. If you have some friends along then spend quality time all together in the evening and hear about all their adventures. Or make some new friends around the campground.
- Visit your neighbors
If you’re at a campground, take a walk around and see if any of your neighbors are still awake. Find some people that are sitting around the campfire and say hello and introduce yourself. Meet other campers and learn more about them, where they’re from, and what places nearby they’ve been.
- Talk with each other
Snuggle up in your sleeping bags and stay up late chatting and sharing about your lives. There’s something about the darkness and quiet that makes people want to open up and tell all their secrets to one another. Camping and sharing is a great way to connect on a deeper level with your friends and enjoy some campfire confessions.
- Tell a story
Pick a story from your life and share it with the group. Take turns telling stories and asking questions to bond and get to know each other better. Share about something that happened in your childhood or a situation where you felt intense emotions to create a memorable story.
- Make a video journal
Grab your phone or a video camera and create a video journal where you interview your fellow campers. Ask them about their favorite part of the day and what they love the most about camping. You’ll enjoy looking back and watching it years down the road and reliving the memories.
Fun and Games
There is an unlimited amount of games that can be played and many are easy to bring along with you on a camping trip. Even if you’re backing, take a pack of cards for hours of entertainment or play any number of games that don’t require anything at all.
- Play flashlight tag
Grab your flashlights and play tag in an open area near your campsite. Make sure there aren’t any rocks, stumps, or branches that could cause you to fall and get injured though. Some other similar games that can be played with a little illumination include:
- Ring toss
- Corn hole
- Lawn bowling
- Capture the flag
- Make shadow puppets
Entertain the kids by making shadow puppets on the side of the tent. Tell a story in puppets or get creative and see who can make the best animal shapes using their hands.
- Glow in the dark
Bring along some glow sticks to wear around the campground at night. Put some inside a plastic bottle and play glow in the dark bowling or sit some beside your cornhole set to illuminate it for an after dark game.
- Do skits or charades
Grab a hat and write down some prompts, then play charades and see if you can guess based on the gestures. To make it more challenging, choose an obscure category or use a list of difficult to act out words and see who can improvise the best.
- Listen to the radio
Bring a small portable radio and see if you can pick up stations from afar or listen in on broadcasts. You might be surprised at what you’re able to find and it’ll make for an interesting listening experience.
- Play games
There are so many games to be played, from card and board games to interactive ones. If you brought along some board games, set them up at the picnic table or play right on the floor of the tent. Grab a deck of cards and try out some popular card games like:
- Go Fish
If you forgot the board games or deck of card, get creative and play some interactive games such as:
- Truth or Dare
- Never Have I Ever
- Two Truths and a Lie
- Would You Rather?
- Simon Says
- Who Am I?
- Kiss Marry Kill
- Tic Tac Toe
- Take pictures
Experiment with night photography and take pictures of nature or your camping companions. Try drawing with light using glow sticks or sparklers and see if you can capture the results on camera. Or just grab your cell phone and take some selfies and experiment with funny filters.
- Make art
For those with a creative inclination, a day spent in nature is sure to inspire you and bring out your inner artist. Whether you want to write, paint, or sculpt something, be sure to bring any supplies that you need so you can make some art. Or use whatever is around such as sticks, stones, flowers, and leaves.
After a long day of adventure and perhaps several miles of hiking, you’re probably feeling worn out and ready for a good night’s rest. Prepare your mind and body with some calming activities to help transition from the adrenaline of the day to the quiet of the night.
Take advantage of the tranquility all around and do a meditation to help calm down and prepare you for sleep. Listen to a guided meditation or do a simple breathing meditation at your campsite. Enjoy the sounds of nature all around and take deep inhalations and exhalations to breathe in the fresh air.
- Do yoga
Stretching your muscles after a long day of hiking and being active is a great way to unwind and get ready for rest. Do some simple yoga poses or go through a short flow. Alternately, just do some basic stretches to loosen up your major muscle groups and prepare them for the next day. If you have a portable foam roller, lie down and massage any sore spots to get out any knots and soften any tight areas.
- Read a book or magazine
Relax in your tent or hammock and read a book. Use a flashlight to illuminate the pages or bring an eReader that is backlit so you can easily read in the dark. Before heading out to the campground, grab a stack of those magazines that have been piling up and browse through them as a way to wind down.
- Enjoy the peace and quiet
It’s not often that you’re camping out in nature without any distractions so make the most of it and just enjoy the quiet and stillness all around. Depending on how far you are from a city, there may be significantly less light pollution, allowing you to experience true darkness. Take a few moments to engage with all your senses and bask in the awareness of your unique surroundings.
- Give or get a massage
If you’re camping with a partner or a friend, take turns massaging each other. Give a back or foot rub to help the other relax. If you have a big group of people, get in a circle and start a massage chain where everyone rubs the back of the person in front of you. For more romantic camping adventures, you can crawl in your tent and give each other a full-body massage with scented lotion or oil.
- Watch a movie
Download some movies to your laptop or tablet before you go so you can watch them even if you don’t have an internet connection. Get cozy in your tent and watch a favorite movie or bring a projector, hang a tarp, and create your own outdoor movie experience.
- Take a hot shower
If your campground has running water and showers, take a hot shower to help you relax and warm up for a better night of sleep. Taking a shower at night will also mean you won’t have to wait in line for other campers to finish up. And you’ll get nice and relaxed before crawling into your sleeping bag.
- Float on the water
Grab a flotation device like an inflatable device or inner tube and head out to the nearby lake. Kick back and relax while looking up at the stars and listening to the sounds of nature all around. Just make sure not to get so relaxed that you end up falling asleep. Put on a flotation device for safety as well, especially if you’re alone.
- Snuggle with a loved one
Climb into your hammock or just curl up in a sleeping bag with your partner or even just a furry friend. Share body warmth to fight off the chill in the air and enjoy some cuddles. You’ll probably find yourself falling asleep in no time.
Pull out your notebook and write down everything that happened that day while it’s still fresh in your mind. Jot notes about anything unusual or interesting that you saw, your thoughts and feelings, and what trails you hiked or landmarks you saw. You can also look up some writing prompts or create some of your own to reflect on the next day.
- Look at pictures
Look back on all the pictures you took earlier in the day and relive the adventures. Share them with the people you’re camping with and smile as you reminisce about the activities you did just a few hours ago.
- Create some ambiance
String up some fairy lights or get some dimmable LED candles to place around the campsite or inside your tent. The mood lighting and faux flicker of candles is very relaxing and can also act as a nightlight if it’s really dark outside.
Food & Drink
One of the best things about camping is the delicious food that is made right over the fire. Just because the main meals are over doesn’t mean you have to stop snacking. Some foods taste better when they’re eaten at night and warm foods also warm you up before going to sleep.
- Roast marshmallows and make s’mores
Get the sticks out and skewer some marshmallows to roast over the campfire and make s’mores. It’s almost as much fun making them as it is to devour them afterward. To make things a little more fun, try these unique twists on the traditional s’more:
- Use dark or chocolate
- Sprinkle with some sea salt
- Add caramel
- Put your favorite bite-sized chocolate candy inside the marshmallow
- Add some peanut butter or Nutella
- Layer it with your favorite fruit to make it sweeter
- Substitute plain chocolate for your favorite candy bar
- Go savory by adding potato chips or pretzels
- Add ice cream or whipped cream on top
- Make it minty by adding a peppermint patty or Andes mint
- Create an Elvis s’more with bacon and banana
- Dip them into your favorite liqueur such as Baileys or Kahlua
- Instead of alcohol, dip in milk or chocolate milk for the kids
- Drink tea or hot chocolate
Cool nights call for warm drinks such as herbal tea or hot chocolate. Get creative by adding in some spices or topping your glass with some mini marshmallows. Opt for beverages low in caffeine so you can get to sleep easily and be rested in the morning.
- Have some wine
If warm drinks aren’t your thing, have a glass of wine after dinner. Not only will it help you relax and may enhance your sleep, but it’s delicious and warms you up from the inside.
- Eat dessert
Had a big dinner earlier in the evening? Wait a bit and have dessert once night falls. Open a box of cookies or any favorite treat if you don’t feel like cooking. Or have fun with campfire desserts like:
- Roasted pineapple
- Banana boats
- Baked apples
- Toasting bread on a stick and slathered in Nutella
- Roasting a starburst or other favorite candy
- Cinnamon rolls on a stick
- Have a picnic
Fill your picnic basket with lots of delicious food, grab a blanket, and find a place with a spectacular view. Or have dinner while watching the sunset and then stay to see the moon. A picnic under a brilliant full moon is a spectacular experience.
While there’s plenty of fun to be had, camping also brings with it lots of tasks that may not be the most enjoyable but are necessary for a successful trip. To make sure you have plenty of free time during the day, get your chores out of the way at night.
- Warm up your sleeping bag
Get ready for the night ahead by getting your bed ready. If you’ll be using a sleeping bag, air it out and warm it up by bringing it close to the fire, putting a hot water bottle inside, or adding a bag liner for extra insulation.
- Prepare for the next day
Do the menial tasks that will help you get ready and going in the morning. Organize your campsite, pack your backpack, chop food and meal prep, or refill water bottles. Whatever will save you time and make life easier the next day can be done the night before.
- Plan tomorrow’s adventures
Read a guide book or brochure, look at the map, or talk to the people you’re camping with and make a game plan for the next day. Plan out any hikes, look up information on the trailhead, and see how long it will take. Start getting excited for what tomorrow will bring.
- Groom your dog
If you brought your dog along camping, they might need to be cleaned or brushed at the end of a day full of frolicking in the wild. Check their fur for any burrs and brush out any tangles to prevent it from matting. Clean their feet and make sure they don’t have any cuts or scratches from walking on rough terrain.
- Clean up your campsite
Tidy up the area around you, organize things in your tent, clean up after dinner, and get organized. This will help you relax, be able to find things later and be more productive the next day.
- Check the weather forecast
Knowing the weather is essential to a successful camping trip. Always check the weather forecast for that night to see if it’s going to be cold so you can wear extra layers. If rain is predicted, put the rainfly on your tent. Check the sunrise times for the next day so you know when to wake up and what the temperature will be if you’re setting out on an early morning hike.
Don’t forget about wind either because it can drastically change your plans, upset your tent, and make it hiking routes much longer than anticipated.