The phrase “home is where the heart is” may be a bit cliché and worn-out, but there’s still something very true about it. Thoughts of home are different for everyone, but often there’s a common thread of somewhere comfortable and easy—the place where your tribe lives. Now swap out “home” for “camp” and you arrive at the spirit of National Camp at Home Day. Is it a little cheesy? Maybe. But can you really have too much cheese?
There is definitely something to be said for a beautiful campsite in the backcountry with stunning views or a basecamp in your favorite park as migratory songbirds dance in the trees. But more importantly, the people you share your campsite with make these adventures worthwhile. Camp doesn’t have to be a specific place. With the right group of people, that same adventurous spirit can live anywhere.
This year, National Camp at Home Day is all about getting ready for the next big camping trip. That said, if you’re the friend in the group that takes gear prep to the next level (You know who you are. The trip to Joshua Tree isn’t for another two months and you’ve already made the Costco run, uploaded your purchases to Splitwise, and packed and repacked until everything fit in your rucksack just so.) don’t forget to sit back and have a cocktail—you can’t beat Moscow mules and hot toddies around the campfire. To the laid back crew, the ones that stuff everything in a bag day-of and spend the trip in mismatched socks: Make sure your planners have fun and remember to pitch in when it’s time to do the dishes. Side note: If you’re not using Splitwise to track group expenses, you may want to check it out the next time your crew goes away for the weekend.
Step one: Campsite vibes.
If you have access to outdoor space, by all means use it. Fresh city air might not beat fresh mountain air, but with a little imagination your backyard can be a vintage Airstream campsite in Marfa or the perfect hideout along a river in Yellowstone. Just don’t let your imagination get the best of you. Those are squirrels—leave the bear spray inside. Camping in an apartment? Not to worry! Spread your tent out in the living room, “stake out” the rain fly with heavy books weighing down the corners, and stream your favorite virtual campfire. If setting up a tent just sounds boring, grab every blanket in sight and build the ultimate fort. No matter what you choose, do your best to recreate one of your favorite campsites. You can use house plants to bring the outdoor feels close to camp and play your favorite nature sounds from this awesome Spotify playlist (welcome to the jungle). Looking to do some stargazing? You’ll probably want a pack of these. No matter where you set up camp, get out on your favorite trail before the sun goes down and soak up some Vitamin D.
Step two: Let’s get cooking.
You may be tempted to order your favorite pizza for a night like this (a decision which we fully support), but consider testing out a new camping recipe you’ve been wanting to take on the trail. If you’re outside, work on building the perfect Dutch oven fire for a Basecamp lasagna or even a cobbler for dessert. Indoor camping can be a great time to test out a new Backcountry recipe you’ll be able to enjoy on a future trek into the mountains. One of our favorites is this simple, three-ingredient chili mac recipe:
- 1 Box of your favorite instant mac (you really can’t beat shells and cheese)
- 1 can pinto beans (or 1 cup dehydrated beans)/li>
- 1 package of chili seasoning
- Prepare the mac and cheese using the instructions on the box. With the pot on medium/low heat, add in the beans and cook until heated. Stir in the chili seasoning until fully incorporated, and enjoy! (Optional: Throw in some cured sausage you could easily take on a backpacking trip.)
Step three: Make it fun.
Even if the stars are faint in your backyard, we have the perfect way for you to get more acquainted with the night sky. SkyView is an augmented reality app that allows you to identify constellations simply by pointing your camera in any direction you want to learn more about. Next time you’re under a blanket of stars, you’ll be the expert at camp. Another great learning tool for the outdoors is Merlin Bird ID, an app created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. If you have any interest in learning about the wildlife in your neck of the woods, this birding app is a great way to get started. Just select and download your region, input the size and colors of a bird you spotted, and then search through a list of potential matches until you find your bird. Each bird profile comes with a snapshot of info, multiple photos, and a recording of the sounds they make for better identification. Now when you hear that familiar chirping in the woods, you’ll know exactly what you’re listening to.
If playing games around the campfire is more your speed, maybe Fish Bowl is right for your group. For rules on how to play, check out this clever website. It even has virtual scoring and cards so no paper is necessary—win for Mother Nature!
Now that we’ve mentioned campfires, maybe it’s time to discuss this quintessential part of National Camp at Home Day. If you’re in your backyard with access to a firepit, good on you. Fire up a roaring blaze (safely, of course) and slow roast your perfect mallow. Don’t get discouraged, living room campers—you just have to get a bit more creative. Try arranging throw pillows into a make-shit fire ring and use a lantern to set the mood. No matter what your campfire is made of, let this be the gathering place for eating meals, playing games, sharing stories of past adventures, and hopefully planning future ones as well. Invite friends to camp at home from afar and connect your campfires through the trendy new website you may have heard of called Zoom. Mouth still watering over the possibility of s’mores? Turn the oven on broil and roast your graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallows in the oven until everything is nice and gooey. Pro tip: Leave the s’more sandwich open to brown your marshmallow, then stack the remaining graham cracker on top before eating. Who said you need a campfire for the perfect s’more?
More than anything, we hope National Camp at Home Day inspires you to get outside with the people you love. We encourage you to use this time to prepare for the next trip. Check the bug net for holes, make sure your straps are in good shape, and by all means start laying out an itinerary for your next national park exploration. But most importantly, take in the moments. High on a mountain or under a ceiling fan, in person with friends or chatting on FaceTime from afar—the time is now for making memories you’ll always hold onto. So plan, definitely. Just do your best when the time comes to let go and allow the spirit of adventure take hold.