How to: backyard camping edition

Department of Conservation —  01/05/2020

One way to relieve the bubble tension is to let nature in and go camping in your backyard. Research shows that nature boosts our immune system and reduces stress and anxiety.

Here’s a how to guide with fun for the whole bubble.

Ruth McKie, DOC Digital Analyst & keen tramper

I don’t know about you, but I think my camping gear is feeling a bit neglected in the garage. As a keen tramper and outdoors enthusiast, I’ve been looking for creative ways to still enjoy the great outdoors but safely at home.

I’ve been especially eager to test out my recent new tent purchase. So today I’m sharing about my latest ‘big’ adventure. Backyard camping!

1) Find a suitable location

Firstly, you need to find a piece of flat ground. Not everyone has big grassy lawns, so other flat surfaces that might be suitable include your garage, lounge, driveway, patio, deck or balcony.

2) Dig out and dust off the camping gear

This is the fun bit. Playing hide and seek with the tent pegs or air pump! I don’t know about you, but there’s been many an awkward ‘hope for no wild wind’ occasion being a peg or two short on a trip. Like socks in the wash, pegs never seem to stay together.

If you aren’t camping on grass then finding the tent pegs thankfully won’t be crucial. Instead, I recommend delegating the job to another bubble member to find either some rocks, books or other heavy items to be ‘makeshift’ pegs.

My lawn is fake grass sadly, so here’s my makeshift pegs – bricks! 📷: Ruth McKie

If you are camping on a hard surface, then a good air bed, mattress or stretcher is a must to make your night much more pleasant!

The great thing about camping at home is that you can’t forget your pillow. I don’t know about you, but my pillow often slips my mind when heading away on a camping trip.

But if you are wanting a more authentic tramping feel, you could skip the pillow and instead fold up some smelly clothes to use as a pillow, making it feel like you’re truly in the wilderness.

Don’t forget the sleeping bag. These are often hiding in the dark corners of the house, so finding them might be another adventurous job to delegate out to the wider bubble.

Last but not least, you need a tent.

I recommend giving it a good shake out. If your tent is like mine, then there’s a nice collection of various leaves, twigs and sand from past trips. Now’s the perfect time to multitask and do a little spring clean.

Here’s my camping gear ready to go. 📷: Ruth McKie

3) Set up camp

Now you have all the gear, it’s time to set up camp for the night.

Firstly, I had to remember how to put up my tent but thankfully it came flooding back to me and no one’s eye was taken out by a wayward tent pole!

Be sure to put those tent pegs in firmly or heavy items on so the tent doesn’t float off over the neighbour’s fence. Since your backyard is most likely not a wild campsite deep in the mountains with howling wind, you can probably skip the guy ropes. BUT, guy ropes do add that authentic camping feel, a campsite isn’t complete without someone tripping over them in the dark of course!

Time to huff and puff and blow up those air beds or simply place your mattress or stretcher in the tent. Then fluff up that sleeping bag and pillow. Oh, and can’t forget the torch to scare off intruders (in this case, probably just the neighbour’s cat).

Ta da! Finished campsite. 📷: Ruth McKie
Inside of tent complete with sleeping bag, pillow, extra blanket, air mattress and torch. 📷: Ruth McKie

Almost there! Time to put the billy on for a cup of tea. Something that is a must when I’m out camping is a good pot of tea bubbling away.

You could also cook dinner on the camping cooker or put on the BBQ to add to the outdoor camping feel. There’s plenty of camping food options to make it feel like your truly in the bush. I’ve dug up an old Backcountry Cuisine meal that’s been sitting in my garage for who knows how long – yummy yummy!

Setting up my cooker to boil some water for a cup of tea and Backcountry Cuisine for dinner, yum! 📷: Ruth McKie

4) Adding camping effects & entertainment

Now the camping trip isn’t complete without a cute pic for the gram of course, to make everyone else jealous of your bubble’s weekend plans. Or a nice photo to send to family in their bubbles. Here’s some inspiration sent in by one of our Ops Managers on his recent backyard camping trip:

Holly backyard camping. 📷: Anneke Mace

To add to the ambience of the evening, you could rummage around the house for some fairy lights (maybe those Christmas lights in the attic?) lanterns or even pull out the guitar for some singalong fun.

You could Zoom in some friends and have a sing-along together. That will be sure to scare off those late-night intruders (aka the neighbour’s cat)!

Other backyard camping entertainment options is to do some map reading practice, maybe have a bubble competition. Who can find the most place names beginning with S? Or use the key on the map to see how many items you can find. In my bubble, we got out the compass to get in a bit of navigating practice too.

You could pass round the chocolate and tell scary stories or make plans for where your next big camping trip will be once New Zealand is allowed to travel again.

If it’s a clear night, finish with some stargazing. There’s a few apps and websites available that can tell you what stars you’re seeing in the sky.

5) Have fun, stay safe

The camping trip doesn’t end when you go to bed of course, enjoy waking up to the birds chirping and sun streaming in, you could even get up to watch the sunrise over breakfast.

Remember to stay safe, be sure the cooker/BBQ and lights are all safely turned off before heading to bed too.


If your tent happens to collapse in the middle of the night, I recommend dragging your bed out of the tent and sleeping under the stars but if it starts to rain, no one’s judging if you sneak back inside to your warm, dry bed. Now that’s a perk of camping in your back yard!

If you wake up to an intruder (aka the neighbour’s cat) in your tent or even worse in your sleeping bag, I recommend keeping a water bottle close by to give them a good squirt or pull out your best bark, roar, or hiss and the intruder should scamper away. However, if it’s a mouse, then good luck! I’d be running for the house.

During these unprecedented times, choosing to let nature into our lives can improve our health and wellbeing. If a backyard camping trip isn’t appealing, then there are still plenty of other ideas on ways to let nature be part of your day – have a look at this page on our website.

Happy camping everyone!

2 responses to How to: backyard camping edition

    Stefan Hohmann 23/06/2020 at 7:18 am

    I’m almost 60 and still do overnights in my garden during summer. It’s a special experience every time.


    As a child, during summer, some of my sisters and I, used to put entire beds, with sheets and blankets, in our backyard and sleep under the stars on some weekend nights or during the school holidays. No tent required. It was like being in bed in your bedroom, but outside. It gave me an appreciation of astronomy and was fun, it also caused me to have no fear of the dark or night. Sometimes it would get very cold around 4am or so, and we’d make our way inside. Other times, you’d wake up to the sunrise at dawn or sleep in till 7 or 8am. As an adult, I still enjoy sitting outside after dark and staring at the stars.