We all know that some of the best Girl Scout memories are created during troop camping trips as girls experience life away from technology and surround by nature! Not only is camping a great opportunity to bond as a troop, it’s also a fun way for girls to safely try new things, explore a sense of freedom, and fall in love with the great outdoors.

For girls and troops that are new to camping and aren’t yet ready to take on the wilderness, a backyard campout is an ideal way to blend the familiar elements of a slumber party with the adventure of a camping trip! This spring, my troop planned a backyard campout as a way to introduce our young troop to the world of camping. Since most of my girls are Daisies and first-year Brownies, we used this trip as a chance to show the troop what camping is all about as they had one of their first experiences with the outdoors.

If you’re looking to plan an awesome backyard campout for your troop, here are my top 5 tips to help set you up for success:

You Can Never Have Enough Tents

I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t own enough tents to accommodate 20-30 girls at once! So, in the weeks leading up to our trip, I worked closely with my troop parents to gather enough tents for everyone to comfortably sleep 4-5 girls per tent. If your girls are on the older side, you may find that you’ll want to arrange them in smaller groups but, for my troop, I’ve found that it’s important for each girl to have plenty of friends by her side when it comes time to hit the hay.

To make the experience feel a little more comfortable for our new campers, each tent group was able to name their tent and decorate a sign to hang out front. It may seem small, but I think this is an important step for a first campout—it allows girls to feel a sense of ownership over their tent and helps to create a safe space for them to have a positive association with sleeping outdoors. We also encouraged our girls to bring a “lovie” (AKA stuffed animal) to join them on our backyard adventure so that they had a familiar face nearby to help them fall asleep.

Plan for Blended Meals

Since this backyard campout was our troop’s first time doing anything camping-related, we decided to serve blended meals, which involves making typical camping foods over the fire in addition to having part of the meal pre-made and ready to go. During this overnight trip, our girls dished up campfire nachos and dutch oven mac and cheese to enjoy with a pizza for dinner.

When cooking with your troop, it’s important to make sure that each step of your meal is completed safely! To help us work safely and efficiently as a group, we divided the girls into patrols to tackle the meal prep, cooking, clean up, and evening entertainment (an important element to camping with younger girls!). Making simple campfire meals during a backyard campout is a prime time for girls to experiment with the outdoor cooking process, learn to work together in teams, as well as practice cleaning and maintaining a campsite.

Psst—have a troop full of picky eaters? Do your best to balance both new and familiar dishes as you encourage your girls to enjoy their meal and give everything a try!

Bring Games and Make It Fun

Since you won’t have to pack and transport everything to a distant campsite (which is super convenient for you and all of your busy troop parents!), your backyard campout is a wonderful time to keep the activities simple. Playing board games on a blanket is a quick and easy option but, if you’d like to mix it up, try creating some oversized board games for them to play.

At our campout, we chose to set out a few different games and craft stations so that girls wouldn’t get bored as we transitioned between each formal activity. If you have older girls, they may not need as much planned entertainment, but it’s never a bad idea to have something fun for them to do! To give you a bit of inspiration, some of my favorite backyard campout activities include glow-in-the-dark dance parties, going on a scavenger hunt, or exploring the neighborhood with a night hike.

Every Campout Needs a Campfire

One thing a camping trip wouldn’t be complete without? A warm, crackling campfire! Working with a backyard fire pit is an ideal way to begin teaching your girls the basics of campfire safety. For some fun teaching activities, gather your tinder, kindling, and fuel and have your girls try their hand at building different types of fires or work one-on-one to show them how to strike a match.

If your girls aren’t ready to work with fire themselves, don’t completely write off your campfire dreams just yet… Consider building some edible fires with your girls before you light up the fire pit for the evening. Your troop will love sitting around the fire as they sing camp songs and roast gooey s’mores under the stars—it’s a Girl Scout right of passage!

Be Prepared for Lights Out

Depending on the age of your girls, the trickiest part of the evening could be getting your girls to actually sleep in their tents at the end of the night. To help ease them into it, set aside some time to relax together after the girls go through their nighttime routine. Once the PJs are on and the teeth are brushed, have the girls get into their tents and participate in some kind of planned activity. At our campout, we read the girls a silly bedtime story to help them focus on happy thoughts and keep the mood light as they drifted off to dream land. After finishing the story, we gave each girl a glow stick to use as a night light and tucked her in with her choice of a hug, handshake, or high-five.

Whether you’ve got a troop full of first time campers, want an inexpensive way for your troop to practice their outdoor skills, or are just looking for a low-key way for your troop to spend the night together, a backyard campout is definitely the way to go! The most important thing to remember as you get ready to host an unforgettable evening? Always refer back to Volunteer Essentials as you plan your trip, have tons of fun, and grab your girls a fun patch to commemorate the big event!

Richel NewborgRichel Newborg—Richel is a troop leader to Troop 2740 located in Fort Worth, Texas (although she was born and raised in California). Her Mom and Grandmother were also Girl Scout Leaders. Her favorite memory so far as a troop leader was packing friends, family, and excited girls into her living room (almost 50 people) when their bridging/rededication ceremony was rained out. It was crowded but an awesome celebration of Girl Scouting and they even managed to have a real bridge!

The Trailhead