Playing games is a time-honored part of any good camping experience. Whether you’re a kid or an adult, everyone can enjoy some good-humored fun with some camp games. While everyone has their own favorite games that they love to play in camp, sometimes it’s nice to bring a new game into the mix to keep things lively and fun.
Thus, we’ve put together this list of the best camping games to provide you with inspiration for your next outdoor adventure. Here’s our list of the thirteen best camping games that anyone can enjoy!
1. Two truths and a lie
This game is an excellent icebreaker for new groups that are just getting to know each other, especially on the first night of a trip. The game itself is quite simple, which makes it a good option for campers of all ages, though it’s more fun with a medium-sized group of 8-15 people.
To play, have everyone in the group sit in a circle and think of two true facts and one believable lie about themselves. Once everyone has thought of their two truths and a lie, each person will take turns going around the circle telling everyone their three tidbits of information. The group’s job is to try to figure out which of the three statements are true and which one is a lie.
Since the game is about getting to know each other, it’s helpful if the two truths are about parts of a person’s life that are important enough to be worth sharing. It’s also beneficial if the lie is exciting and relevant enough to be mistaken for a truth, just to add a bit of difficulty to the game!
2. Light tag
If you thought tag was fun, wait until you play light tag. This spin-off of the classic game of tag can be played after dark. Once the sun sets, get your headlamps out and get ready for some fun!
Whoever is “it” will start the game by having their headlamp on. The tagger will then “tag” people by using their light, instead of their hands. Whenever someone gets tagged, they’re out and the game continues until everyone has been caught.
Games such as light tag that are played in the dark are incredibly fun, but it’s important to keep a few risk management thoughts in mind before you get started. First and foremost, any game played in the dark has a higher risk for injury, simply because it’s more difficult to see obstacles in your path.
One way to mitigate this risk is to scout out an area for your nighttime games before it gets dark. During this time, you can move small branches and small rocks to clear a space for the fun. You can also make rules limiting the speed of all players to a brisk walk as running increases the risk for injury.
3. Camp Olympics
This is a great game to play toward the end of a long trip, especially if outdoor skills development is part of a pre-set curriculum that you’re supposed to teach on an organized expedition. It can also be fun for families that want to teach their kids how to be skilled outdoor enthusiasts.
Camp Olympics is the outdoor recreationalist’s version of the Olympic Games. The organizer of the “Olympics” will decide upon a handful of different events for participants to compete in. These events could include tent pitching, stove set-up/water boiling, campfire making, and other essential outdoor skills.
Participants can compete in groups or as solo players, depending on their skill level and on the size of the overall group. The Olympics can be organized in a number of ways, but often it works best to have everyone start together and compete for the best overall time.
The games end when all groups have completed all of their tasks. Each group’s finishing time is recorded in a notebook, and each team is given time bonuses or penalties based on the quality of their tent-pitching, fire starting, or other such skills. The winner is the group or individual with the quickest overall time.
4. Naturalist’s Bingo
This game requires a bit of pre-planning before the trip even starts. To play naturalist’s bingo, the game organizer (usually the trip leader) will create a 5×5 “bingo scorecard” filled with names of different animals, plants, rocks, or other essential features of the landscape that your group will travel through.
For example, if a group was going backpacking in the Wind River Range of Wyoming for a week, this bingo scorecard could be filled with objects such as lodgepole pine, whitebark pine, black bear, marmot, lupine, etc. Throughout the trip, each player should be attentive to their surroundings and try to identify as many of the objects as possible and cross them out on their own personal scorecard.
Depending on how long your trip is, the game can end in two different ways: either when someone gets a “bingo” (five boxes in a row) or when someone crosses out all of the boxes. The winner, or winners of the game, usually win some sort of prize, such as a post-trip ice cream treat.
This activity goes by many different names and is a spin-off of the popular game of charades. Fishbowl works best in a group of at least six people, but it starts to become a bit unwieldy with more than 16 players.
To play, each person will get three small strips of paper to write down the name of a famous person – either real or fictional – or of someone else that everyone in the group would know. Especially in groups of diverse backgrounds and ages, it’s essential to make sure that participants only write down the names of very famous and well-known people or someone else that the whole group will know, or the game will be quite challenging to play.
After writing down the names of three different people, all of the papers are put into a bowl or a hat. The group is split up into two smaller groups (for the purposes of this explanation, we will call them groups A and B) that will compete against each other. To play the game, one person from group A will set a timer (usually for one minute) while one person in group B – the presenter – will pull out names from the hat.
The presenter will try to describe the person whose name they’ve pulled out of the hat to the others in their group, who will try to guess the name written down on the paper. Any words, except for the actual name of the person, can be used in the description. The presenter will continue to describe the name written on the paper until their group guesses it correctly. The presenter will continue this process of pulling names out of the hat until their time runs out.
At this point, a presenter from group A will follow the same procedure. The game continues until all of the names have been guessed. Then, the two groups will count up the number of names that they guessed correctly and note this score down on a sheet of paper.
From here, the game continues onto a number of different rounds. In round number two, only one word can be used to describe the name on the paper. In round three, only gestures (no words) can be used to act out the name on the paper. While this might sound challenging, the groups will start to learn the names that are written on the papers, so guessing becomes easier than you might think!
At the end of the game, each group’s correct guesses from each round will be added up, and the group with the largest number of correct guesses will be declared the winner!
6. The Name Game
This is a fun game to play in small groups. It can also be played while hiking, canoeing, or traveling, so it’s a great way to pass the time.
To play the name game, one person thinks of the name of a famous person, or the name of a person that everyone in the group would know. The player in line will say the name of a person whose first name starts with the first letter of the last name of the previously played name. For example, if the first player says, “Donald Trump,” the next player could say, “Theresa May,” and the next player could say, “Michelle Obama.”
The only time the order of the game changes is if someone says a name of a person with the same starting letter for both their first and last names, such as “Ronald Regan.” When such a name is played the order of players reverses, so that the last player to speak now has to immediately think of another name.
The game continues until a player cannot think of a name, at which point, they’re out. The winner of the game is the last person standing, but the game usually goes on for quite a while!
7. Zap, Zap, Zing!
This is a game that also goes by many names, such as “whop, whop, whoop,” or some other variation of nonsense words. To play, the group will first gather around in a circle and place both of their hands together with flat palms.
The first player will start by pointing their hands toward another person in the circle. That person will then quickly yell “zing!” and squat down to the ground and duck to avoid the people on either side of them. The people on either side of the chosen person will turn toward each other as quickly as they can and point to each other with their hands and yell “zap!”
If the chosen person fails to squat down fast enough, before they get “zapped,” then they’re out. If either of the “zappers” fails to turn around or fail to zap each other at the same time, then they’re out, too.
The game continues until only one person is left standing. This is a fun game to play when the group simply needs a diversion from a tough day, to let off some steam, or to bond with each other in a playful way. Adults and kids love this game and groups have been known to play for hours!
This game is a variation on hide and seek that starts by nominating someone to be in the seeker. This person will stand in the middle of camp, or a semi-open space, close their eyes and count to 20. While they count, the rest of the group will try to hide somewhere where the seeker can’t see them.
When the seeker counts to 20, they will open their eyes and scan the area to pick out as many people as they can possibly see. Anyone that the seeker can visually identify and call out by name is out. Once the seeker can’t find anyone else to call out, they will close their eyes and count to 20 yet again.
This time, as the seeker counts, anyone still in hiding will get up and move to another hiding spot that’s closer to the seeker. Once the seeker counts to 20, they will repeat the process of trying to call out anyone they can see.
The goal of the game, as a hider, is to get as close as possible to the seeker so that they can be the first person to tag the seeker as they count without being caught. For the seeker, the goal is to catch all of the hiders before they get a chance to tag them.
For this game, it’s important to make sure that you have a somewhat clear area to play in. Since people will be running to tag the seeker, you want to minimize the risk of tripping or collisions as much as possible.
9. Once Upon a Time
This is a game of creativity for those evenings around a campfire. To play, one person will start by writing a single sentence down at the top of a sheet of paper. This sentence will be the start of a story, so it’s important to make it a good one!
After the first person writes down a sentence, they will pass the paper on to the next person, who will continue the story with another sentence before passing it on to the next person in the circle. The game continues until everyone has had a chance to write a sentence or two down and the story is ready to be told.
Once the story is complete, a single person can be nominated to read it out loud, or the entire group can take turns reading it one sentence at a time. Be prepared for the group to start roaring with laughter as they enjoy their creative masterpiece by the fire!
This game can be played by medium-large sized groups. To play, everyone will get in a circle and stand about half an arm’s length apart. On the count of three, everyone will jump into a “fighting stance” with open hands (i.e., no fists) and the game will begin.
One person will be chosen to start the “battle.” To do so, they will make one motion to try to tag the person to their right on the arm or leg. As this move is made, the person to the right will make one move to avoid this “attack.” The game continues as the person who was just “attacked” makes an “attacking” move on the person to their right.
The key here is that after you make your move to either attack or defend yourself, you must stay in the position you land in without moving. Any other movements will disqualify you from the game. Once someone gets hit on the arm or the leg, they are out of the game.
You can make this game more challenging by allowing people to “attack” anybody around them, whether they be to their right or left. Doing so means that everyone will have to be on their toes at all times to be able to defend themselves.
11. Red Light, Green Light, 1…2…3…
To play Red Light, Green Light, you’ll need a large, open, preferably grassy space. One person -the caller – will stand at the far end of the space while the rest of the group lines up on the other side.
The caller will turn and face away from the rest of the group and say out loud, “Red light, green light, 1, 2, 3.” As soon as the caller starts talking, the rest of the group should run toward the caller as fast as they can. Before the caller turns back around, however, everyone in the group needs to be absolutely still. Anyone caught moving by the time the caller turns back around to face the group is out of the game.
The goal of the game is to be the first person in the group to tag the caller. The person who tags the caller first gets to be the caller in the next round of the game.
Since this game involves running, it’s important to clear the playing space of sticks and debris before you start playing, to minimize the risk of tripping and injury to players! We also don’t recommend that you play this game at night, unless everyone in the group has a headlamp and you’ve pre-cleared the playing area of debris before you start.
12. Water Relay
This is a fun game to play on a hot day by a lake or an easy-to-access river. To start, you’ll want to break the group up into teams of 4-6 players. Each player will have a water bottle (preferably a wide-mouthed bottle like a Nalgene) in their hands, and they will organize themselves into a straight line.
The first person in the line will have a full water bottle, and there will be an empty water bottle placed right in front of them. On the count of three, all of the teams will start the game. The game begins when the person in the front of the line dumps the water out over their head as the person behind them tries to catch as much of it as they can. The person who just caught the water will then try to dump the water out of their head as the person behind them attempts to catch it.
The game continues until the last person in line has caught water in their cup. The last person in line will then run to the front of the line to dump whatever water they have in their bottle into the empty water bottle at the front of the line. Then, the first person in line will run over to the lake or river to refill their bottle and run back to their group so they can continue the game.
This game ends once one of the groups has completely filled the water bottle at the front of their line, at which point, they become the winners of the competition. This game is best played on a hot summer day when access to water is plentiful. It can be a good treat for kids, especially for those who can’t swim or if you’re working with a school or an organization that doesn’t allow swimming on their backcountry trips!
13. Duck, Duck, Goose
An oldie but a goodie. Duck, duck, goose is a game that many of us played as kids. The good news is that it’s just as fun as adults! Whether you’re with a group of kids or adults, you’ll want to get everyone seated in a circle formation.
One person will stay standing and walk around the group, patting everyone on the head. As they pat each person on the head, they’ll say “duck,” continuing around the circle until they decide to say “goose” and tap an unsuspecting person on the head before taking off in a sprint.
The “goose” then has to quickly get up and chase the person who tapped them on the head around the circle. If the person who tapped the goose on the head beats the goose back to their seat without getting tagged, then the “goose” now has to go around and tap each person on the head.
If the goose catches the person who tapped them before they make it around the circle, then the goose gets to return to their seat, and the tapper continues on with their job. This is a classic game that’s great for getting people energized and warmed up on a cold fall morning in camp.
Camping games are a great way to build rapport between group members, to break the ice, or to simply have fun. There are hundreds of different camp games out there, each with dozens of different variations.
Thus, what’s important isn’t that you stick to the “rules” of the game, but that you find games that you can modify and make your own, so they best meet the needs of your group. At the end of the day, camp games are all about having fun. Happy trails!