Rained Out? Bring the Campout Indoors

Camping indoors with the family can be just as exciting and creative as a trip to the woods.
Camping indoors with the family can be just as exciting and creative as a trip to the woods.
Tobi Corney/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Now that the weather's finally warming up, lots of families are pulling out their camping gear. Whether you're hitting the road for a far-off destination or staying in your own backyard, camping offers a myriad of fun activities for grown-ups and kids alike. It's a great opportunity to spend time together and let the everyday grind slip away.

But what if the big day comes and the weather won't cooperate? Rain may keep you from heading outdoors, but it doesn't have to keep you from camping. With a little creativity, you can bring the camp indoors and save your family from the perils of cabin fever. This article offers tips for fun, easy-to-do activities and recipes that will make your camp-in a hit.

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Hike over to the next page to find out what you'll need for an indoor campsite.

Setting Up Your Indoor "Campsite"

Pick a cozy spot in your house -- the living room, den or rec room -- to set up your campsite. Push the furniture away from the walls to make space. If you have a tent, and it's not too big for the room, set it up; otherwise, you can use other furniture to create a lean-to. Try using couch cushions or chairs to set up a frame, and then drape blankets over it. A rug or blanket can help pad the floor. Roll out your sleeping bags inside the tent, and you've got snug accommodations for camping.

Of course, there aren't any floor lamps in the woods, so turn off all the lights -- but you'll want to make sure there are plenty of flashlights to go around. A campfire is an ideal source of light in the wilderness, though it's not exactly practical for an indoor setting. If you have a fireplace or woodstove, you've got a head start. For those with a non-working fireplace, consider setting up candles in the hearth to create the same kind of effect. No fireplace? No problem. You can bring some of your other camping gear indoors to set the stage. Battery-operated camping lanterns are great for illuminating both indoor and outdoor campsites. Or, in a pinch, you can use a small, low-wattage lamp. Place the lantern or lamp in the center of your campsite, and gather around for a rainy-day camp fire.

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Now that you've got your indoor campsite squared away, see the next page for fun activity ideas.

Indoor Camping Activities

There are definitely advantages to camping indoors instead of out, aside from the lack of bugs -- you can break out the board games. Candy Land doesn't always travel well, but in your living room tent, it's right at home. An electricity-free camping experience is the perfect opportunity to have some old-fashioned fun with Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, Crazy Eights or whichever games your family loves best.

Another time-honored campout (or camp-in) tradition is telling stories around the fire. For older kids, ghost stories can be deliciously spooky. You can retell stories you've heard, but if you'd really like to send a chill down their spines, check the library for collections of local lore. Books like these are great entertainment, and they offer a little history lesson about your city, state or region.

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For the younger set, read aloud from story books. If you'd like to stick with the wilderness theme, consider tall tales such as "Pecos Bill" or "Paul Bunyan" by Steven Kellogg. Graeme Base's intricately illustrated stories contain riddles and mysteries that will delight any audience, no matter the age.

Feeling crafty? Try your hand at friendship bracelets. There are all sorts of patterns, ranging from easy to challenging; get started with help from a book like the "Klutz Guide to Friendship Bracelets." You'll have a fun keepsake of your rainy-day camping adventure. There are lots of other crafts that are perfect for the indoors, too. For example, making bird snacks is a fun way to use up odds and ends from the pantry, with the added bonus of helping out the local feathered population.

But it's not just the birds that need a snack -- read the next page for camp-in recipes.

Camp-in Dining

Half the fun of camping is the food, and plenty of it still works for the indoors. Ants on a log (celery sticks covered with peanut butter and topped with raisins), for example, will add an outdoorsy flair to your campsite. S'mores, a classic bonfire snack, are also doable in the microwave. Zap them for just a few seconds to avoid overheating the marshmallows. With careful adult supervision, you can also roast the marshmallows over a gas stove burner or working fireplace. But no matter how you cook s'mores, that magical combination of marshmallow, chocolate and graham cracker is the quintessential cookout treat.

Hobo pie and hobo stew are two variations of the same theme, one with bread and one without. If you have a pie iron (a camping device made of cast iron or aluminum similar to a waffle iron), line it with two pieces of bread, and then add cheese, fruit, meats and veggies, or anything else you can think of. Then, hold the pie iron over a gas burner or fireplace, and in a short while, you'll have a toasty treat. Hobo stew recipes are equally varied, which is part of their charm; each camper can personalize his or her stew to taste. Start with squares of heavy-duty tin foil, which you can top with uncooked ground beef, diced potatoes, veggies and seasonings as desired. Wrap up the foil into packets and place them in a baking dish or on a cookie sheet to catch the juices. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius) for about half an hour, or until cooked through [source: Cooks.com]. The results are savory and delicious.

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If your campers are thirsty, serve up drinks in appropriately outdoorsy containers like canteens and thermoses. It will add just the right ambience to your rainy-day camping adventure.

So, now you've got a campsite, things to do, snacks to munch -- what are you waiting for? Get camping! And be sure to see the next page for lots more information about rainy-day activities.

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Sources

  • Cooks.com. "Hobo Stew." (May 18, 2010) http://www.cooks.com/rec/doc/0,1648,147184-249195,00.html
  • GamesKidsPlay.net. "Car Games." (May 21, 2010)http://www.gameskidsplay.net/games/mental_games/car_games.htm
  • Kaboose.com "Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag." (May 19, 2010)http://crafts.kaboose.com/ice-cream-in-a-bag.html
  • Klutz Publishing. "Friendship Bracelets." (May 21, 2010)http://www.klutz.com/craft-book/Friendship-Bracelets?merch_location=jewelry%20Listing