Checking off the Autumn Bucket List: Backyard Camping Adventure

backyard camping photo 1

This past weekend we decided to check another fun thing off of our autumn bucket list. On Sunday afternoon the weather was beautiful and the temperature had dropped just enough to be comfortable outside. Our backyard was beckoning us to get out and enjoy ourselves. We dragged out our tent and camping chairs out of the garage, swept the carport clear of fallen leaves, and started getting excited about our first backyard camping adventure as a family of four.

I absolutely love camping and it is one of my parenting dreams to pass that love onto our boys.

My childhood was rich with camping adventures. Car camping, canoe trip camping, rv camping, even tree house camping! Nothing quite compares to sleeping under the stars. Breathing the restorative crisp autumn air. Listening to the sounds of nature all around you. I was taught that “legit” camping means in a tent with a sleeping bag and a thin pad underneath you. But I admit, Paul’s insistence on an all-out inflatable sleeping mattress hasn’t been the worst thing I’ve agreed to. Despite my initial reservations. Call it “glamping” if you will, I’m totally fine with it!

We got the tent set up and blew up the air mattresses (we use this one when we travel for Noah and it fit perfectly inside the tent next to our large one). Paul had Noah running around collecting some sticks from the yard and together they started a “camp” fire. The boys played in the tent while we cooked dinner. They were climbing and jumping from one air mattress to the other, laughing hysterically.

They were having the time of their lives.

Memories of homemade GORP (good ole’ raisins and peanuts aka trail mix), sticky sweet s’mores, and hot dogs cooked on a stick over the campfire and served with mustard and baked beans makes my mouth water with camping nostalgia. I couldn’t wait for our boys to experience these things. Since they are so young, peanuts and hotdogs are high risk choking hazards – we made some modifications of our own. We sliced the hotdogs lengthwise twice so that no bite could be too large. And we just avoided peanuts in our trail mix.

backyard camping photo dinner

We all sat around the fire together and ate dinner in our camping chairs (boys’ chairs linked here – we love them). As night began to fall, we changed the boys into pjs and gave them each a special glowstick flashlight which absolutely delighted them. We were fully anticipating an overnight slumber party in the tent.

Then it was time to roast marshmallows!

Noah was definitely most excited about making s’mores. He has a sweet-tooth like his Mama. So when Paul promised it would be “better than the best cookie you’ve ever eaten” he could hardly wait. He was in seventh heaven. By the time he finished his, there was marshmallow all over his face, his hands, and even in his hair.

backyard camping s'mores

After dessert we all piled into the tent to read some of our favorite autumn books before bed. The boys are really loving Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson/illustrated by Axel Scheffler these days. Also worth noting that there is an Amazon Prime animated movie version of it that is really great. It’s erfect for this time of year! Reading with a flashlight cozied up in the tent is another of my favorite parts of camping. I tried to capture a few good photos but I’m still learning how to use my DSLR camera. And night photography is easier said than done. I’m happy with what I managed to get and I loved the opportunity to practice.

Why camping in the backyard, you might ask? If I’ve done so much camping in my lifetime, why not venture further away? I’ve been talking about taking the boys camping for what seems like forever now but it has been a little daunting to consider since we have no idea how they would do with it. bAs a family, we really value our sleep. And toddlers are well known for their unpredictability.

I have a vague memory of camping with my dad, stepmom, and my little sister at a campground when she was still a baby. I remember there was a LOT of crying. And I’m fairly certain that my dad spent most of the night driving around the campsite trying to get her to sleep. And trying to avoid disturbing the other people camping around us. She was not a “happy camper” on that trip! With that in mind, staying caclose to home (i.e. IN THE BACKYARD) sounded like a pretty convenient plan in case we needed to bail.

Fun yet non-committal.

backyard camping throwback

This summer I discovered an amazing camping resource. Let’s Go Camping: A Guide for Beginners is a digital camping passion project created by lifelong camper and nature lover, Nici Holt Cline of Dig This Chick. Though seemingly aimed for beginners, it has TONS to offer even seasoned campers. If you have ever wanted to try camping but feel overwhelmed or unsure where to start, this guide is for you. And if you have been dreaming of camping with your kids but have reservations for whatever reasons, this guide will truly inspire you. It really helped to give us the confidence we needed to get out there and check it off our bucket list (she even recommends trying backyard camping first!). #notsponsored

backyard camping toddler

In the end, we didn’t actually make it through the night. In fact, we didn’t make it past 9pm. After two hours of trying to wind down and get the boys to sleep, we threw in the towel. We’ll blame it on the novelty of the experience, the wild sugar rush, and the distractions we hadn’t accounted for in our planning. And though perhaps some would consider it a camping fail, we are not discouraged. By 9:15pm both kids were sound asleep in their beds and we had already agreed it was totally worth it. And worth trying again sooner than later. For the whole past week the boys have been begging to try backyard camping again.

If we are lucky, the beginning of a lifetime of passion for camping may have just been born. As autumn stretches on, I know that I will be eagerly anticipating our next adventure. Hopefully we all will be. Who knows, maybe we will actually make it through the night next time.


  • Shelby

    Eliza–your photographs are stunning! I am blown away! And for the record, I think it’s a complete WIN when you get to sleep in your bed at the end of the fun night! I’m glad to hear your boys want to do it again!!

    • elizabobryshev

      Thank you so much Shelby! You are always so encouraging and kind. It means so much. And you’re right – there IS definitely an element of winning when you get to sleep in your own bed haha! That’s so true!

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