Summer is here, and while spending time outdoors might look a little different, there’s still adventure to be had. All you have to do? Head into your own backyard.
Backyard camping may not be as extreme as the alternative, but there’s solace in the easiness of it. No permits, no red tape, no forgetting any supplies. In fact, when it comes to supplies, most anything goes: Pillows and comforters from inside are fair game, and the menu proposes to be better than whatever you might make off the beaten path.
Start with a basic car-camping setup, then adjust as you like. Need ideas? We’ve listed some of our favorite summer camping equipment below—each as perfect for the backyard as the backcountry.
The MSR Habitude 6 is luxurious enough for backyard and car camping (with a 73-inch peak height) but surprisingly lightweight and compact. That means, if you split up the pieces, you could consider taking it on short family backpacking trips, too. Its rugged, 68-denier polyester fabric stands up to kids and dog paws, while the freestanding cross-pole design should protect the whole crew in stormy weather. It’s also available in a 4-person version. $599.95
Bring the comfort of home inside your tent with a luxurious, self-inflating double pad like the Exped MegaMat Duo. The plush air mattress is nearly 4 inches thick, and its unique design means you’ll be sleeping flat, even if your partner weighs a lot less (or more). Comfort like this isn’t compact (the medium size packs down to 22 by 11 inches), but if you’re only hauling it from a closet to the yard, such comfort is totally worth it. Starting at $299
This quilt from REI Co-op is stuffed with synthetic insulation like a sleeping bag, but it’s far more versatile than one. You can cozy under it like a comforter, or you can use it as a picnic blanket (it’s made of a ripstop nylon that’s coated with a durable water repellent). It could also become a primary component to the best tent fort ever. Bonus: It’s machine washable. Starting at $79.95
Adventure, even in the backyard, begins with packing a pack. Let your little one choose what comes along inside the Workload Mini from REI Co-op, or start them with the Ten Essentials: compass, headlamp, sunblock, first-aid kit, multi-tool (or not), matches (or not), snacks, water and a layer. (The tenth essential is the tent.) $49.95
Stable, easy to set up and comfortable—the trifecta when it comes to camping chairs, which you get with this two-seater from Kelty. Folded up, the bundle is about the size of a toddler, but it quickly accordions out into a spacious loveseat, great for chilling by the campfire or watching backyard Spikeball. $99.95
Get a plate, bowl, cup and super-spork in this kit from UCO. The bundle is portable for away-from-home adventures, but plastic is a good idea for outside eating, even if it’s steps from the kitchen. The two-piece spork includes a spoon, fork and knife and can be reconfigured to create an extra-long utensil. Everything has its place (the edge of the spoon matches the curve in the bowl—genius!), and the price is right. $24.95
New this spring, the redesigned Roadie hard cooler easily fits taller items (like a bottle of wine) and has a soft carry strap. The latching system is more sophisticated, too, and YETI claims it has 30 percent more insulating power than previous models. Fill it with fresh food and bevvies for convenient treats and midnight snacks, then use it throughout the summer for road tripping, tailgating and general adventuring. $199.98
Save glass for inside the house. This cup from Hydro Flask is durable and guaranteed to keep cold drinks cold (or hot drinks hot). It has a clever soft boot that provides traction and coaster-like protection on surfaces and can be removed and placed over the top of the cup to turn it into a can koozie. $24.95
This small, powerful battery from Goal Zero fits neatly into pockets of jeans, purses and tents, conveniently keeping all of your devices charged when you don’t have access to a wall charger. Juice it inside (or via solar), then keep it handy for fast power. $199.95
Brighten up your backyard with these rechargeable string lights from MPOWERD. The 18-foot-long string has 20 LEDs and a solar base unit that can power the lights (or even your smartphone) via USB. $44.95
If you want to brew your morning coffee in the backyard, too, try this portable French press from Stanley. The vacuum-insulated vessel (including the lid) has a built-in stainless-steel plunger and will keep the morning joe hot even for late sleepers. $65
Interested in more staff picks and kits? Find more collections here.