Best Board Games For Your Next Camping Trip
Looking up what to pack for your next camping trip? Thinking about what to bring for your camping digital detox?
With Labor Day coming up and plenty of comfortable weekends left in the year, there are plenty of opportunities left to get out of the house and spend some time in nature.
From the very manageable commute to your backyard to a chart-your-own-course hike into the wilderness, there’s no wrong way to think about camping. It’s a chance to break out your tent, your sleeping bags, your cooking set, and the rest of your favorite gear.
The only question that remains is what board game will you bring on the trip?
After all, one of the joys of camping is getting to gather around with friends and family without the distractions of our devices or the weekend commitments that have us sprinting around all over town.
It’s one of the few times that we get some real down time. Those enjoyable moments after the hot dog eating competition in the afternoon or before the s’mores at sunset are perfect times to break out a board game.
Still, it’s not as easy as tossing a board game into your bag and hitting the trails. If you’re driving up to the campsite, you might have room for a full-sized game, but if you’re doing a multi-day trek, that backspace is more of a premium.
To help guide your board game camping decisions, we’ve collected some of the best camping board games below in three categories:
- Family Friendly
In addition to these three groupings, we should mention there are other considerations for a camping board game that are more individual.
Ask yourself before you’re going how important a water-proof game might be (especially if the forecast says rain or you’ll be visiting the nearby lake regularly), how windy you expect it to be, and how much you actually plan on playing (a five-hour campaign could be a fun camping campaign for the right group of friends, so if you’ve been meaning to get the gang together for a game night, why not build it into a weekend trip?).
From there, all that’s left is to pick out your favorite game below!
Best Portable Board Games For Camping
This collection of easy-to-carry board games for camping will have some well-known favorites in some all-new sizes, along with some fresh faces.
While not quite a game in itself (it could be set for checkers or chess), we had to start this list off with a camping board game innovation. Made for the serious game enthusiast who won’t be told to play on the forest floor, this folding game board set (with cup holders!) is perfect if you know your table access will be limited and you still want to play with comfort.
Add some style to your campsite with this handsome Pendleton Backgammon Set. Rolling up just like a Pendleton blanket, this game is easy to slip right into your backpacks and duffle bags. With pieces made from leather, wood, and cloth, you’ve also got a high-quality set that’ll last through plenty of outdoor adventures.
As day turns to night, as dusk fades away and the fire starts up, what could be better than a mystery game about Jack the Ripper. In this fun-sized version, the board game is replaced with more flexible playing cards for an easy campsite setup.
With its clever turn on the hide-and-seek gameplay, this game is suitable for kids that are 9 and up (though it’s up to you whether you explain in-depth just who Jack the Ripper was).
If you’re escaping to the woods for a chance to slow down, why not choose a board game that encourages a more thoughtful gameplay, too? Chess is a surprisingly good camping board game. The only part that tends to get in the way of the camping?
The actual board. That’s why if you’re following this recommendation, you should look to add a more mobile chess set to your board game rotation.
Follow the link above to see four classy and creative travel chess sets that are built to last, or try here for some smaller magnetic chess sets.
Not every campsite is set up the same, so when you don’t know what kind of surface you’ll be playing on it helps to have a game that can adapt.
With Hive, you’ll have a strategic two-player (or two teams of players) game that can be played on any flat surface. Based on the full-size version of the same name, Hive Pocket is played with twenty-two pieces, each resembling creatures of some sort. The object: surround your opponent’s queen to win the game.
Best Family Friendly Board Games For Camping
While we’re still straying away from the full-sized behemoth board games, these games are intended for all-ages, with simpler rules, not too many tiny pieces, and the flexibility to keep working even if a token or two gets lost in the woods.
As long as you can find a relatively flat surface - a table, the ground, a tree trunk - you can play Jenga, one of the most entertaining camping games for families. With rules that take about 15 seconds to learn and game pieces that can stand up to a little dirt and dust, wind and rain, Jenga’s an excellent choice. Plus, if you happen to lose a piece or two after a particularly seismic collapse, the game continues on with a Jenga tower that’s just a few pieces shorter.
Another miniature version of a classic board game, Battleship Grab and Go makes some nice improvements that elevate it to great camping board game status. For starters, the individual game units make it easier to arrange your battle from camping chairs, tents, and more - no tables necessary.
Then the convenient folding shape makes it possible to pause the game mid-battle (when the urge to swim hits, who are we to say no?), tuck the game away, and come back to just where you were when you resume later on.
While the wilderness may not be the most ideal spot for sushi (unless you’re preparing your own with some of your fresh-caught fish), that shouldn’t stop you from embracing Sushi Go. This fast-paced, family-friendly card game is card-based and easy to play, so there’s no long set-up times or clean-ups (or leftover soy sauce).
This camping-themed edition of Spot It is a great way to make your backyard camping trips just like the real thing. This themed version plays like the original Spot It game that has players identifying the two symbols in common between any two cards. With 55 cards, you and your family will have fun frantically flipping through and searching for the match.
In our ever-more distracted home lives, there isn’t often time to sit down with a deck of cards to play classics like Slap Jack, Hearts, or Old Maid. If you’ve been looking for an opportunity to teach your kids how to do more than play Go Fish and War, this could be the right moment. You could even start to teach them games like Poker - using your s’mores ingredients as chips. I’ll see you with your marshmallow and raise you a chocolate square!
Best Compact Board Games For Camping
The idea guiding our guide to compact board games for camping? Could we reasonably squeeze this game into a mostly full pack. For hiking aficionados, space is a real premium and you may have every ounce accounted for. We wanted to give you a few go-to board game options that wouldn’t weigh you down.
Probably as famous for the banana-shaped container as the game itself, Bananagrams is an ideal compact board game for camping because its lumpy size and shape can fit into the nooks and crannies of your packed pack.
From there, you’re off to the word races to form competing grids of words. It’s fast-paced fun - without the need for boards, paper, or pencils.
Not necessarily the most family-friendly card game you could play, Cards Against Humanity is otherwise a must for your next camping trip. Billed as a party game for horrible people, it’s the ideal game to play in the middle of nowhere since no one will be able to hear those offensively creative ideas or your twisted laughter. And since it’s just a deck of cards (or two, if you get some expansion packs), you can tuck it right into your rolled-up underwear.
This 31-piece set is a fun test of hand-eye coordination that’ll distract you from the tired thighs and burning calves of your day trekking through the forest. This imaginative game is built around balance as you stack and connect the rods even higher. With its bright colors, you’ll be easily able to find any pieces that fall, and its tube container is great for sliding into an already-stuffed bag.
Where better to play a National Park-themed game than wandering around the national parks? Get into the camping spirit with this celebration of America’s national treasures with this version of YAHTZEE that’s also surprisingly compact. If you’ve got room for an extra mug, you’ve got room for this camping game as all of the pieces fit right inside.
In an ode to my grandfather who loved himself some cribbage and some camping, I had to include this compact, easily packed version of cribbage. Deceptively easy to learn and sneaky to master, cribbage is a strategic game that’ll have you plotting and planning around the campfire.