Roughin' it Turn your backyard into a cozy campsite; Just for kids


Bored with your bedtime routine? You know the drill: You go to sleep in the same room, same bed and same PJs at the same time night after night.

Now that it's warm outside, shake up the routine and go backyard camping all alone (we mean no parents; buds are a must). We recently had a few thrills, a few chills and best of all, lots of frills on our own backyard campout. Seven kids slept in the backyard on a balmy June night. Here's the low-down:

The thrills: The fresh air was excellent, the extra company was outstanding and it was a blast to tell scary stories, stay up late and act silly.

The chills: One of us was spooked by the stories. It also was a lot darker and quieter outside than we expected, which was eerie. And it got nippy in the middle of the night, though it had been in the 90s all day.

The frills: You're camping, but you're really home. That means no scrounging for food, the john or extra blankets. Basically, everything you need is nearby, which is a relief when you're freezing, have to pee in the middle of the night, get spooked or want to catch some of your favorite TV show.

Prep time: You're not in the wild, so you don't have to dig your own toilets or anything. But you do have to lug everything outside, stake out your turf, set up tents, arrange the sleeping bags and make the area bug-proof. Also, make sure you have flashlights, games and munchies on hand.

Tents: Unless you're a glutton for punishment, you need a waterproof tent. It drizzled on our night out. But even without rain, the ground gets wet from dew in the morning and the temperature tumbles when the sun goes down.

Sleeping bags: We had seven kids and four bags, so we got creative. We unzipped one bag until it was flat so it became a cushy mattress for two kids, and used it with blankets. We also used a blow-up mattress and covers for another kid. One kid got stuck with covers we pinned together with safety pins; he got very damp because it wasn't waterproof.

Clothing: Think comfy! We went back inside for our sweats.

Bug stuff: Five of our campers wore Repello Insect Repelling Wristbands from the hardware store (our fave glowed in the dark). The two who didn't got bug bites on their backs.

Activities: We had a "flashlight fire" instead of a campfire. And instead of singing campfire songs, we told stupid scary stories, had an insult contest, tossed hoops in the dark and played Monopoly and cards by flashlight.

Cleanup: Who knew this would be the hardest part? When we took down the tents, they were soaking on the bottom and had to be dried off before we could fold them up. The blankets were damp and smelly, so we washed them. We were kind of damp and smelly, too, so last of all, we washed ourselves!

Pub Date: 7/30/98

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