How to get the most out of camping

Cooking on a campfire at Colby Woodland Garden

Heading on a camping holiday? Make the most of being close to nature and learn more about the creatures, plants and trees all around you. Try out some of these family-friendly games and activities, taken from our new book, Camping by Don Philpott.

Forecast the weather

Find a large pine cone and keep it near your tent. An open cone indicates dry weather, but if it closes up it’s probably going to rain.

Become a wildlife detective

Don’t know what bird you’re looking at? Draw any you see so you can identify them later. You don’t have to be the best artist to make field notes. You can even get waterproof notebooks and pens so you can make notes whatever the weather.

Make a sketch of the bird’s silhouette and estimate its size in relation to other birds you know (is it bigger than a sparrow, for example?). Note any identifiable features or behaviour patterns. Does it have a distinctive stripe somewhere? Does it sit on a fence bobbing its tail up and down? Is its tail long or short? All of this will help you identify it later on when you have a book, website or expert to refer to.

Cook around a campfire

Food cooked over a campfire always seems to taste better than normal. Wrap a jacket potato or other root vegetables in foil and cook them in the embers of the fire. You can also wrap thick slices of meat in cabbage leaves and roast them in the hot embers . Cabbage leaves don’t burn and the meat stays moist.

Play capture the flag

You can play this game anywhere – all you need is a ‘flag’ (which can be a tea towel or shirt) and two teams. Find an area to play in, and divide it into two – one half is your area and the other half is enemy territory. Tie the flag to a pole in your territory – this is now ‘base’. The aim of the game is to capture the flag from enemy territory and bring it back to your base.


Remember, you’re safe in your zone, but once you pass into the enemy territory, you can be tagged by players on the other team – and if you’re tagged, you have to go back to your zone and start all over again.

Build a sundial

You don’t need a watch or phone to tell the time – the Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks used sundials. All you need to make one is an upright rod or stick (the ‘gnoman’) and a semi-circular dial plate, cut out of paper or card. If you’re at the beach, you could mark out the semi-circle in the sand.

Sit the gnoman at the centre point on the base of your semi-circle. From here, divide the plate into hours. Mark the hours 6am to 6pm at equal points along the semi-circle. 12 should be at the centre, in a straight line from the gnoman. The shadow cast by the gnoman will point to the time it is. Now all you need is some sun.

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