You’re never too old to have fun.
I have fond memories of summer camp as a kid – long days full of activity and equally fun-filled nights. I remember running through the woods with my friends, trying to capture our enemies’ flag. I remember sitting around the campfire for hours playing games and telling stories.
As an adult, I’ve enjoyed hiking and camping with friends, but at some point I realized that something was missing. I wasn’t sure what that something was, but our outings didn’t spark the same joy summer camp did in my youth. And then it hit me.
We were missing playtime.
We spent all of our time hiking miles and miles to a campsite, often into the night. When we arrived we would set up camp and hit the sack.
In the morning we’d wake up at the crack of dawn, hike all day long to summit a nearby mountain peak, and then be back at the end of the day, totally beat.
Yes, it was fun (in its own way), but things got repetitive. So I started planning out trips with shorter hikes and more free time. What took the place of all that hiking? Games mostly.
The games were a big hit and brought me closer to my friends than I have ever been.
Some of our favorites are games that you and I remember from summer camp. You probably never considered playing these as an adult, but give it a try – because playing these games as an adult can be even more fun that when you were a kid.
1) Truth or Dare
When I think of camp games, this is the first that comes to mind. Truth or Dare is all about getting to know your friends, opening up to one another, being silly, and laughing together.
Take turns spinning a bottle. Whomever it points to, ask them, “Truth or dare?” If she chooses “truth”, ask her any question that she must answer truthfully. If she chooses “dare”, assign her a task that she must do.
Questions (“truth”) are usually personal, sometimes embarrassing, and often lead to more discussion in the group:
- Tell me about your most awkward date.
- What’s the most disgusting thing you’ve ever eaten?
- When was the most inappropriate time you farted?
Challenges (“dare”) are usually silly, fun, and possibly embarrassing:
- Do an impression of someone until another player can guess who you are.
- Give a 3-minute stand-up comedy routine.
- Breakdance with no music for 1 minute.
This game genre, where you focus on talking to each other, is called conversation games or ice-breaker games. I’ve been a big fan of them lately, because they really bring a group closer together.
2) Capture the Flag
Capture the Flag is like the adult version of tag.
Break up into two teams, establish a playing field, and split it into two territories – one for each team. Each team plants a flag at his “base”. The goal of the game is to capture the other team’s flag and bring it back to your base.
If you get tagged in enemy territory, you must drop the flag if you have it and return back to your own base before continuing the game.
This is a good game for active people.
For a faster game – or less in shape players – you can take people out of the game permanently when they get tagged in enemy territory.
3) Chain Story Telling
Start telling a made-up story. After a few sentences, pass it to the next person who tells the next bit of the story. Just keep going around and see where it takes you.
If you have trouble getting started, begin with a random paragraph from a book or magazine.
Chain storytelling is a fun way to relax in front of the campfire – especially if your friends are creative types. And if they aren’t, this will build up their creative muscle.
It’s also something you can do with kids.
4) Hide & Seek
Your friends might laugh at you for suggesting it, but hunting each other in the woods is a whole different experience from hiding in your closet. The outdoors make it fun for adults, but may not be a good idea for young children who could get lost.
With a large playing field, more players is probably better. Also consider team play.
5) Scavenger Hunt
Create a checklist of things to find in the wild. At the end of the day, meet up for show and tell. Whoever checks the most things off their list wins a prize.
Some easy ideas: moss, earthworm, clover (4-leaf should be an automatic win!), acorn, wild flower, poison ivy (don’t touch!), animal tracks.
Wild edibles might be an interesting theme.
One variation I like is that, in addition to things, you could list experiences: skip a rock, cross a stream, hike to the top of a hill, see a squirrel.
Another theme might be survival skills: find usable tinder, start a fire, make your own cordage, catch a fish, build a shelter.
Scavenger hunts don’t have to be individual activities. It can be really fun to break into small groups. It’s also a good way to get children involved, pairing them with an adult.
If you have cameras – or camera phones – consider doing a photo scavenger hunt. You’ll get some great photos to share or keep for memories.
Playtime might sound silly, but it’s not. You need to get serious about playtime. Don’t leave fun to chance.
The five games here are the ones that I remember most from my childhood. But with a little brainstorming, you can come up with lots of other camping games for adults.
My challenge to you: On your next hike or camping trip, pick one of these activities and plan a little extra time in for it.
It’ll be fun.
Mike Lin is the co-owner of Rallt, maker of packable adventure and travel gear.