Yuki with her family for a household backyard campout

How to create the ultimate campout at home

Calling everyone who loves camping! Between May 11–18, join us for The Big Camp In: a chance to transform your living rooms, balconies and backyards into the ultimate camp set-ups from coast to coast. Break out your tents, unroll your sleeping bags and enter our Big Camp In Contest for a chance to win a full set of camping gear from MEC.

To get you jazzed on camping season (even if it looks a little different at the moment), we’ve put together inspiration and ideas to recreate all our favourite parts of camping at home, from the campfire and bird songs to camp coffee and connecting with nature. Happy camp-in!

Get a campfire going

The crackling sound of a campfire is an essential part of any night outside. Most of us don’t have access to a firepit at home, so we want to help you set the scene for a cozy night in your tent – string up some twinkle lights to substitute for a starry sky, and just press play:

Brew up camp coffee

A camp morning is incomplete without a cup of joe – there’s something special about the ritual of it all. Whether you’re an Aeropress master or prefer a French press mix-up, there are lots of ways you can get a dose of caffeine:

Coffee addict's guide to camp coffee

Who knew coffee + hot water could be so complex? Check out our blog post about a coffee addict’s guide to camp coffee for a full spectrum of brewing potential, whether you’re camping in your backyard or living room. Sip and soak in the moment.

Tune into a camping soundtrack

One of the first things we notice when we get into nature is just how quiet it is. No horns honking or trucks beeping – just the wind in the trees and the people you’re with.

An informal poll of our virtual MEC staffers revealed a split in camp soundtracks. Some loved sitting around the campfire singing songs and others rather playing games and listening to their favourite playlists. Others just wanted to tune into mother nature to hear rivers flowing and crickets humming.

Whatever music mood you’re in – nature sounds or campfire tunes – we’ve got the playlist for you on the MEC Spotify account.

Create an epic camp meal

A backyard or at-home campout means you get to go deluxe with camp meals. Forget the instant noodles – this is your chance to bust out a delectable veggie curry with toasted naan bread (or whatever recipe you dream up). If you’re indoors for a living room campout, break out your cast iron pan to use in the oven. If you’re outdoors in the backyard, dig out your Jetboil or camp stove (heads up: camp stoves are outdoor products only, so don’t fire them up inside).

To get you inspired, check out our blog post on camping meal ideas with a twist, browse a camping cookbook, or try this unique camp recipe by Vancouver chef Shaun Maclean:

Cooking outdoor hotpot

Chef Shaun dishes up some backyard hotpot

Camp veggie shabu-shabu hotpot recipe

Simple yet delicious. This Japanese style hotpot would traditionally use dashi broth, but we’ve simplified it to be camp friendly. Serves two. Enjoy!

Ingredients

Flavouring mix

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 pack miso soup mix

Broth and veggies

  • 1L mushroom broth
  • Shiitake mushrooms, destemmed and cut in half
  • Carrots, thinly sliced rounds
  • Sweet potato, thinly sliced
  • Radishes, cut in half
  • Napa cabbage, cut into eight
  • Yau choy (or other similar green veggie), cut in half lengthwise
  • Green onions, cut in 2in. lengths, and split the bottom white portion down the middle
  • Tofu, cut in 1in. cubes (spicy marinated tofu is Shaun’s personal favourite)
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Rice noodles, pre-cooked, cooled and tossed in a bit of oil to prevent sticking

Instructions

  1. Set up your camp stove on a safe, stable surface you can sit around. Make sure to use a stove that’s sturdy and won’t tip over – a flat car camping stove is a good option.
  2. Turn your stove on medium, place a large pot with broth on top. Allow broth to come to a simmer, then turn down to medium low to keep broth at a low simmer.
  3. Add flavouring mix. Once its dissolved, get your veggies and tofu ready, but don’t toss them all in.
  4. With hotpot, you eat the vegetables as you cook them – sort of like a soup fondue. Vegetables will cook at different speeds, so add the hearty ones first (sweet potato, carrots, radishes) and cook for 4–5 minutes. Add the delicate greens later, since they’ll only take a minute or two. Cook in waves as you eat – it means nothing gets overcooked.
  5. Once all the veggies are cooked and eaten, add the rice noodles to the leftover broth, heat fully, and split as a final course.

Recipe extras

For a meat-based version, use beef broth and add thinly sliced meat or dumplings. Asian supermarkets often have frozen pre-sliced meats that only need about a minute of cook time in the broth. Dumplings usually only take 4–5 minutes to cook.

Play around with different types of vegetables. Root vegetables do particularly well, as they soak up flavours of the broth. Try taro or lotus root, yams, squash, leeks, broccoli to see what you like.

Like spice? Add chili paste or diced chilies – especially nice in cold weather.

Find ways to connect with nature

One of the best parts of camping is waking up in the morning, opening your tent and taking a minute to appreciate the epic view… which is bit tougher to do when you’re camping next to your couch or back door. An at-home campout presents an interesting opportunity to notice the nature is around you – birds outside your window, moss on the trees, bugs in the grass.

MEC Ambassador and artist Charlie Easton (@charlieeaston) believes the small things in nature tell the most memorable stories, and ultimately inspires his art. A challenge from Charlie? “Slow down and notice,” he says. “Notice the reflection in a puddle or the way a cloud dances from your window. No matter where you are, if you take time to notice you’ll have a more profound memory of that moment and feel more connected to nature.”

Charlie Easton’s nature connection challenge:

  • Look out your window or go to your backyard.
  • Pick something big like a tree, the garden or the sky.
  • Notice the small things – focus in on something you didn’t originally see. Maybe it’s a shadow or the leaves of your favourite flower. Notice the things you find beautiful and inspiring.
  • Jot it down, draw it, appreciate it.

Play some camp games

Have some fun! Card games, nature scavenger hunts and tossing a frisbee are all classics. Check out our camp games collection for more ideas for your camp in. Some of your usual games might not be easy to do when you’re camping in your backyard or living room, so now’s the time to try something new. Here’s an idea for a no-supplies-needed game to get you, your family, and everyone in your Zoom camp chat moving:

How to play Action Syllables

A simple, fun game to get everyone up and moving:

  • Ask each camper to choose an action/move for every syllable of their name. For example, Sarah has two syllables in her name, so she pats her head for one syllable and spins around for the second syllable.
  • After the second camper does their name, the whole group repeats and does Sarah’s moves again.
  • The actions keep building as you take turns, and next thing you know, you and your fellow campers have a new dance routine!
Playing charades in tent

Create camp memories, even if you’re apart

Even if your favourite camping crew is far away, you can still spend quality time and make memories during a camp-in. Some ideas to connect with friends and family during your camp-in:

  • Video slide show: Video call a camping buddy to re-hash favourite outdoor memories together. If you’ve got photos, you can even do a little video slide show from your living room tent.
  • Plan for real life trips: Call or Zoom a friend from the comfort of your backyard tent to map out a future trip. All you need are guidebooks, maps and an open mind.
  • Unplug: Ditch technology for a night (there’s no wifi when you’re camping, remember?) and be in the moment. If you’re solo, journal, draw or read. If you’re with your family, partner or roommate, play games, invent camping s’more recipes or scope out the stars.

Whether you’re in your living room or backyard, grab your hut booties, set up your tent and get ready the most outdoorsy night in yet.

Joining The Big Camp in from BC? The BCCDC Foundation for Public Health (a charitable partner to the BC Centre for Disease Control) is hosting a BC Stay -t-Home Campout on May 16 with a $5 “camping fee” donation to the fund. If you’re interested, check out their stay-at-home campout site.

Jumping people on a dock
MEC Staffer

A Canada-wide crew of adventurers, thinkers, doers, writers, photographers and people who love the outdoors.