It goes without saying that campers’ favorite activities have to do with being outside. Indeed, a recent survey concerning the most popular recreational activities among campers in North America highlighted hiking/backpacking, fishing, biking, canoeing/kayaking, and bird watching as the leading responses. This is to be expected because these activities are generally among the very reasons people go camping.
At the same time, however, all of these activities can be ruined by a rainy day –– which is why outdoor activity outlets from KOA to REI have recommended that campers pack up some games for their trips. Yes, you always have the option of reading a book or catching a nap when the rain cancels your hike or canoe ride. But games are recommended in part so that you can maintain that sense of camaraderie with your fellow campers even when you can’t do what you planned on doing.
With this in mind, here are some of our suggestions for games you can pack and play with ease.
It’s hard to think of a much better portable game for a small group than the electronic version of Catch Phrase. The game exists within a single small contraption (easy to fit into your bag and powered by batteries), and it’s easy for everyone to play. First, your group will divide into two teams.
The game will start with a timer being pressed, after which one player will take the device, pick a category, and try to get their team to guess the word from that category that pops up on the screen. Once they do, the device is passed off to the next team, and so on –– with the goal being to earn a point by ensuring the other team is holding the device when the buzzer goes off. The first team to seven points wins.
Poker is an excellent camping game, because all you really need is a deck of cards to play. That said, the style of poker you play matters as well. Texas Hold’em, for instance, may be the most popular variety, but it’s frankly not as much fun without chips (which you don’t want to lug along while camping). So instead, it might be a good idea to brush up on the simpler variety of three-card poker. This style is played almost like blackjack, with one person acting as the dealer.
The dealer takes three cards and deals three each to every player, at which point players decide whether or not to stay in the hand. If they do, the objective is simply to have a better hand than the dealer. It’s still a game played with betting, typically, but you can have plenty of fun simply keeping score of wins instead. Just bear in mind that the hand rankings are a little different than in five-card poker –– with “mini royal flush,” straight flush, and three-of-a-kind being the three best hands.
Farkle is another minimalist option –– in this case requiring just six dice (and perhaps a cheat sheet of the scoring system, but that can fit on a notecard). The game is basically a race to 1,000 points with a bit of risk/reward-driven strategy factored in.
When it’s your turn, you roll all six dice, setting aside any that earn you points. For instance, every 5 is worth 50 points, every 1 is worth 100 points, three of the same number equal that number times 100 points, four of any one number equal 1,000 points, and so on (again you’ll want that scoring sheet). But here’s the catch: When you get points, you have the option of rolling the remaining dice that didn’t amount to points. If you do so and don’t score again, your turn is over and your points from the first roll are erased. Alternatively, you can take the points you get in any roll and surrender your turn with them safely in hand.
There are actually multiple names for this card game, including Blackout, Bust, and “Oh, Well!” (if you want to be tame about it). But the gameplay is the same. Players are dealt one card each in the first round, then two, and so on until the whole deck is dealt (and then sometimes all the way back down).
In each round, players bid on how many tricks they’ll take, and then start playing cards. Tricks go to the person who played the highest card of the suit that led –– or the highest trump-suited card (the trump suit being determined anew each round by the dealer turning over the top card on the deck). If you get the number of tricks you predicted, you earn 10 points –– plus however many tricks it was. If you fail, you get 0 points for the round.
We’ll wrap up with Uno –– which does not use a traditional deck but is another card game. Once again, the rules for the game are quite simple. Each card has a color and number (unless it’s a wild card or “draw four” card). Players are dealt seven cards each, after which a single card is overturned in the middle.
From there, players take turns placing cards on top of the center with one of their own that matches either the color or number. If they can’t match either, they draw from the deck until they can (or until they play a wild card, allowing them to choose the next color). The first player to unload their whole hand wins.
We hope you enjoy one of these suggestions the next time you face a rainy day! Of course, your top priority in bad camping weather will always be to prepare for the rain and make sure you and your gear stay dry. But while you’re waiting out the weather, any of the above games can be a blast to pass the time with.