daytime entertainment image

Daytime Camping Entertainment and Activities.

Build a camp sundial

I have included this under entertainment because it is fun to do but also it teaches us things we need to know if we are going to venture out away from camp.


In my opinion, there is nothing that will help you and your crew develop a good sense of direction more than understanding the moment of the sun across the sky. This is best done by observing the shadow the sun casts and relating that shadow to the time of day and the four directions.


Kids in the 8 to 14 range will love helping you out with this. It is very easy to build a sundial as all it requires is flat level ground that receives sunlight throughout the day and a pole or stick. The hard part is calibrating the sundial ( here is where the kids can really help you out ).

That is all you have to do to build it. The important thing though, is to observe the pattern of those markers. This pattern or arc will vary depending on what latitude you are at and the time of year. However, for a given camping trip, there will be little to no noticeable change one day to the next.

sundial illustration

The other big observation is that a line drawn from the bottom of the stick to the closest point of the shadow will point true north (northern hemisphere). This should occur between 11:00 and 12:00 depending on where in your time zone you are. (Daylight savings time can skew that by an hour as well.)


Verify this phenomenon at night by locating the north star. ( Another must have skill for the camper and outdoors person!) Note that a line drawn between any two of the markers points roughly East and West. This is particularly true at lower latitudes less so at higher ones like up in Canada or Alaska. Still the pattern will be the same for a given time of year so if you understand the pattern in your camping area and know the time of day you should be able to make a good estimate of which direction is which.


This is an outdoor skill that will aid us greatly when venturing out away from camp. Obviously, if it's cloudy we get no shadow which is why lost campers and hikers are much more common on cloudy or stormy days. (A thing to be wary of.)


The one minute video explanation of all the above:

Building a camp sundial video image

Here is the full length video version video.
( Little slower with more detail.)

Hiking -

Many of us campers like to set up a base camp then 'hoof it' out to parts unknown in search of nothing more than new scenery for our eyes and fresh air in our lungs. This can take quite a bit of water depending on how strenuous the hike is and how hot it is. One gallon per person per day is the general water rule.

Biking -

The mountain bike provides for perhaps an elevated level of exercise while we inhale our surroundings. I have some favorite day trips where I stash the bike at one location and drive to another. Then, I hike the country in between and ride the bike back to the truck. ( I've gotten pretty good at locating the bike up hill so the last ride is generally down to the truck.


Bike-Hiking video image

Photography -

There is just no good excuse not to do this one these days. Digital photography has made this practically free.

Rock hounding / gold panning / treasure hunting -

Good investments for this pastime are a book of gems and stones from your camping area and a metal detector (you can get a decent one cheap on Ebay and such). If you have smaller kids you may need to set size a quantity limit on the pretty rocks they are allowed to take home or else you might find your vehicle has insufficient load capacity :-) Everything is beautiful to a little kid. Why do we ever lose that feeling?

Hunting -

When I was a kid we would actually do "eat what you kill" camping trips. Dinner usually consisted of a cottontail rabbit cooked rotisserie style on a fire or maybe a couple quail cooked foil wrap style in the fire. Some trips we got pretty hungry. Hunting is actually a difficult skill that obviously has safety implications. It is best learned from people who know what they are doing and hunter education courses are almost mandatory in many states in order to qualify for the required hunting license.

Fishing -

This is where the best stories are born. If you do this with kids just leave your pole at camp as all your time will be spent untangling their lines (and them) and teach them how to rig tackle. However it is time well spent as this is where the best fishing buddies come from.

Foraging -

In my area depending on the time of year, we have mushrooms, pinions and prickly pears. Additionally, there are any number of eatable plants if you take the time to learn them.

For the kids

If the kids start driving you nuts try a game we use to call 'woffle tree'. ( This is a great pass time at your group campouts.)You take about a 4" diameter woffle tree by 1 foot long log and drive a bunch of nails half way in it from all directions. Use a nail to attach a 4' long rope at one end. ( All this is easiest to do at home before you leave, obviously.) Leave the kids at camp while you drag the 'woffle tree' behind you making a trail for them to follow. Tie it on a tree limb some distance from where you started and put some treat or prize for them to enjoy once they have found it.


For little kids you'll only want to go a few hundred feet or so but as the age increases you can go much further, possible a mile or two. Kids, even teenagers, enjoy this tracking game. If by chance you forget to make a "woffle tree' you can just drag a stick behind you to leave an obvious trail. Tracking is much harder to do than you might think. Still, it's a great skill to have.


Another fun thing for kids is finding a buried treasure. You, of course, are the 'pirate' who buries it. Make a map for them using the salient features around like big trees or rocks, the road, streams etc.. It takes a little imagination but it's not as bad as you might think. You know, 20 paces north of the big oak tree to the flat red rock then 40 paces west to the mesquite bush etc.. Remember tradition says you have to mark the treasure with and 'X". This helps them get the idea of directions and maps. Have them bury a treasure and make a map for you. You will be surprised how long that occupies them.


Another thing that little kids love is Easter egg hunting. Of course, it doesn't have to be eggs they are looking could be apples, oranges, bananas, candy kisses, or just bright colored blocks from the toy box. What often happens is while looking for things they find other things like cool looking bugs, wildlife or neat rocks. This can then become an experience in and of itself.

Go Camping!

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