Nighttime Camping Activities
After an adventure-packed day of road tripping or exploring in nature, nothing beats winding down with a warm drink around a campfire. In fact, classic after-dark activities are part of the reason people choose to go camping rather than simply taking day trips. Van life allows you to enjoy all of these nighttime perks of camping, then fall asleep on a real mattress.
The days are getting longer as spring approaches, but the sun still sets well before most of us are ready for bed. To help you make the most of these evening hours, we’re sharing a list of ten fun nighttime camping activities. How you’ll spend your time depends somewhat on if you’re camping by yourself, with a partner or friend, or with kids, but luckily the ideas on this list apply to all of the above. Just be sure to check whether campfires are permitted in your area and make note of any campsite quiet hours.
All photography by Hello America unless noted otherwise
1. WATCH THE SUNSET
Sunsets are nature’s movies. Set up a folding chair, portable hammock, or picnic blanket and marvel at the sky’s constantly changing colors. If you’re lucky, you might even see a brief flash of green light right as the sun disappears from view. If the optics alone aren’t enough to convince you, consider the fact that taking time to watch the sun set is known to have psychological benefits.
Exercise? At night? While camping? This might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about camping, but hear us out. If you’re living the van life, it’s vital to build healthy activities like exercise into your daily routine. Especially if you’ve been driving all day, you’ll want to get moving in the evening. It’s also cooler outside at night and you won’t have to worry about nosy fellow campers judging your technique! Yoga mats and resistance bands are favorites for van exercise equipment because they are versatile and don’t take up much space.
3. CAMPFIRE COOKING
Even if you have a camper van kitchen, there’s something strangely rewarding about gathering around a campfire and cooking in the flames. Simple foods will taste that much better with the knowledge that you prepared a dish using methods as ancient as humanity itself. And with the help of modern aluminum foil, there’s no limit to what you can cook in a campfire. We recommend burying foil-wrapped corn cobs in the coals and serving with a chili-lime butter. Trade smores for the classier, but equally decadent, dessert of brownies baked in hollowed out orange peels.
Unwind after a long day by getting lost in a good book. You can read inside the van, outside with a headlamp, or in either location with a Kindle. As nice as real paper books are, many van lifers prefer Kindles because they allow you to store an infinite amount of ebooks in something as slim as a single paperback.
One of the best things about trading civilization for the wilderness is that the stars look so much better. Away from city lights, you begin to understand why our galaxy is called the “Milky Way” or, in China, the “Silver River.” Take advantage of the extra visibility and learn a bit about astronomy. There are many books and mobile apps available to help you identify the stars and planets.
6. PLAY MUSIC
Guitars, harmonicas, ukuleles… Some instruments practically scream “campfire songs.” Even if you don’t play an instrument, you can still enjoy music with your companions by singing familiar songs together. Jam sessions are also a great way to meet and bond with other campers—the power of music is universal.
Nighttime Camping Activities
7. ENJOY GOOD CONVERSATION
Whether you’re with family or some travelers you just met, sitting around a campfire at night has a way of making it easier to connect with people. Go beyond the subjects of daily chit-chat by trading stories about your favorite trips, embarrassing moments from childhood, or where you’d like to be in five years. Or get a lively conversation going with games like “Would You Rather.”
8. ENJOY A WARM DRINK
Campers of all ages can appreciate the fortifying effects of drinks like hot apple cider and hot chocolate on chilly nights. Adult-only versions include mulled wine, hot toddies, and cinnamon tequila hot chocolate. Be mindful of the time if chocolate tends to keep you or your kids awake at night.
9. OUTDOOR MOVIE THEATER
While traditional camping is all about getting away from technology and enjoying nature, living full-time or even part-time in a camper van is a bit different. There are nights when you just want to relax and watch a movie. Download entertainment in advance then set up a mini projector and portable screen (or a white sheet) outside the van for a memorable movie-watching experience among the trees.
Evenings are the perfect time to reflect on adventurous days. Make it a priority to write at least one page in a journal every night, focusing on any memorable events that happened during the day. Besides helping you feel more present, this healthy habit will provide you with pages to look back on whenever you want to reminisce about your travels.
Whether you prefer to spend your evenings in quiet contemplation or enthusiastic conversation, the setting of the sun is sure to add an entirely different dimension to your outdoor experiences. Enjoy the thrills of camping along with the comforts of home in one of our top-of-the-line adventure vans. Click here to discover the collection.
What are your favorite nighttime camping activities? Let us know in the comments.