Once upon a time my wife and I were both avid campers. It was a get away, a cheap vacation, and an escape from the bustle of everyday life. For us, there were few things more relaxing than sitting beside a fire late at night and gazing into the flames.

As Nicholas approaches 3 years old, the desire to get back into camping has grown, but the thought of having to pack up and head home in the middle of the night because of a scared child was worrisome. What we needed was a test trip, something close to home and the safety that it provided.

Enter the backyard camping trip.

Even though we were only in our backyard, we tried to set the mood of the day like a camping trip by spending most of the day outdoors, grilling burgers for supper, and having a backyard picnic. After supper we set up the tent and got all of the bedding ready.

To me, no camping trip is complete without a fire. Our city does allow backyard fire pits (many don’t, so be sure to check before striking flint to steel), but they have pretty stringent requirements for area surrounding the pit. Plus, I didn’t really want to go to all the hassle of building a fire and extinguishing it for what would amount to 30 minutes around the campfire.

I did some searching on the Internet and found a great alternative. These fire pits run on the familiar 1lb propane bottle that so much other camping equipment uses, and has a pretty decent flame. They do say that you shouldn’t cook on them, but we roasted marshmallows and made s’mores with no trouble at all. I think a weenie roast would be possible, but it would probably take a long time.

Then, when it was time to put Nicholas to bed, we read him some stories and tucked him in. We assured him that we were right outside the tent and that we could hear him if he needed us. Mom and I sat around the fire for a while, and then went to bed ourselves.

The night was uneventful. All of us slept well in the tent, with no interruptions. We woke up a little earlier than usual, but were all well rested.

If you have been considering a camping trip with your children but aren’t sure how it will work, I strongly recommend trying out camping in your yard. Our first real camping trip will come up soon, and I will report how it goes. For the first trip I would recommend choosing a campground close by, but more adventuresome parents may want to go all in and shoot for the moon on the first trip.

Whatever you do, have fun!