Take part in the Great American Backyard Campout this weekend


 This is the weekend to get out and pitch the family tent. June 27 is the start of the Great American Backyard Campout and time to sleep under the stars with the kids.

The National Wildlife Federation sponsors the Great American Backyard Campout in conjunction with Great Outdoors Month, the annual event encourages people of all ages to camp in their backyards, neighborhoods, parks and campgrounds, as a simple way to reconnect with nature. Though many will be camping out on Saturday, event runs through Sept. 7, 2015.

TwoKidsCampingAtNight KatherineStanfield“Spending time in America’s great outdoors is not only a chance to renew our own spirit, it’s a chance to inspire our next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and public land stewards,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of National Wildlife Federation, who’ll be taking part in his home state’s Delaware Capital Campout. “That’s why I spend as much time as I can camping, hiking and fishing with my daughter – to share the rejuvenating conservation values and love for the natural world that my parents instilled in me. This helps us live the adage that we only conserve what we love, love what we understand, and understand what we are taught.”

Whether it is in the backyard, together with neighbors, with friends at a local park or at a large community event, NWF encourages parents and kids alike to trade screen time for green time by spending a night under the stars. All campers are asked to take the pledge to camp on June 27th or anytime of the year.

Looking for a group campout? Check the list of public campouts in Maryland. Or plan one of your own!

National Wildlife Federation provides everything you need to head out into the great outdoors. The Campout website has packing lists, recipes, nocturnal wildlife guides, exploration activities, nature games, and more. For details visit the Backyard Campout website.

Ways to keep the campout interesting

Nocturnal wildlife-watching is an activity that will keep the family immensely entertained without the use of phones or other electronics. Once the sun sets, a new array of wildlife emerges to explore America’s backyards. To help with your campout, here are some fun wildlife watching tips for observing amazing nocturnal wildlife like owls, foxes, and moths.


  • Pick areas where night-flying insects are abundant, such as over water, or near flood lights and street lights. Light and water attract the insects that certain animals feed on at night.
  • Get your binoculars, bird book, and some flashlights and go out in the woods at night to search for owls. Owls are nocturnal, so the best time to look for them is at night.
  • Watch for bats at sunset. At sunset, bats come out to look for mosquitoes and other bugs to eat. They like to fly over open areas, often over water.
  • Go mothing. Put out fruit at a simple tray feeder or smear it on a tree in the late afternoon or early in the night. At nighttime, check the feeders for moth activity.
  • Observe bugs at night by hanging a bed sheet in the backyard and shine a white light directly on it. Insects are a big part of the nighttime backyard show. Depending on the season, the sounds of crickets, cicadas and katydids may be so loud that they drown out other woodland sounds. Fireflies can also be spotted flashing their mating lights, and moths of all sizes are attracted to patio or spotlights in the warm weather.
  • Use your ears; if you hear birds, frogs, or mammals calling, slowly walk towards those sounds for a better chance of seeing them. Always remember to keep a respectable distance from the birds and mammals you are viewing.

Photo by Katherine Stanfield

Updated 6/24/2015