Best Camping Games for the River (Or Anywhere)
River guides need to have an arsenal of post-rafting activities up their sleeves, so thank goodness for camping games. Here are a few we like to play on the river when we can, but really, these games would be fun wherever you’re camping, or even at home in your backyard with your favorite people. Guaranteed they’ll keep your group laughing into the wee hours.
6 Camping Games Everyone Will Love
Spikeball first rose to popularity after being featured on the hit show, Shark Tank. Now, everyone from elite athletes to our river guides have discovered this fun, volleyball/foursquare hybrid. To play, two teams take turns spiking a small ball off of a trampoline-like net to each other. Each team gets three hits/chances to return the ball back to the other team without letting it hit the ground. If they can’t return it, or the ball drops to the ground, the other team scores a point. This continues until one team reaches 11 points (or whatever number you decide). If you think this active game sounds easy, it’s definitely not, and will give you a great workout as you play. Spikeball is also a lot easier to set up than a full volleyball court, which is why it’s perfect for camping, beach days, and even backyard hangouts.
It’s not exactly horseshoes or bocce…it’s viking chess! Better known as Kubb, this block tossing game is a big hit with kids and adults and it comes in a compact carrying case that’s easy to bring along on camping and rafting trips. Two teams of players set up five wooden blocks called kubbs approximately 16- to 25-feet apart, as well as a king kubb in the middle of the playing area. The object of the game is to toss batons at your opponents kubbs and try to knock them all down, followed by the king kubb, before your opponent. There are some fun twists in the rules that add some strategy to the game, but the first team to conquer the king wins. If you’re handy, you can even make your own game set at home.
Sure, slacklining has become an extreme sport, but at its core it’s the ultimate game of balance that anyone can play. A thick polyester webbing, or slackline, is placed taut between two anchor points, usually trees or rocks. The object is to balance, and eventually walk across the slackline, which is typically a foot or two above the ground (or suspended hundreds of feet in the air and spanned across two canyon walls if you’re into that). Hang in there, it does take practice, but know that you’re providing excellent amusement for your onlookers as you contort into awkward poses to keep from falling off.
4) Hunker Down
Hunker down is a classic river game, but with a few adaptations, this “tug-of-war” hybrid can be re-created anywhere. All that’s necessary is a wide open area, two ammo cans and a piece of rope (we use the line from our throw bags, but you could try a couple of stumps and a piece of rope). The ammo cans are placed about fifteen feet apart from each other. The throw line is pulled out of its bag completely, with the ends at the base of the ammo can. Then, two participants stand on top of the ammo cans facing each other. A countdown is called, “3, 2, 1…HUNKER DOWN!” and both people scramble to pull in as much rope as fast as they can. The object is to make your opponent fall off of the ammo can. It’s really not as easy as it sounds. Insider tip: Take off your sandals and go barefoot to get a better grip on whatever object you’re standing on.
Italians may have invented it, but rafters have perfected this fun pastime. A small white ball called a jack is thrown for the goal. Teams then take turns tossing colorful bocce balls at the jack, trying to get as close as possible. The team whose balls are the closest at the end win that round and score points. You can make the game as quick or as long as you want by changing up how many points are needed to win overall. Glow in the dark bocce balls have brought this game to a whole new level of fun on the river. Just be careful not to get too close to the water!
Cribbage is even more fun when you’re camping. Sitting in chairs, beverage in hand, this classic card game can be played with two, three or four players. “Crib” has distinctive scoring rounds to it—the “play” and the “show.” Players move pegs around the board as points are scored until someone reaches 121. Once you’re familiar with the rules (somebody in the group always knows them), you’ll find it’s an easy way to relax and chat with friends while trying not to get skunked (which basically means you lost, lost bad).
What games do you play when you’re camping? Chime in below.
This post was originally published May 12, 2014, but we added some of our new favorite river games and republished it in May of 2020. Photos: Spikeball – Paxson Woelber; Kubb game – Jonas Bengstton; Slackline – Jakub Michankow (Flickr CC BY 2.0)