Tents / Tarps / Bivies
Wild Camping

Lightweight Backpacks
Sleeping Bags

Wilderness Survival
Hiking Adventures

Edible Wild Plants
Survival Kits

The Best Games for Backpackers


Which ones are the best games for backpacking trips? Taking the games you'll actually enjoy makes sense, of course. But for ultralight backpackers the criteria should also include being lightweight and easy to pack. With that in mind, here are some suggestions. Some of these won't even add an ounce to your pack weight.


A classic game that can be played on any piece of paper. You can also scratch out a tic-tac-toe board in the dirt, or make one with four straight sticks of the same length. What if you don't want to scratch your x's and o's in the ground? Just use five each of two different objects, like pebbles and pine cones, or sea shells and leaves.


Years ago I took a white handkerchief and used a ruler and pen to draw lines on it, making an eight-by-eight grid of squares. I darkened in the appropriate ones with a permanent marker to create a chess board. Then I bought $3 chess set, threw out the board, and put the lightweight chessmen in a small plastic bag with my folded up cloth board. I have taken this 3-ounce game with me to other countries and on many backpacking trips over the years.

Card Games

The average deck of cards weighs just a few ounces, and you can even get a miniature deck if you want to really cut that weight down. For variety, this is a great plan. There are perhaps a hundred different games which can be played with one deck of cards. Chances are good that you already know a few. This may be one of the best all-around entertainments to bring with you. If you are stuck for hours in the tent waiting out a storm, you have something to do. Even if you are hiking alone there are games such as the classic solitaire. If you are with others you can play poker using pretzel sticks or peanuts as money.


You can look up the simple rules to this game online. It usually consists of a wooden board with six depressions carved out on each side, and a larger "bank" on either end, plus 24 glass beads per side. The boards I have seen aren't small enough for backpacking, but once you know the game, it can be played on the shore of a sandy lake or stream by digging two rows of six holes and putting four pebbles or pine cones in each.

Athletic Games

Granted, you will probably get all the physical exercise you need from hiking, but there are still some games that you may enjoy which require only a little athleticism and effort. A flying disc, for example, or just a ball to play catch can be great for a group, and both are relatively light. You can even set up target for either, or create your own flying-disc-golf course by designating trees and rocks as "holes" for the course.

Survival Games

Survival games can be played without the need to carry anything along. For example, if the members of you group know a few wild edible plants, you can challenge each other to spot the first wild raspberry or cattail plant as you are hiking along the trails. When you are in confusing territory, you can each guess what your heading is before checking the compass, to see who can guess most accurately.

In your tent or in camp for the night, you can play mental games. For example, you might create a survival scenario and try to think of the best way to get out safely. Or choose an item like a pine cone or trekking pole and then see who can think of the most ways to use it in a survival situation. Out of all the various games for backpackers, these are some of my favorites. They're fun, while they also test your knowledge and hone your skills.

Weightless Games

Some of the best games for those who really like to keep it light are the ones that weigh nothing in the pack. I don't mean close to nothing, but absolutely no weight. These are the games that you can play using materials already with you or ones that are out there in nature.

As mentioned above tic-tac-toe and similar games can be played by scratching out a board in the sand and using stones for the marks. Stones can be used for a natural version of the game of marbles. Pine cones can be thrown at targets for points. Finally, boats made on the spot from whatever is available can be raced down mountain streams. The only limit to the camping games you can play is your imagination.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Games for Backpackers