Camping 101: Lawn Games: Get Them On Your Gift List Now!

During one of my last camping outings of the summer I was taking a relaxing cruise around the lake in my canoe. As I paddled past the picnic pavilion at the end of the campground, I heard the laughter of boys, girls and adults through the brush along the shore. As I pulled around to the beach area I could see the source of the happy voices.

A group of a dozen people had set up a mini-carnival of lawn games in the commons area next to the pavilion. There was croquet, Jarts, beanbag toss, and a hot game of ladder jack going on. There was more excitement than at the midway at a county fair!

Tom Watson

Lawn games are an essential part of a family campout. For those of you who make holiday gift lists, now might be a time to decide what you’d like to add to your lawn game inventory for next year’s camping season. Here’s a brief description of the most popular lawn games out there today (based on numbers seen at campsites and from what I’ve learned talking with camping friends with kids).

Jarts, those huge outdoor darts with the big plastic fins and wicked steel spiked tip were once deemed too hazardous and pulled from the market. The idea of a monstrous dart arching out of the sky destined for the plastic bull’s-eye ring on the lawn was too much to ignore so today’s safe Jarts dart has a round knob on the end.

Croquet has been in our family’s game locker for years. You can get cheap sets where the mallet head barely stays on the handle to the custom models where the mallet looks more like those used in polo. The smoother and more level the lawn, the more control one has over the shots aimed to go through the wire hoop course. You can always use the mallet head to drive tent stakes home, too!

Beanbag Toss Is Popular
Beanbag toss is known by several other names, too. The essence of the game is to slide/toss a beanbag through a hole in an inclined target board. Some games have points designated for each hole; others just make getting into the hole count. It’s a good game for all ages. It’s also one of the easiest games to make at home.

Ladder-Jack is also called other names in different regions of the United States, including Rodeo Golf. The game consists of two approximately 4-foot high, 3 feet wide ladder-like racks (about the size of a track field hurdle) that are placed at a designated distance apart. A bolo-like set of golf balls (sometimes tennis ball-sized and tethered to a rope about 15 inches apart) are thrown at the ladder in the hopes of wrapping around a rung — each with different point values. It’s kind of like vertical horseshoes.

Speaking of horseshoes, it never hurts to keep a pair of throwing shoes in the trunk. Many campgrounds provide the pits, but not the gear.

Now might be a good time to buy these somewhat seasonal toys — as gifts to self or friends, and as a way to be a jump closer to camp fun next summer.

For a fine assortment of Outdoor Games, including Lawn Games, click here.

Tom Watson is an award-winning writer who lived in Alaska for 16 years, 12 of which were on Kodiak Island. He is a frequent contributor to “Camping Life,” “Canoe & Kayak” magazines, author of three books:” Sixty Hikes within Sixty Miles of Minneapolis,” “Best Tent Camping-Minnesota,” both by Menasha Ridge Press, and “How to Think Like a Survivor,” by Creative Publishing International. He’s also an avid kayaker, camper, naturalist, writer, and photographer residing in western Minnesota. He writes a weekly column on camping tips for

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