Let the Outdoor Games Begin!
Adding a Lively Game at the Campground Will up the Fun and Treasured Memories and Connect You With Loved Ones.
If baseball is America’s pastime, my hometown must have missed the memo. Not that we didn’t appreciate the smack of leather and the crack of hickory, we just preferred to get it through a game called fastball.
Perhaps better known as softball, and notable for its larger ball and windmill pitching style, fastball was king where I grew up. There was even a regional men’s league with each town having a team sponsored by a local business.
None of which would have anything to do with camping had my father not been a fastball player as a young man. He was a slick center fielder in his prime and though he stopped playing in the years after my arrival, he still enjoyed tossing that ball around once I was old enough to reciprocate.
It was always an exciting moment when Dad grabbed his mink-oiled ball glove from the station wagon and asked me if I wanted to play catch. And those moments almost exclusively happened on sunny summer days at our seasonal campsite.
My wife and I have continued this tradition with our own kids, though admittedly with less reverence. For one, my ratty—dare I say moldy—glove lacks the awe of my dad’s treasured mitt. And with so many other things to throw, the four of us don’t always settle on a baseball.
We humans do love to throw things. I suppose the survival of our species depended on it. Seems only fitting that when we’re reconnecting with nature and cooking over a fire that throwing things would be a favored pastime.
After all, not every campground is a sprawling paradise in the wilderness. Just hanging out at a campsite, playing with family and friends, can be the very best kind of camping. It surely is for seasonal campers. Sometimes, you just want a fun game to play at your site and throwing stuff fits that bill perfectly.
Stroll around any campground and you’ll find people joyfully tossing baseballs, footballs, or Frisbees. Some may have open fields where you can really give your arm a workout. I’ve even camped at places with full baseball diamonds. But most often, it’s just a couple of people on the road in front of their site, tossing something back and forth, chatting, laughing, and living in the moment.
This reminds me of another quirk of my hometown: horseshoes. There were leagues for that, too. In fact, horseshoes were so popular when I was a kid that it was common for folks to have their own backyard pitches. We did. I know because I had to mow around two car axels sticking out of the ground long after the pits had grown over with grass.
Whenever we camp somewhere with a forgotten horseshoe pitch tucked away next to a playground, I imagine the bustle there must have once been around those dilapidated pits. But maybe “forgotten” is the wrong word to use. Horseshoes haven’t so much disappeared as it has evolved, with washer toss its most obvious successor.
To play the game, each player tosses a washer toward the opposite target box that has a center pipe or cup. Get the washer in the box, you score a point; get it in the pipe and you score extra points.
We first learned of this excellent game when we visited my aunt and uncle at their cottage during a cross-country RV trip a few years back. They couldn’t wait to show it to us, and we couldn’t get enough of it after they had. As soon as we returned home, I built my own set with only a few items from the hardware store.
Fun for all ages, portable, and rife with home-handyman potential, washer toss is a perfect horseshoes replacement for RVers. It’s become a staple of our camping entertainment repertoire. And when one of the washers misses the box and rolls 50 feet into the underbrush, we have a spontaneous scavenger hunt.
Of course, washer toss is only one of many tossing games, with ladder toss and cornhole two of the most popular. You’ll see lively games of each happening at campgrounds everywhere. The simplicity of these games means young and old can not only play but compete. They’re great for groups and a wonderful way for kids to make new friends.
A newcomer to the tossing-game catalog, though hardly “new,” is kubb. Swedish in origin, kubb is another simple, portable game with a homemade flair that any amateur garage carpenter can whip up in short order. Find an open patch of grass and you’re ready to play.
Another old-world game you sometimes still see at the campground is bocce. Popularity has waned from its peak a few years ago, but true to our late-adopter form, we gifted ourselves a set of bocce balls this past Christmas.
With all this throwing and tossing going on, we mustn’t forget hitting. I love the ingenuity of campers. Full volleyball courts aren’t a hallmark of campgrounds and hauling around nets and poles isn’t practical for many RVers. From that conundrum, Spikeball was born.
This game requires a small ball and a square, trampoline-like “net” on which you spike the ball in hopes of outwitting, or outlasting, your competition. Unlike most of the aforementioned games, this one can really get your heart pounding. With yummy treats on most campfire menus, burning extra calories during the day is never a bad idea.
As most parents can attest, where there’s hitting, there’s kicking. Soccer, the most popular game in the world, continues to grow in North America, the land of last resistance. At larger campgrounds, with open fields, you’ll inevitably find someone practicing their ball-handling tricks or an impromptu game.
The common theme to all these activities? Simplicity and portability. And, of course, fun. Life is complicated. Fun doesn’t need to be. All you need are a couple of items and a bit of space, be it on your campsite, on the road, or on a nearby open space.
What you get in return are hours of joy, laughter, and heartwarming memories you’ll reflect upon each spring as you ponder the mysterious lack of swing-bowling knowledge outside of my hometown. Yup … there was a league for that, too.
Invented in Sweden, kubb (pronounced koob), sort of a cross between bowling and horseshoes, is played on a 5-by-8-meter pitch, or playing field, you can set up just about anywhere. Teams of one to six aim to be the first to knock down their opponent’s five field and baseline kubbs, plus the king, in one turn by tossing the six batons. Ready for a challenge? Head to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for the annual U.S. National Kubb Championship, July 8–10 this year.
Make Your Own Washer Toss
Building your own washer toss is simple enough for even the greenest DIY amateur. Here’s all you need:
- 2-by-4-inch lumber for boxes (typically 16”, 17”, or 18” square)
- ½”–¾” plywood for box bases
- 3” and 1¼” wood screws for assembly
- Indoor/outdoor carpet for box bottoms
- 4” PVC or ABS coupling for center pipe
- 1” ID flat metal washers
- All-purpose adhesive (or ¾” corner braces)
- Spray paint
Whatever the result, be it plain, colorful, or a true work of art, the result will be hours of fun at the campground.