Camping Birthday Adventure

My son has had some pretty cool birthday parties in the past. While the robot, pirate and rocket parties were huge successes, I wanted this year to be a little different. Partly because the thought of a dozen 7-year-old boys wreaking havoc in my home wasn’t appealing, and partly because my husband begged me to simplify a little this year.
So the focus of this birthday was the adventure of going camping–and my son was thrilled about it. We also took this chance to undertake the review of 5.11 rush 72 backpack that we had intended on doing for some time now, we packed it with all the supplies that we needed for our birthday camping adventure and gave it a rigorous test. We invited several families to go on a Labor Day campout with us, and held his birthday party one evening there.
To simplify and to keep costs down, I tried to decorate as much as possible with things found at the campsite, and didn’t put everything together until we were there. I had cut the letters for the birthday banner with my Silhouette before leaving, but assembled the banner there using twine, pinecones, oak leaves, and pine needles. It said “Camp Trenton.”
BSB really wanted me to simplify the cake. He thought we could just stick a candle in some dutch oven cobbler and call it good….until we decided the candle would melt.
I was pretty heart-set on making this S’more cake as seen on Not Just a Housewife. I followed the directions on Stacy’s site for the giant graham cracker (making a line down the middle by lightly pressing the dough with a wooden skewer). I used two layers of  8″ round cake. The directions are easy to follow. The biggest challenge I had was making this ahead of time and transporting it to the campout.
I had found a delicious recipe for marshmallow frosting that I thought would be perfect, and probably would have been, if I had been making the cake shortly before serving it. I tried to transport the frosting to camp, but it completely lost it’s consistency. A friend at the camp-out saved the day by bringing me some store-bought vanilla frosting for me to use to assemble the cake. The number 7 candle had a toothpick on the bottom, so worked well to stick through thee cracker top of the S’mores.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I failed to take close-up pictures of the rest of the table. I served blue bug juice (Gatorade and Sprite mixed), had a s’more station, and had a make your own trail mix, where guests (of all ages) could pick their favorite nuts and fruits and put them in a paper lunch sack for later.

Aside from the natural elements, the color scheme was inspired by this fun orange and blue plaid fabric I found at Hobby Lobby and these great and functional vintage-style blue Lanterns. I got mine on Amazon, but have seen some similar ones at Walmart.

Getting ready to head out on the birthday adventure.
One thing I had hoped to do before leaving was make a cool camp shirt for the birthday boy. I didn’t get a chance so I simply took a brown painters pen with me and hand drew my design. It isn’t perfect, but it gives it more of a rustic camping feel that way, right? 😉
The plain orange shirt came from the Dollar Store so was really inexpensive to make.
Perhaps, the coolest (and surprisingly easy to do) part of this whole birthday was the GPS geo-cacheing birthday treasure hunt we created for the birthday boy.
While he was on a quad ride with our friends, BSB and I went up the hill behind the campsite and hid the presents. At each location, he set that point on the GPS.
We hid the presents and then covered them with extra rocks, bark or branches, so that they would not be easily visible to him and he would need to use the GPS and a little elbow grease to find the presents. BSB set the points on the GPS and Trenton just had to follow the series of coordinates already programmed into the GPS. (See how easy! No rhyming or coded clues. Just one gadget he was so excited to use!)
The first point on his hunt, took him to his most important present!
My mom–the miracle worker–whipped up (sewed) and shipped this amazing scout pack to me at last-minute notice. We filled it with some basic camping gear like a nice water bottle, etc.
He happily put on and wore his pack for the duration of the hunt.
His sisters had fun getting in on the action, too.
At one GPS location he found this cool shaped rock his big sister had painted for him in a rather artsy way.
Thanks to his other grandma, there were several brightly wrapped packages to find.
We took advantage of a survival shelter left over from boy scout camp to hide this present.

When all the treasures were found, we came back to camp to enjoy a hot dog dinner, make smores, unwrap presents, etc.
I decided that it was appropriate to have a Fishing Hole at the party! We strung up a blue tarp and made a make shift fishing pole and let all of the kids and a few adults go fishing a few times. They mainly ended up with fun glow in the dark accessories, which was perfect since it was getting dark by this time.
I think the birthday boy and all of our friends had a great time, and we had a great time camping!
I have to show you this little wood “table” BSB constructed while we were camping, because it almost became part of the birthday party.
We were really low on space in the car (turns out hauling 6 people in a van doesn’t leave a lot of room for gear) and BSB didn’t want to haul up a table for the party display. He offered to lash me a table between two trees. Which would have been completely awesome.
But he decided to do a test run on this little table that served as our water station. It was amazing, but took half of the day to complete, so we luckily were about to borrow a folding table for the party stuff. Still, nice to know that if we were stranded in the woods for a length of time, my man could make me some cool furniture. 🙂
And just one last shot for fun to show you the tremendously cute obstacle we had to overcome while trying to take down camp. Apparently it’s most fun to sit on something when someone else is trying to put it away.
Have you ever done a destination birthday like this? Do you prefer a party in your own backyard? It was a nice change of pace for us and a great time to make some family memories and get to know some of our friends better. I collected lots of great camping birthday party ideas on this Pinterest Board. You also might be interested in the packaged smores we put together to celebrate his birthday at school.
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  1. Thank you for this. Just the right amount of rustic camping and party fun without going overboard on the cutesy cutesy. I’m excited to show my birthday guy in hopes that he’ll go for some of these ideas. Great job!

  2. Beth Kaylor says

    What a great party. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Nadia Stewart says

    i love the geo cache hunt. i want to plan one for my daughter’s party in a few weeks, but i’m not sure how. did you use a particular app? all of the research i’ve done says that i’ve have to upload the coordinates to, but i don’t want to do that because, it’s not a permanent cache. If you wouldn’t mind sharing your secret, I’d be really grateful. Thanks so much!

    • Since I’m not familiar with the GPS my husband used as we set up the hunt, I asked him to respond to your comment, Nadia. Be prepared, it may be more than you bargained for:

      “In preparing for the geocache treasure hunt, I used the handheld GPS
      unit (Garmin eTrex) that I use while hiking and hunting (waterproof,
      replaceable batteries) and as we planned the geocache route I
      established a new waypoint at the hiding place for each gift (I think
      there were 6 or 7 total). With the waypoints programmed into the GPS
      unit, I set the GPS to navigate to waypoint #1 handed it to the kids.
      They had to figure out how to pay attention to the distance numbers
      and direction indicator on the GPS to get to the waypoint (more than
      once they walked past it and went in circles for a few minutes until
      they got the hang of it). I showed them how to switch between
      waypoints on the GPS and once they found the hidden treasure at a
      waypoint they headed off to the next one.

      Given that I don’t own a smartphone, I’m not sure how you would use a
      smartphone as a GPS in the same manner that I described previously,
      although in talking with a friend who is a smartphone wiz (iPhone), he
      said that there are outdoor or GPS apps that will allow you to program
      waypoints and then use the phone like a handheld GPS. In looking
      briefly online I found references to apps called “Trimble Outdoors” ,
      “Backcountry Navigator”, and “Acuterra”. If you have the Google Earth
      app on the phone you should also be able to program waypoints into
      that. There may be some limitation to the effectiveness of the
      smartphone being used as a GPS depending on location, so be aware of
      that also – I am told that some smartphones can’t navigate very well
      without strong service signal (probably wouldn’t be a problem in the
      city, but might be a challenge in the area we were camping in). Or
      find a friend that has a handheld GPS and borrow it for the party…”

      I hope that answers your question! Good luck!

  4. Where did you find those adorable blue lanterns???

    • I *think* I ordered them from Amazon. I have seen some similar ones locally. Maybe even at Walmart in the camping section?

  5. hello…You don’t really have to leave your home to plan a camping party. If you have a backyard you can have a pretend camping experience there, have an evening time only camp at a near by park, pack up before park curfew.

    thanx to publish this post……

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  7. We are planning a geocache/hiking birthday party for my son Trenton’s 5th birthday next week. I loved your ideas!


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