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Backpacking + Board Games


*I want to recognize that both my partner and I are temporarily able-bodied. This post centers around an activity that is not accessible to everyone. I hope to share my experience from the past weekend and how it related to my hobby of gaming. 

This past weekend my partner and I went backpacking on the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut through the lower part of Massachusetts. We both like playing games, so naturally, we wanted to bring some along to play once we made camp for the night. This was a challenge for us because backpacking can be made or broken by the weight of your backpack. Every once counts when trekking over rough terrain and we already needed to carry our shelter, sleeping bags, food, water, and clothing. When I took a look at what we had out (most of our games are in storage), I immediately gravitated towards smaller boxes with fewer components. I ended up selecting a couple card games which could maximize our fun without putting a damper on our pack weight. Below, I want to share with you some tips and tricks about gaming while backpacking and a couple of suggestions for different games you could bring!

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Tips and Tricks

  • Keep it light! Think of your games that have few components and can play without a board. This is crucial because as I mentioned before every ounce matters when backpacking. I avoided any game with more components than just cards and tokens. This way, we were not going to place an unneeded burden literally on our backs.
  • Keep it simple! With keeping it light, I also was looking for simpler games that did not have many components I would have to lay out on a table or on the ground of our small tent. For example, Castles of Burgundy The Card Game is a light and compact game… but there are cards all over the table. This is not ideal for a small gaming area or the outdoors… think wind and all of those cards just flying away into the nearby creek…
  • Ditch the boxes! Boxes are bulky and much too big to fit into a backpack. Plus they would probably get crushed in there. I use plastic sandwich bags usually, which protects components from moisture. If you are afraid cards will be bent in the bag, I would recommend a light plastic deck box.
  • Wear and tear! Play a board or card game outside will cause your game to wear no matter what measures you take. Whether it’s dirt, wind, water… I am positive something will happen. Another part of look for games for backpacking revolves around component materials. Some materials, like plastic, are more resistant to the outdoors than cardboard or cards. You may look into sleeving your cards for outdoor protection.
  • Have fun! This, of course, is the most important. Whether solo or with a group, I hope gaming can make you trip memorable!

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Backing Solo

Mr. Cabbagehead’s Garden Game

I talked about this game in my Solo Game Stigma post last week. This is a great solo game where players are trying to plant the best garden in time for the competition. Unfortunately, you have pesky neighbors destroying your garden. This game is a deck of cards and a handful of tokens – pretty easy to pack up and transport. The only downside is having the lay down your cards to plant your garden… there could be a little wear and tear there.

Twin Stars

This is a wallet sized solo-game from Button Shy. They actually have a Kickstarter for this game right now. There are different missions but all you need are a couple of cards and two dice! You roll the dice, place the dice, and check for any combos. A clever system with a tiny footprint – definitely check it out for you solo backpackers.


This is one of my favorite and extremely challenging quick solo games. In this game, you are playing as Friday trying to assist Robinson Crusoe to survive and ultimately escape the island they are stranded on. Unfortunately… Robinson is not too smart and it is very hard for him to complete challenges without losing life. This game comes down to the deck of cards if you ditch the player boards which are not necessary if you know the game well.

Backpacking as a Duo


This abstract two player game is amazing! Each player is trying to capture the other’s queen bee and does so by moving their insect pieces around. There is no game board, just the pieces so it is easy to pack. The tiles are really good quality and would be very durable outside. The downside is the weight of the game. Due to the quality of the tiles, the game is a bit heavier than the others.


Some folks may disagree but I think Red7 plays best with two players. The goal of the game is not to lose… ha! So on a players turn, they must make it so they are winning the game, either by adding to their tableau or by changing the winning condition. This is such a clever little card game and easy to slip into a bag.


Onitama is another two player abstract game where players are trying to capture the other players Master or bring their Master into their opponents temple. They achieve this by moving pieces with the movement cards they have. It is a ton of fun and highly replayable. Further, it is played on a mat that is easily rolled up and has a small deck of cards for movement. The player pieces can be a bit bulky but you could replace them with lighter chips or even meeples.

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Backpacking in a Group

Ultimate Werewolf

This is the ultimate campfire group game! We all live in this village but suddenly werewolf decent among us and start killing us one by one. We must work together to successfully root out the werewolf to win… unless of course we are secretly one of those werewolves! The ultimate edition has so many roles that this game can be played over and over once camp is made. You only need to pack the deck of the role cards.

Noch Mal

Roll and write makes the list! I picked Noch Mal because it can play up to 6 and does not really draw the game out. Each turn, a player rolls the dice, selects a pair of them, and leaves the rest for the other players. The goal is to try and complete columns on your score pad. Sounds easy? Check out what is looks like on the link above. Noch Mal is engaging on everyone’s turn and super light to pack.


Telestrations is the silly game of picture telephone. Pick a word and see what the picture looks like when it comes back to you after your friends try to interpret each others drawings. You probably do not even need to pack the game (you can simply use paper and pens) but the dry erase books are very convenient. You also do not need to word cards as folks can just make up a word of phrase they want to draw.

I hope this gives you some ideas for you next trip outdoors. Whether you are backpacking across mountains or hanging out in your backyard, these are great games to take with you outside.


One thought on “Backpacking + Board Games

  1. I don’t play many games but Werewolf is one of my favourite games to play in a group. It’s so much fun and there are so many variations, also non-werewolf variation card games. And it’s cool that you don’t need much to play it. Maybe I really should think of getting a set to play with friends.


    Posted by Huntress of Diverse Books | July 25, 2017, 4:05 AM

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