(Image credit: Apartment Therapy )

OK. So, we're really upset that we missed the Great American Backyard Camping Day (it was on June 28, unfortunately), but that doesn't mean that we can't still have a wonderful mini-vacation in our very own backyard.

Backyard camping is a magical way to spend a weekend, especially if you have any children under the age of 10, and, of course, you don't burn any $4.20/gallon gas when you step out your back door into your campground.

Our list of essential materials and a number of tips and tricks after the jump.

Having a great backyard camping experience is all dependent on preparation and setup.

First, lay a few ground rules:

  • Most important: You're on a camping trip, so no one is allowed inside the house except to use the restroom and in the case of emergency.
  • You're on vacation. Forget email, cell phones, PDAs, hand-held video games, etc. Put up an out of office message that reads: "I'm vacationing in my backyard. I won't be checking email until Monday. Thanks for your patience!" Why not celebrate the silliness?

Then, invite over a few friends and neighbors (preferably ones with kids). Backyard camping is always more fun with a group and lots of children.

You'll need most of the supplies that go along with any typical camping trip, the most crucial being:

If you don't have these things there are plenty of places to look for second-hand camping gear. We love Wilderness Exchange in Berkeley. There's also Play it Again Sports and Craigslist.

Other supplies you'll want:

  • Something that'll get the kids wet (think water guns, kiddie pool, slip and slide).
  • A few good ghost stories
  • Cards and/or a couple of board games
  • Lots of camping appropriate food and an ice chest (remember, you're not going in the house)
  • Beer ... for the adults, obviously

Oh ... and don't forget to turn off the sprinklers.

What else do you think is crucial for a perfect backyard camping trip?

image via frances1972; Flickr.com