Games You Can Pack Into a Hiking Backpack

Written by Wendy Tucker

There’s nothing quite like heading into (or out to) the great outdoors. It’s just you, the wind in your face, and the clothes on your back… oh, and your backpack. The backpack is a pretty vital aspect of hiking. You need to get it just right: enough stuff in there so that you’re sufficiently fed, comfortable and entertained… but not so much that the weight of the bag makes those long walks harder. Still, putting a game or two in that backpack can’t hurt too much, particularly if the games are lightweight, fun and will take your mind off of some of the nothingness as evening falls.

Hiking has become increasingly popular over the years, despite the growing reliance on cell phones and the like. In fact, the pandemic prompted a huge spike in nature walks: According to data from AllTrails and RunRepeat, hiking activity in 2023 was up roughly 171.4% compared to 2019. And to get an idea of just how enthusiastic many people who took up hiking in 2023 were, you need only check out an analysis at RTE that suggested that many had become “hooked” on the activity!

As much as people are enjoying there hikes though, there can come those downtime stretches or rainy afternoons when it is handy to have a game or two handy. A bit of entertainment in your bag can keep you amused when things slow down, not to mention it will help you to make some memories and enhance bonds with friends. But which games are just right for your trip?

Mini Board Games

We’ve recommended a host of games in the past, including those that are just right for people camping as couples. There are all sorts of mini board games available to make the time pass faster while camping. And they don’t take up much space at all in the backpack, particularly when you opt for one of the many-in-1 options that include several different games in just one small product. From monopoly to chess, there’s no end of games you can play while camping or taking a brief respite from hiking.


If you’re not familiar with Bananagrams, it is essentially a stripped-down version of Scrabble that’s built to be more portable and convenient. While you can find miniature scrabble boards out there (in line with the previous suggestion of miniature board games), Bananagrams comes as a pouch. It is (for no real reason) banana-styled, but its purpose is simply to hold a collection of letter tiles with which you can basically play scrabble anywhere you can arrange a surface. On a hiking or camping trip this can of course be anything from a smooth tree stump to a patch cleared patch of ground with a blanket stretched over it.



Hiking can sometimes be a bit… lacking in glamor. Step forward, then, the bright and dazzling lights of Vegas. Well, not quite. But, a touch of poker can’t hurt in elevating your camping trip to something somewhat frenetic and thrilling. Poker is becoming more and more popular, particularly in its online iteration, where younger players are getting involved. But the truth of the matter is that most states still prohibit online poker in its truest form. According to in fact, only five states fully allow the activity. Because of this, plenty of people today prefer to play the “real,” physical game. While online and digital poker games have their place, there is something satisfying about being able to feel the cards and stack the chips. You can simply pack a compact case of chips and a deck of cards in your bag, and you’re ready.



For something (slightly) more active, pack a mini bowling game in your bag. You just need a few small skittles and little balls, and you’re away. Set up the skittles in a scenic destination near your campground, and play with your friends into the early hours. You could also try some fun alternatives, such as Pantyhose Bowling. You place the band on your head like a hat, and put a water bottle in the end, before trying to knock down a bunch of water bottles or other such alternatives for skittles. The winner is deemed the champion of the pantyhose.


Mancala can be a little bit bulky depending on your bag. But it’s still a light and compact game that can certainly liven up an evening around the campfire. Mancala comes as a folded-up board –– usually some seven or eight inches long, three wide, and one or two high. Unfolded, it resembles a shallow egg crate, with beads heaped into each indentation. The game simply involves scooping up heaps of beads and dropping one each into successive piles, with scores and turn lengths depending on where and when your stash runs out. It’s an easy game for everyone to grasp, if you can fit it into your bag. Furthermore, there’s really no significance to the beads; if you’d rather not pack them along you can play with pebbles you find on your hike.


Abstract Games

When looking to save some of that vital space in your backpack, you might not want to look further than abstract games. By this, we mean those wonderful, traditional games that require little-to-no space in the backpack. If there are a few of you, you might want to play something like Forehead Detective (aka The Sticky Head Game), where each player has to guess which famous figure is stuck to their head through yes and no questions. All you need is a pen, some sticky notes and a great attitude.

So there you have it! As any avid hiker knows, space gets tight in those trail backpacks, and you can only really pack the essentials. The games listed here are so light and portable, however, that they make for easy additions. And when the time comes that you need a little entertainment out on the trail, you’ll be glad to have them along.



Wendy Tucker


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