Lightweight Trail Entertainment

Lightweight Trail entertainment

In a per­fect world there would be no rea­son to play games in the back­coun­try. Rain storms would­n’t roll through, scat­ter­ing peo­ple to their tents; the scenery and the soli­tude would be enough to ward off bore­dom (or rest­less­ness); and your trav­el com­pan­ions would be such engag­ing sto­ry­tellers that evenings would pass unno­ticed. Instead, there are usu­al­ly moments on every trip where a game is the per­fect answer. Here are some light­weight options to fill the gaps on your next adventure.

Dice Games
If dice aren’t already on your stan­dard pack­ing list, add them. Dice are the per­fect solu­tion to light­weight back­coun­try enter­tain­ment. In addi­tion to being small and rel­a­tive­ly light (about 1 oz for a set of six), dice are com­plete­ly water­proof, which means you don’t have to keep them stashed away when it starts to driz­zle. Here are two dice games to learn before your next trip:

Yahtzee only requires five dice, but bring­ing a sixth opens up oth­er game options (see below) and makes the set use­ful even if one is lost. If you’re going light­weight, leave the box, the rolling cup and the score pads behind–but be sure to jot down the list of rolls and what each set is worth (ex. Full House = 25 points). You’ll also need a pen and paper.

This game goes by a num­ber of names and the rules have end­less variations—for a run­down of the basic tenets, check out these “offi­cial” Farkle rules. Unlike Yahtzee, Farkle requires six dice (and still a pen and paper). Turns can move quick­ly, which makes this both an easy game to play with large group and an excit­ing game to watch. Be sure to agree on the rules before start­ing a round. The num­ber of vari­ants are count­less and fail­ing to estab­lish a set can cause a game to quick­ly devolve into an argument.

Card Games
Cards have long been the go-to for back­coun­try enter­tain­ment because they’re easy to pack and they can be used for any num­ber of well-known games. There are a few down­sides to trav­el­ing with cards: tra­di­tion­al decks aren’t water­proof and los­ing a card ren­ders the deck vir­tu­al­ly use­less (unless you know how to play Euchre—see below). How­ev­er, on the plus side,  if you get tired of play­ing card games, build­ing card tow­ers is an easy alternative.

This is a clas­sic card game involv­ing runs and sets. In addi­tion to being an easy game to teach to non-card play­ers and young kids, Rum­my can be played quick­ly in a series of a sin­gle hands (Gin Rum­my) or the game can be a longer com­mit­ment (stan­dard Rum­my), depend­ing on how long that rain storm lasts.

If you’ve nev­er heard of Euchre, than you prob­a­bly did­n’t grow up in the Mid­west, where this game is espe­cial­ly pop­u­lar. It’s worth tak­ing the time to learn the rules because Euchre only uses part of a tra­di­tion­al deck, mean­ing you can leave some cards at home, there­by low­er­ing your pre­cious pack-weight. Anoth­er perk of this game is that it encour­ages cre­ative cheat­ing; as long as you aren’t caught in the act, cheat­ing is com­plete­ly legit­i­mate. Euchre is tra­di­tion­al­ly played by four peo­ple play­ing on two teams, but there are ways to adapt the game for two or three peo­ple.

Because the score is tra­di­tion­al­ly dis­played by pegs on a board, Crib­bage spans the gap between card games and board games. How­ev­er, this should­n’t be a deter­rent from bring­ing crib­bage into the back­coun­try. When weight and space are at a pre­mi­um, pack four match­es (or tooth­picks) and use an Enso­lite pad to cre­ate a board. Anoth­er option is to for­go the pegs and sim­ply keep score with a pen and paper, although it’s a lit­tle lack­lus­ter to skunk some­one on a sheet of paper. Crib­bage can only be played by 2–4 play­ers, so it’s not a great option for larg­er groups.

Play­ing Backgam­mon in the back­coun­try is a quick way to score style points. This game is tech­ni­cal­ly a board game, but it does require four dice. The board is easy to draw on a sleep­ing pad or on a spare plas­tic bag, although this is eas­i­er to do before leav­ing home. Each play­er (this is strict­ly a two-play­er affair) also needs fif­teen pieces. These can be any small item, like peb­bles or pop­corn ker­nals. They can also be made of paper, but then the game is hard to play in windy con­di­tions. This may seem like a lot of steps for a sim­ple game, but if you’re burnt out on more main­stream trail games, Backgam­mon is a good way to bol­ster your reper­toire of back­coun­try entertainment.