Games on the trail

Down time

As someone who does a a lot of solo hiking and blogging I generally find I have limited free time available at the end of a days hike. From getting up in the morning until I go to bed, my day is full-on walking for around 8-10 hours on most days and usually once I make camp, eat my dinner and spend a bit of time catching up with my blog. I’m so tired I’m usually asleep by around 7:00 pm on most nights. However for many hikers this is not the norm particularly if you’re taking a more leisurely pace.

The average hiker I see on the trail is usually travelling with at least one other person and may start later in the morning or finish earlier. You only have to look at many of the longer Australian trails that provide campsites or shelters that assume hikers will walk 15-20 km per day at a maximum. Even for relaxed hikers this distance means an early arrival into camp providing a reasonable amount of spare time for any number of activities. Many people will take the opportunity just to sit and relax, have a chat but others including younger hikers who are used to having electronics ‘glued’ to their eyeballs, sometimes need a distraction.

In this article we look at lightweight options for a bit of old fashioned game play that can keep you amused for hours on end if the need arises. There are literally hundreds of choices available so you may find some of the following options of interest.

Conversation games

This category of game play relies purely on conversation so you don’t add any extra weight to your pack which is a big bonus. They also have the advantage in that they can be played while hiking in most cases. If you do play these games while hiking then don’t forget to pay attention to your navigation and safety. And don’t forget to take in the views which is what we are there for in the first instant. There are some oldies and goldies in this list as well as a few people may not be familiar with.

  • I Spy
    • 2 or more players
    • This is a game most of us have played as children but just because you know it don’t assume everyone else does
    • This is a guessing game where one player chooses an object within sight and announces to the other players that ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…’ (name the first letter of the object). Other players attempt to guess this object. I’d suggest the guessing happens in turns
    • Try to be creative here but also realistic as well
      • I Spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘T’ for tree while you are out hiking may be a bit obvious
      • If you are playing this while walking make sure that what ever it was you identified will be visible for a reasonable distance
      • Ensure the object you choose is suitable and guessable if playing this game with children
  • Two Truths and a Lie
    • 2 or more players
    • This game is a good opportunity to find out more about your traveling partners
    • Each player makes three statements. Two are true and one is a lie
    • The other players have to guess which is the lie
      • For example (two of the following statements are true and one is false)
        • My hair was blonde in colour (when I had hair)
        • I share the same birthday as my wife
        • I was born in Cyprus
    • Once you have an outcome move onto the next person
  •  Situation puzzles
    • 2 or more players
    • These are spoken word puzzles that involve a short story that once provided involves the other participants asking questions that will lead them to solve the puzzle
    • Depending on how you play this you have two choices. You can respond to questions with Yes/No/Irrelevant (sometimes instead of using the phrase irrelevant you might provide a very brief response as to why the question isn’t relevant
    • One situation puzzle would be¹:
      • A man walks into a bar, and asks the bartender for a drink of water. The bartender pulls out a gun, points it at the man, and cocks it. The man pauses, before saying ‘Thank you’ and leaves. What happened?
      • The question-and-answer segment might go something like this.
        1. Question: Could the bartender hear him? Answer: Yes
        2. Question: Was the bartender angry for some reason? A: No
        3. Question: Was the gun a water pistol? A: No
        4. Question: Did they know each other from before? A: No (or: ‘irrelevant’ since either way it does not affect the outcome)
        5. Question: Was the man’s ‘thank you’ sarcastic? A: No (or with a small hint: ‘No, he was genuinely grateful’)
        6. Question: Did the man ask for water in an offensive way? A: No
        7. Question: Did the man ask for water in some strange way? A: Yes

        Eventually the questions lead up to the conclusion that the man had the hiccups, and that his reason for requesting a drink of water was not to quench his thirst but to cure his hiccups. The bartender realised this and chose instead to cure the hiccups by frightening the man with the gun. Once the man realised that his hiccups were gone, he no longer needed a drink of water, he gratefully thanked the bartender and left.

      • I remember playing a similar style of situation puzzle on a camping trip when I was 13 years old with a group of 7 other hikers. It took us about an hour to get the answer with gaps in between the questioning as we went through the possibilities
  • 20 Questions
    • 2 or more players
    • One person comes up with a person, place or thing but doesn’t tell the rest of the players what it is e.g. an ‘eggplant’
    • The object of the game is for the other players to identify the person, place or thing in 20 questions or less
    • Players take turns and ask questions in an attempt to figure out what the answer is. Yes or No are the only acceptable answers to the questions asked
    • Keep track of the number of guesses that are used until it reaches the limit of 20
    • Again keep the topic should be suitable to the age group involved
  • Alphabet Game
    • 2 or more players
    • For this game you just pick a topic such as animals, countries, etc. and go through the alphabet naming something from that category
    • For example choose the topic ‘Animals’ and start with an animal beginning with ‘A’ with the next person providing an animal beginning with ‘B’ and so on:
      • Aardvark
      • Bird
      • Cat
      • Dog
      • Elephant
      • Fish
      • Goat
      • Etc. you lose if you can’t identify an animal with your designated letter. This can get hard once you get to the letters such as X (I now know what a Xeme is! It’s an Arctic gull)

You can purchase the Lateral thinking Puzzles Book for approximately $13 AUD from The Book DepositoryAmazon Australia or from Amazon USA

Board or card games

If you don’t want to think as much in coming up with questions or clues to play games, you can always fall back to board or card games. Some of these are very well known, others not so much. There are so many options here but in most cases I have tried to keep these games lightweight (under 200 grams), small so they don’t impact on your pack volume t0o much, and are able to be played by two players or more. We have selected six popular choices with some of them, such as a deck of cards, offering endless possibilities.


  • Weight: 175 grams
  • Number of players: 2-10
  • Most people played UNO as a child but you might need to reacquaint yourself and others with the rules!

You can purchase Uno for approximately $7 AUD from Amazon Australia or Amazon USA


  • Weight: 205 grams
  • Number of players: 2-6
  • This is an interesting travel game more for backpackers (as the name implies) but still good for hikers. It has an easy option and a complex option with the aim being to have the highest score at the end of the game by having the most ‘pictures’.

You can purchase Backpacker for approximately AUD $27 RRP from Amazon Australia or Amazon USA

Mini deck of cards

  • Weight: 44 grams
  • Number of players: Depends on the game but 1+
  • The card game options are endless – everyone knows at least one card game…right?

You can purchase the Bicycle Mini card deck for approximately AUD $7 RRP from Amazon Australia or Amazon USA


  • Weight: 120 grams
  • Number of players: 2-5 players
  • A great game that doesn’t require too much thinking!

You can purchase the Mini Travel Set Of 28 Dominoes for approximately $10 AUD from Amazon Australia or Amazon USA

Monopoly Deal

  • Weight: 152 grams
  • Number of players: 2-5 players
  • We’re not suggesting you take the Monopoly board game hiking but this card game is based on the same principles.

You can purchase the Monopoly Card game for approximately $6 AUD from Amazon Australia or Amazon USA

Liar’s dice

  • Weight: 26 grams
  • Number of players: 2
  • You may be unfamiliar with Liar’s Dice so here is a short explanation:
    • When playing with two players roll one dice each and whoever has the highest dice rolls first. Make sure the second player can’t see your dice
    • The first player calls their hand e.g. 5 kings
    • The second player either accepts this call or challenges it
      • If the second challenges the call and gets it wrong, you lose
    • If you accept this call the second player then rolls and the process is repeated. In this case you either need to match or beat the first players call
      • The first player then either accepts the call or again challenges the call
  • I have seen this game used for fun, to see who does the chores and playing for money
  • You can play with a greater number of players if each player has their own set of dice. Once you start doing this a deck of cards may be the way to go.

You can purchase Liar’s Dice for approximately $14 AUD from Amazon Australia or Amazon USA

Last Words

Playing games when you’re hiking is about having some fun, getting to know your fellow hikers and filling in some free time in an enjoyable way.

Make sure the games you choose aren’t too complicated otherwise you may end up playing alone. And don’t get too focused on winning – after all, its not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game that counts. Happy playing!


  1. Lateral Thinking/ Situational Puzzles- Wikipedia

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