Capture the Flag


One of the classic outdoor camping games is capture the flag. It’s a fun game that can last 30-45 minutes. To play, form two (2) teams of at least 4 people each. You’ll also want to pick out a large play area with a natural boundary area. For example, a good space might have a creek, stream, or other prominent terrain feature that can separate one territory from the other. The space should also have clear boundaries, so that it’s clear what is in-bounds and out-of-bounds. Defining the boundaries can be the trickiest part and the point that everyone likes to argue…so spend some time defining territories and boundaries.

Now that the play area has been defined, you’ll need to hand out the flags. These can be actual flags, shirts, blankets, or anything that’s brightly colored and visible in the woods. Make it clear to the teams that the goal is not to hide the flag, but rather to guard yours and capture the flag of the other team! Ready to play? Here are the rules…

The Start

Now that everyone knows their territory and boundaries, the teams will have 5 minutes to place their flag in a visible area no more than 200 feet from the border.  They should also choose their “jail” and assign members areas of responsibility (Example:  You guard this area…you guard that area…etc…).  The person guarding the flag needs to be at least 25 feet away.

Crossing the Border

When in your opponent’s territory, you can get captured.  The object is to stealthily elude your opponents and grab their flag.  If they capture you, you will be sent to their jail.  To capture someone, you need to grasp them and say, “One…Two…Three…You’re coming with me”.  If they break your grasp before you finish…they’re free.  The adult moderator will need to emphasize that there is no tackling, throwing to the ground, or other rough handling.  But know that this game can get physical, just by its competitive nature.

The Jail

The jail can be a tree, a rock, or anything that you choose.  It can not be closer than 100 feet to the flag.  And it can not be a confined area (only one way in & out).  To free your teammates from jail, you need to sneak up to them touch them and say, “One…two…three…you’re FREE!”.  You can only free one prisoner at a time.  People in jail need to keep a foot or hand on the jail at all times.

Capture the Flag & Win!!

The game ends when a team successfully captures the flag of the other team.  It can also end after a certain time (moderator blows the whistle).  The team with the most prisoners will win if both flags are safe.  There are usually calls for encore games and rematches, as this is a fun and competitive camping game…so be prepared for a Round 2 & 3.


Capture the flag is a lot of fun if you the space and the people. It’s best played in the daylight and in areas without a lot of rocks. All of the running, sneaking, and diving could add some treachery in a rocky area. For these areas, choose a less physical game, such as kick the can or flashlight tag. Have fun!





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Related Pages:

Tent Guide

Camping Activities