You've read your trail guide, that juicy 400-page murder mystery, and your partner's guide to edible fungi. You've memorized the field repair instructions for a stove that never fails. You've counted and recounted the 137 mosquito kills that dot the ceiling. And still it rains. So what's an exasperated, tent-bound hiker to do?
You could have some fun with your mattress. (As a family magazine, we can endorse and describe only PG-rated activities.) You could be immersed in the strategies of your favorite board games. With advance planning and a bit of artistry, those long hours will fly by. Here's how:
Decide how many games you want to draw on your pad. A full-length pad will accommodate two to three Monopoly-size boards per side, or up to eight games per side if you shrink the scale. Next, clean the surfaces of your pad (smooth covers work best) with a damp rag. Dig out your favorite games to use as templates and trace an outline of each game with a pencil. Then use a ruler or T-square to render the boxes and geometric shapes on the game board. If it all looks good, go over the drawings with a permanent marker.
Your selection of games should include universal favorites like checkers, chess, backgammon, and tic-tac-toe. Everybody knows the rules for these games, and the pieces are easily improvised. In fact, you can devise one set of lightweight pieces for all four games with scissors and a cereal box. Simply cut the appropriate number of disks, then draw Xs, Os, pawns, rooks, or knights on the plain brown side of the cardboard. For white and brown game pieces, add special marks or even spray paint them. Carry your game pieces in a small zipper-lock bag.
If you're willing to spend a little more time and energy designing the game pieces, you can pack virtually any other board game out there. Stratego and Scrabble travel well, and even Monopoly can be simplified for the trail. Plus, see Backpacker's September 2001 issue for a detachable, easy-packing board game played on a piece of paper.