How to Play Backcountry Bocce

The best backpacking game is the one you don't have to carry.


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Save the card games for tentbound days and engage in a friendly competition of campsite bocce. Best of all, you don’t have to pack a thing.

You’ll need: 

  • 8 softball-size rocks (these are your bocce balls)
  • one golf ball-size rock (this is your pallino, or target rock)
  • sticks, stones, or cord to mark out a court
  1. Find level ground and mark off a 30-by-10-yard-or-so court with sticks, stones, or cord (be sure to dismantle it after). Mark a centerline in the dirt.
  2. Split into two teams, with a maximum of four players per team. Each team gets four of the larger (bocce ball) rocks. (Bonus if you can find stones of two different colors to differentiate between the teams). All players stand together at one end of the court.
  3. The game begins with a coin toss to determine which team throws the pallino and tosses or rolls the first bocce rock. The pallino must be thrown from behind the endline past the centerline. If it lands out-of-bounds, the other team may toss it.
  4. A player from the first team tosses or rolls one of their rocks onto to court. The aim is to get it as close to the pallino as possible. All throws must be underhand—be careful when hucking rocks in camp.
  5. Players from the second team then toss or roll their rocks onto the court one at a time until one is closer to the pallino than the first team’s, or until all four rocks have been thrown. The next throw is always made by the team who does not have a rock closest to the pallino. Proceed until both teams have tossed all their rocks. If using similarly colored rocks, pay attention to remember which rock was thrown by which team! Any rocks lobbed out-of-bounds are out of play for the rest of the frame (one round when all rocks are thrown).
  6. Scoring occurs at the end of the frame. Only one team can win points in a given frame. One point is earned for each rock that is closer to the pallino than the other team’s closest rock (a max of 4 possible points per frame). If rocks from each team are within the same distance, no points are scored. The scoring team throws the pallino for the next frame.
  7. The first team to score 12 points (or however many you decide prior to the first frame) over a series of frames wins.