These 40 outdoor team building activities ideas make the most of the space outdoors for bigger and better team building activities. Getting everyone out of their normal environment helps people to think and see things from a different perspective; away from the office or classroom.
This guide gives you 40 easy to setup outdoor team building activities that will get everyone working together to accomplish a common goal. Some of the team building activities are physical, but all of them require ingenuity, leadership, coordination and teamwork.
I’ll give you some quick outdoor team building tips that will ensure that your activity planning is thorough, leading to a more successful outcome for all. Then I describe some of my favourite outdoor team building activities that I have taken part in and run. Running a team building activity really gives you a sense of how the team works, because people can be unpredictable and their ingenuity for coming up with radical approaches will always surprise you. Expecting rulebreakers and apathy is also something that should definitely be planned for.
Why Have Outdoor Team Building Activities?
Team building activities aim to get teams working better together and can take place absolutely anywhere, but the choice of venue will constrain your choice of activity. Team building activities in the classroom or conference room are good when the weather is bad outside, but limit the scale of the task you set and the degree of separation between teams.
Benefits of Outdoor Team Building Activities
Outdoor team building activities have the benefits of:
- enabling people to focus on the specific teamwork skills being developed rather than being distracted by work or specific peers because it takes place on neutral ground away from the working environment.
- Lots more space for bigger and better team building activities
- Using natural features in the landscape to provide key elements of the team building activity. Water for raft building or bridge building, open fields for projectile launching and construction, trees for height, or open countryside for navigation and scavenger hunts.
Quick Tips for Successful Outdoor Team Building Activities
Define the Purpose of the Team Building Activity
The team building challenge that you set should have a clearly defined goal to strive for. To be worth doing, the goal should be challenging but achievable. If the goal seems too impossible, it stops being challenging and becomes demoralising.
Make sure that the team building activities are relevant to the team and allow them to develop teamwork skills. Are you developing leadership, communication, cooperation, trust or just helping the team to bond?
This is not the question of how to motivate your staff, but the incentive you give as the reason why they shuld bother to participate in your team building activity. Entice them with a reward, a prize, the thrill of doing it (fun stuff and adventure), or the satisfaction from achievement and winning.
Fun should be a primary factor in all team building activities for teens and adults. These free fun team building ideas are proven to develop teamwork. Some team building courses focus on taking people out of their comfort zone to see how they perform under stress. They end up alienating people who then disengage from the team building process.
A lot of people need an incentive or motivation to participate in a team building game. Some are shy, or just not outdoors people. Not everyone enjoys physical exercise, especially if it exposes your weaknesses.
Work to Your Strengths
These outdoor team building activities will help your participants to identify their strengths and also how they can improve. If there are problems in the team, then the team should be mentored to demonstrate how things could be done, rather than point out mistakes and weaknesses, advice and guidance should be given.
40 Ideas for Outdoor Team Building Activities, Games and Challenges
Here are a few example ideas for some outdor team building activities that I have used and adapted over the years. If you read these and want some more ideas, you should read my list of over 50 tried and tested team building activities for teens.
Water Barrel Swap
The aim is to swap the positions of two water barrels or buckets without entering an exclusion area.
Tie a pulley to a tree branch and pass a rope through it. Tie a barrel to each end of the rope. Fill one barrel with water. Then fence off an area around the barrels. The challenge is to swap positions of the barrels without anyone touching the floor inside the fenced off area, or touch the barrels.
The solution is to make the empty barrel heavier than the full one. This could be done by moving the water, adding weight to the empty barrel, or by using poles to force the empty barrel down onto the ground. You can even get someone into the area without touching the ground and have them stand on the empty barrel to make it heavier.
Decide what equipment you want to give the team and decide what solutions you will or won’t allow. then give them the rules that forces them towards something ingenious and to develop the specific aspect of teamwork you are aiming to develop.
Swamp or River Crossing
Create a swamp, and then the teams have to cross it without going in it. They can be provided with a variety of useful and unuseful equipment. Planks and bricks are commonly used. You can also get the teams to make a bridge.
You can even buy ready made kits that provide all of the equipment you need.
There are a range of team building activities for teens that involve blindfolds. The challenge could involve every team member being blindfolded and having to complete a challenge, or for everyone apart from the team leader to be blindfolded and to have the team leader direct the rest of the team without physically helping them.
Blindfolded team building activities could include putting up a tent, cross an obstacle course, complete a maze, find something, or team herding. Team herding is where the team leader is the shepherd, and has to use voice commands alone to direct his blindfolded sheep from random places to get them inside a circle on the ground (the pen). The fastest team wins. To add confusion, get all teams to do it at the same time. The combined shouts of all of the team leaders can totally confuse everyone.
Blindfold mazes can be created using carpet tiles or ropes. The team get directed around the maze to find their way out.
Film Canister Retrieval from Tube Using Water
Mount a length of plastic drainpipe vertically. Seal off the bottom. Drop in a plastic film canister. The team then has to use their initiative to get the canister out. It will of course be too narrow to get your hand in, and the use of a stick will not work. The solution is to pour in water to make the canister float to the top of the drainpipe.
Drop of the team two miles from a landmark such as a church with a spire. They then have to find their way on foot without maps to the landmark. Make sure the team has a cell phone.
Games played over a wide area, usually at night. The most common one is capture the flag. This is where a flag is placed in each team’s base. The bases are located a good 500 metres apart. The teams have to guard their own base whilst sneaking in and taking the flag from the other base. Rules are similar to touch rugby in that there should be no rough stuff.
You can buy a glow in the dark Capture the Flag kit from Amazon so you can see who has the flags.
Carry Bucket of Water Along Rope Over Obstacle course
Make an obstacle course and string a rope along it. Then put the rope through the handle of a bucket of water. The team then has to work together to get the bucket along the length of rope over the obstacles without spilling any water.
As a team, get over a ten foot wall.
Using make up and a good bit of acting, you can set up a first aid practice incident. I have often run a mountain biking incident, where the team is hiking on the trail and come across an injured mountain biker. They have to assess the situation, and then are told by the facilitator that an ambuance cannot reach the patient, so they will have to make a stretcher to carry the casualty to the road.
Get Container from Fenced Area
Place a container inside a fenced off area. The teams are then given a range of equipment to reach and remove the container with it or the equipment touching the ground. Poles and ropes are the main bits of kit. If the canister is light, then the use of an elastic band and four pieces of string are a quick extraction solution.
Taking the first aid incident further, you can create an obstacle course and have teams race to get their casualty on a stretcher across the hazards. I have in the past had the casualty being a member of the team, but incase your team are a bit careless, you could always use something else to represent a person.
Using obstacle courses for outdoor team building activities can be great fun. You will need to consider whether you are just using it as a team game in relays, or whether the obstacles require team cooperation to traverse, such as a ten foot wall.
Make sure you use life jackets for this one! Make a raft using materials given, and paddle across some still water such as a lake or canal. It is best not to do it on moving water as if someone falls in you may not be able to get to them. Take all necessary precautions. If you don’t know what they are, ask a teambuilding expert.
There are quite a few outdoor go karting tracks about, and these can be used for team building by racing as a team rather than individuals. You can all race at once, or as a relay with drivers swapping after two laps.
Give the team some time to build a soap box kart gravity racer. Using bike or pram wheels, bits of wood and metal, create a vehicle that rolls downhill just using the power of gravity No pedals or motors allowed. Which team has the fastest kart?
Make and race a grass kart popular for outdoor team building activities YouTube video
Geocaching is like a treasure hunt where you use a gps or cell phone to find a hidden cache of goodies. Geocaching.com has geocaches registered all over the world. All you have to do is use the search map to find the location of a geocache near you, and then get the coordinates. Enter this into your GPS and off the teams go to find it. You can also get an app for your cell phone which allows you to see where you are and which way to go to find the geocache.
Its not quite that easy though. When you get to the location, the geocache will not be easy to find. It will be hidden in undergrowth, under rocks, or up a tree.
Nice and simple, how many people can you fit in a car? You can also use other confined spaces such as a telehpone call box. Consider safety before you start though.
Dragon boat racing
Dragon boat racing is great for outdoor team building because the entire team has to work together to beat the opposition. They all have to listen and respond to the team leader beating the drum.
Treetop adventures like Go Ape offer outdoor team building days. They are good for getting the team to show support for each other and bond, but sometimes the team is so spread out across the course that the entire team is not together. Good for a shared experience for new teams.
Bridge building is brilliant for pioneering. Using ropes and spars you can build all sorts of bridge designs. I have built drawbridges and cantilever bridges on outdoor team building activities over rivers and the entire team get a big sense of achievement from it.
Part of the challenge is working out how to get parts of the bridge onto the other side without getting wet. Not a problem if you build a swing bridge.
Another pioneering project. The challenge is for the each team to build the highest platform to safely support a person. Much better than the marshmallow and spaghetti tower challenge.
Human towers and pyramid
If you don’t have the equipment, you can always challenge the teams to make a tallest human pyramid or tower.
Plastic crates can be used to see who can build the tallest stack of crates. they can also be used for steeping stones with planks for swamp crossing challenges.
A scavenger hunt is a very popular outdoor team building activity. You give each team a list of items to collect and return with within a time limit. Some items could be actions, such as visit a location, or take a photo of a cat. Photographic evidence will be required of course.
Some items could be cryptic, such as get a picture of a US president. Then you just need to produce some money.
Single Handed Tent Pitch
This activity requires each person to only use one hand to pitch a tent as a team. Their other hand has to be tied behind their back or tucked under their shirt. This really makes team members cooperate.
The task can be any physical activity that involves moving things about.
Sailing is ideal for outdoor team building because the entire team has to work together to get the yacht to go where you want. You can rent a boat and instructor for a session specifically for this purpose. If you have enough people, sailing companies offer two boats so that you can learn how to sail during the day and then have a race between teams. Great for an team day out of the office.
Sedan Chair Race or Chariot Race
A sedan chair can be easily made using two broom handles placed under a chair so that four people holding the ends of the broom handles can carry a person sitting on the chair. You can make it harder by introducing and obstacle course.
I love this one because it is so simple but effective. Get some of the huge 1 ton builders bags used for delivering sand. Each team stands inside one bag and has to get themselves to the other end of the field. Not as easy as it sounds, because everyone has to jump and move the bag at the same time.
Bucket on a Rope
Get a long peice of rope and thread it through bushes and over a few tree branches. then feed the end through the handle of a bucket of water. The team is then timed to see how long it tkes to get the bucket of water to the other end of the rope. They will have to work together to get it over the tree branches. Time penalties are given for losing water.
You can buy parachute canopies that have handles attached all around the edge. You can then play various games where the team has to work together. One game is to flip a ball high into the air. This involves the team lifting their edge of the parachute at the same time as everyone else.
Plank Walk Skis
Each team has two planks laid parallel on the ground like skis. Their are loops of rope attached to the plank where each team member places a foot. The team has to work together to use the ropes to lift each plank in turn to walk forwards like walking on skis. Coordination and communication are the key, along with a bit of leadership.
This requires a bit of construction first. You have to make a big seesaw that can support the weight of the entire team. You then set challenges for the team to stand on different sides of the seesaw to get it balanced.
I ran this outdoor team building activity for PhD students at the National Physics Laboratory. they achieved a good 100m with their designs. Using water and air pressure, you can make water rockets from drinks bottles and card fins. You then fill the rocket with water, place it on the pump and increase the pressure until the rocket takes off. The air pressure forces the water out of the back, propelling the rocket forwards. Team science.
This outdoor team building activity is based on the military gun carriage races. Each team has to dismantle a bicycle and take it across an obstacle course one piece at a time. At the other end, they have to reassemble it and ride it to the finish line.
This is for teams of two. How far can you throw a raw egg for the other person to successfully catch it?
Five Legged Race
Expand on the three legged race by using the entire team. They then have to race to the finish line. A simple outdoor team building activity to organise with minimal equipment.
Balance on a Brick
How many of the team can you balance on a single house brick?
How high up a tree can the team climb? Height is measured by the lowest person. You can also do it as how high up a rope can you get the entire team.
Disc golf or Ultimate Frisbee
Disc golf can be a useful team game. To get the entire team working together though, Ultimate is a recognised team sport where two teams compete to get a flying disc across a line at the other end of the football pitch to score points.
Want More Team Building Ideas?
Not satisfied with those 40 outdoor team building activities? You can find lots more ideas that suit your occasion on the team building activities list.