Setting up Your Campsite

campsiteWant to make your camping trip go smoothly? Plan ahead for your campsite set-up. If you haven’t been camping in a while, consider doing a dry run with your tent and other camping components. If you have a backyard, start there. If you don’t have a backyard, borrow a friend’s or book a site at a local campground or recreation facility and give it a try. For fun and as a teaching tool, have someone video the process, including the dismantling and storing of tent pieces.  If possible, don’t just set up the tent, but stay overnight (or take a nap!) and cook a meal.

If you decide to skip the trial process, plan to arrive early at your destination campground. This will give you some leisure to set up your campsite in an orderly manner. In all likelihood everything will go smoothly and the extra time will be enjoyed sitting around your campfire.

Speaking of your campfire, one aspect of camping that actually is best left until the last minute is firewood. While it’s economical to bring the bulk of your food and dry supplies from home, the one thing you definitely want to buy on-site or nearby is firewood.  New England’s forests are under siege by a variety of tree-eating insects (learn more here); federal, state and private industry foresters are working to isolate and control these pests. Click here to locate places to buy firewood near your campsite. Consider packing a “campfire” tote, a sturdy canvas bag, fireproof gloves, matches, some fire starting blocks, and some small fireplace tools (your hardware store will have these near woodstove supplies.) An open, natural fiber, tote bag is suggested over a closed box in case you decide to bring any item that requires ventilation.

A few other ideas to help make your tent-site comfortable over a long weekend:

  • Unless you are skilled at cooking over a wood fire, you may wish to bring a small gas or charcoal grill, too.  It takes a while for a wood fire to reach cooking temperatures, generally only after a deep bed of coals has been achieved.  Many experienced campers have the campfire for entertainment but use a cooking-specific stove to prepare meals.
  • Pack two big coolers: one that you plan to open only infrequently, for “deep freeze” items, including blocks of ice and pre-frozen food for consumption such as frozen chili, frozen squeezable yogurt, milk, frozen hot dogs and hamburgers, plus frozen rolls and bread.  Use a separate, well-labeled cooler, chilled by blocks of ice that you can replace at the camp store, for less temperature-sensitive items such as fruit, fruit salads and slaws, condiments, personal water bottles and recreational beverages.
  • A small toolbox is an asset to any car camping trip. In addition to the basic tools, it’s a great idea to include a roll of good duct tape, some masking or painter’s tape and several large, bold markers, for labeling everything from coolers to storage totes.
  • Everyone in the group should have a flashlight. If the flashlights are not solar-rechargeable then you need to bring extra batteries.
  • Make sure that every cellphone and other electronic device has a means for recharging.  If the car is going to serve as the giant battery charging station; are there enough charging converters/cords for every device to charge at the same time? Bring enough high quality ziplock bags for every cell phone and tablet.
  • Be sure to pack some non-electronic entertainment, such as books, playing cards and board games.
  • Clothing and laundry:  If you are camping for just a few days, bring plastic bags for dirty clothes. If you are on a longer camping trip, use the plastic bags to pre-sort laundry, so that when you go do the laundry room you can easily pop the clothes into their respective washers: separated by temperature, fabric weight and/or colorfastness. Possibly bring a clean tote for clean clothes.
  • Camp sandals and lots of socks (not worn together): They say an army wins a war on its feet. Pack as many pairs of socks as you think you need, and then thrown in another pair or two.  You will never regret having warm, dry socks.  And you may want to bring sport sandals for around the campground.

While you are kicking back around the campfire, take a minute to take stock of your situation. What could you have done better? What are you missing?  What did you over-pack?  Have some fun with this, as with the tent set-up process, a video can add some humor to this recreational debriefing, or keep a camping journal and write your ideas there. The video or journal becomes part of your family lore and legend.

Campfire Quesadillas

Easy to make and fun to eat, quesadillas are the perfect camping food. All you need is some foil and a campfire grate. The recipe below is for Mushroom and Corn Quesadillas, but you can substitute other vegetables that you like.

Homemade Cheese and Bean Quesadilla with Corn and Salsa

Campfire Mushroom and Corn Quesadillas
Makes 4 quesadillas


  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 10 button or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese


  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Grate (for campfire) or grill
  • Tongs or spatula

Cooking Instructions

For Veggie Mixture:

  1. Lay out a piece of foil and center onion, mushrooms, and corn on the foil. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bring up the sides of the foil and double fold the ends to make a packet. Place on the grate and cook until veggies are tender.
    Alternately, you can cook the veggies on your camp stove. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and mushrooms and saute until softened and lightly browned. Add corn and stir to combine. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper, to taste.
    Note: The veggie mixture can be made a day or two ahead of time.

For Quesadillas:

  1. Lay out four pieces of foil and place a tortilla on top of each piece. Divide half the cheese among the four tortillas, sprinkling it down the center of each. Divide the veggie mixture evenly among the tortillas, and then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the veggies. Fold the two sides of the tortilla toward the center and then wrap the quesadilla in the foil, sealing the edges to make a packet.
  2. Place the packets on the grate and cook for a few minutes on each side, until the cheese is melted and the tortilla crisp.

Thanks to for the recipe.

Go Fish!

fish-3-1561336-1280x960It’s a heartwarming sight on a sunny day, a child hunched over a handheld device with laser-focus, oblivious to others. Hey, we are talking about fishing here, but you knew that.  Fishing is one of those time-and generation-transcending activities that serves as the linchpin for camping memories in many families.

One way you do not want to transcend time is on the wrong side of the law (OK, there is a vacation-genre that includes life on the run, but the outcomes are generally better in Hollywood, and even then it’s not a sure thing, just ask Butch, Sundance, Thelma and Louise.) So get a fishing license. New Hampshire takes its fish seriously, and if you plan to take fish you should, too. Get a license; they are available online and at locations throughout the state. You can get a license for the full season or for one day.  Various rates apply based on your age and whether you are a New Hampshire resident.

The good news about the state taking its fishing resources seriously is that New Hampshire’s fishing stock is robust. You, the fishing public, have free access to every natural body of water that measures 10 acres or more. In every nook and cranny of the Granite State you can find a place to drop a line. The state also tracks these locations and the fish you will find there. This guide offers information on ADA accessibility, a useful tool for making fishing more inclusive.

For the camping family, fishing is a great way to inspire kids with hands-on learning about weather, seasons, habitat and scientific observation.  It could be said that fishing is the cure for an instant-gratification society; there is something very humbling about the amount of time and mental energy it can take to “outsmart” a creature. Fishing with live bait is generally a better starting point for those who are very young and/or new to fishing; and it is the preferred method for fishing for certain species (see this guide).  Fly fishing is a more nuanced method of fishing, requiring a firm understanding of fish habits and habitat.

Hit the water for fishing fun

Great North Woods — Lake Francis: At nearly 2,000 acres, Pittsburg’s Lake Francis (22 miles from the Canadian border and 14 miles north of “downtown Colebrook”) offers multiple fish species and well-maintained access points with convenient parking.

White Mountains — Conway Lake: A large lake (1,300 acres), Conway Lake is easy to reach for campers in the Mount Washington Valley and features a range of species and a convenient boat launch.

Lakes Region: Almost every town in the Lakes Region features a pond or lake with public boating access.  In addition to the “big ones,” popular fishing sites include bridge fishing at the point where Lake Winnisquam becomes the Winnisquam River (Rt. 3), just a hop, skip & jump from I-93 and outlet shopping!

Dartmouth/Sunapee — Mascoma Lake: Enfield’s Mascoma Lake (1,150 acres) is home to more than nine species of fish and offers two public boat access points.

Merrimack Valley — Lake Massabesic: With multiple access points and a completely undeveloped shoreline, Lake Massabesic (2,500 acres) is a quiet spot for anglers. The lake serves as a water source for Manchester; swimming and waterskiing are not allowed.

Monadnock — Spofford Lake: Spoffford Lake (700+ acres) in Chesterfield offers one of the most diverse fish populations in the region.

Seacoast — Lamprey River: Traveling through Deerfield, Epping, Newmarket and Raymond, the Lamprey River features numerous access points for fishing from boats and/or bridges.  It’s diverse route provides habitat for many species.