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.

Take me to the river

Take me to the river: Canoe, kayak and paddleboard the rivers of New Hampshire

Kayaking-new-hampshireThe history of New Hampshire is written on its waterways. Before the roads and highways, before the railroad, heck, before the invention of the wheel, native residents lived and traveled with ease via rivers, lakes and ponds. Today we paddle for fun, fitness, and to get a closer view of nature. In almost every corner of the state you can find a boat launch and place to rent a person-powered vessel (canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard, or SUP) if you don’t already own one.

Please note: New Hampshire lakes and streams can vary in terms of water depth and flow. Personal flotation devices for each adult are required on all vessels: for children the law is that they must be WEARING the personal flotation device. See details.

Here is a brief overview of the rivers and some outfitters that you can explore. Click here to see a list of the state’s water access sites.

Great North Woods: The Connecticut River originates at the outlet of the Fourth Connecticut Lake which abuts the Canadian border. It flows through the Third, Second and First Connecticut Lakes (listed North to South), all of which offer easy boating access. A recommended Connecticut River launch site for downstream paddling is just over the state line in Canaan, VT; with a take out side in Colebrook, N.H. Click here for boat rental information.

White Mountain Region: To the east of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range, the primary river for canoe and kayak activity is the Saco River which flows through Maine to the Atlantic Ocean. Check out this outfitter for a canoe/kayak pick up and delivery service. See additional outfitters here.

In the Western White Mountains, the go to rivers are the Connecticut and the Pemigiwasset,  Outfitters include Ski Fanatics and Outback Kayak.

Lakes Region: The Bear Camp River, not far from Lake Ossipee, travels through farmland and forests. Outfitters include Canoe King and Plymouth Ski and Sport Shop.

South Central Merrimack Region: Paddle the mighty Merrimack River with help from Quickwater Canoe in Boscawen, or explore the Contoocook River with help from Contoocook River Canoe Company.

Mondanock Region: The historic Ashuelot River is home to a multitude of fish species and feeds into the Connecticut River. Explore the Ashuelot with help from the Ashuelot River Campground’s rental shop.

Seacoast Region: This region has a variety of rivers, several of which feed into New Hampshire’s Great Bay, a tidal estuary of more than 6,000 acres. Seven Rivers Paddling offers rental, livery service, and tours.

Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee Region: Explore the part of the Connecticut River that winds through this scenic area. The Ledyard Canoe Club in Hanover offers rentals of canoes, kayaks and SUPs.


Chili Campfire Bake

Chili-Campfire-Bake-2Make this delicious chili over the fire with a rack that sits on the fire and skillet. This recipe calls for a can of chili, or you could bring a bag of frozen home-made chili to give your camp meal a taste of home!


  • 1 (16 oz) box elbow macaroni pasta
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chili
  • 1 (7 ounce) bag corn chips
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Salt to taste


  1. Pour the whole box of pasta into a large skillet (approximately 12 inches in diameter). Pour 3 cups of cold water into skillet. Make sure the water covers the pasta. Turn the burner to high, then set your timer for 10 minutes (optional: add a bit of salt to taste).
  2. Cook on high, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Add chili and bring to a simmer.
  4. Remove from heat and top with corn chips and Cheddar cheese. Serve immediately.

(Thanks to SixSistersStuff for the recipe!)

NH Camping & RV Show — Largest ever presented by an association

Booth-DSC_0748The 45th Annual NH Camping & Recreational Vehicle Show did not disappoint, with more attendees and vendors than ever before. The show had something for everyone. It featured dealers with the latest RVs, trailers, pop-ups as well as vendors providing camping essentials. Over 50 campgrounds participated in the show providing a one-stop-shop for attendees planning future camping trips.

Vendors of the show have been happy with New Hampshire Camping & RV Show’s yearly success. “This year’s show was phenomenal, everything was well organized from set up to tear down and tons of advertising which translated into an amazing amount of customer traffic. It was nonstop action from open to close each day.” said Ray Panzino, General Sales Manager at Cold Springs RV “The shuttle buses ran consistently and non-stop which made it easy for customers to get in. We had the most successful NH show ever.”

Giving Back

Thanks to the generous nonperishable food donations from attendees at this year’s show, the New Hampshire Campground Owners’ Association was able to provide 6,894 pounds of food to those in need throughout New Hampshire. This is the sixth year that NeHaCa has run a food donation drive at their show. “We are proud of the generous and helpful spirit of our camping community and are grateful to those who contributed to the food drive,” said NeHaCa Executive Director Jeremy Sprince. “Their donations will make a difference in the lives of those struggling to avoid hunger.



Tune up and test camp your RV

Is your RV in “move in” condition for your first summer camping trip? Or is it possible that there are a few things you might want to check out before heading out of the ‘hood for your first overnight excursion this spring?

Even if you had it professionally “put to bed” last fall, or if you are skilled at self-winterizing your rig, you still might want to give it a once (or twice) over as you prepare for camping season.

Best case you will be pleasantly surprised at your level of preparedness, second-best case you find and 19666277_xladjust a couple of minor things that prevent a problem. And anything is better than realizing your fluid levels are out of whack or you are missing a fitting or gasket in Camping Paradise (which may quickly start to feel like “the middle of nowhere”)… on a holiday weekend. Of course fellow campers are among the most Samaritan-like of all neighbors and most campgrounds have core repair items, or can help you find them, but really, do you want to start the summer on a scavenger hunt?

Take some time to go over your RV’s manual and test the systems; if it means a trip to the dealer, better sooner than trying to squeeze it in in the last week before Memorial Day. You might even try a vacation in your own backyard, or the local WalMart to give it an all-systems test. OK, maybe just for the afternoon, but do what you can to see what works and what needs a tweak.  And go through the galley, refresh the condiments, cleaning and paper products.  From marshmallow sticks to propane, hook-up attachments to lawn chairs. Whether your camping trip requires a TV remote control or a rock climbing harness, make sure you have your act together.

An RV Checklist

Do you have a checklist for your RV? Before you hit the road either find your checklist or start one.  Whether you put it in your smartphone’s notes or write it in a little notebook, keep track of the things you need to do and the items you need.

Here are a couple of good checklist starting points:

Great Hikes in New Hampshire

Kraft_IMG_20160904_151131(1)Hiking and nature walks top many camper’s vacation “to do” lists, and some folks have an annual hike they do every year – a family ritual. If you’re looking for a new hike, or if you are new to a region, you will be pleasantly surprised by your options throughout New Hampshire.

For each region of New Hampshire, we have identified a full-day hike and options for interesting but shorter hikes and trail walks. Please use this list as a starting point – you will definitely want local maps and detailed trail information before setting out!


Monadnock Region: Mount Monadnock, Gap Mountain

In southwest New Hampshire, Mount Monadnock is impossible to ignore. It’s the tallest peak for miles around (that’s essentially the definition of the word “monadnock”) and one of the most climbed mountains in the world.  But be aware, it is a real mountain, make sure you get on the trail before noon, prepare your supplies as if you were hiking in the White Mountains, and remember that you can always return for another attempt at the mountain if today is not the right day to reach the summit.

Gap Mountain provides a “less traveled” trail option in this region. Described as a strenuous hike due to rugged footing, this mountain features two round trip options of 2.4 and 2.6 miles.  The terrain is primarily hardwood forests that are reclaiming land that was farmed from the Colonial era through the end of the 19th century and it boasts stunning views of neighboring Mount Monadnock.

Seacoast: Patuckaway, Blue Job

The New Hampshire seacoast is not known for high peaks; but you may be pleasantly surprised to find some enjoyable and challenging hikes within minutes of the coast.

Patuckaway State Park has numerous trails with the possibility of loops up to 10 miles long.

Blue Job Mountain, in Farmington, is a short but steep climb in the middle of a state forest.  Views from the ocean to Mt. Washington, plus the opportunity to get in a quality hike just over half an hour from the beach make this a popular hiking destination.

Merrimack Valley: Uncanoomuc, Bear Brook State Park

In Goffstown, just west of Manchester and  I-93 lie the Uncanoomuc Mountains, North and South.  While South Uncanoomuc is developed with communication towers and does have driving access to the summit, both peaks are popular with locals who appreciate the mountains in their own backyards.

10,000-acre Bear Brook State Park offers trails for walking, hiking and trail running. You may occasionally find yourself sharing the trail with mountain bikers and horseback riders, but with more than 40 miles of trails there is plenty to go around. With numerous entrances and trail heads, it’s worth taking a look at the map before deciding where to hike.

Lakes Region: Mount Major, Red Hill

Mount Major is a small mountain with a major view.  With easy access via a parking lot off Rt. 11 in Alton, this mountain generally provides a sociable hiking experience. Mount Major is on the southeastern end of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Red Hill, located on the northwestern shore of Lake Winnipesaukee also offers fine views to Squam Lake.  More rigorous that Mount Major, Red Hill is also conveniently located for campers on the I-93 side of the Lakes Region.

Dartmouth Lake Sunapee: Kearsarge, Cardigan, and Greenway

Mount Kearsarge boasts access from two state parks. Winslow State Park, in Wilmot, offers two challenging routes which combine for a 2.9 mile round trip loop; and Rollins State Park (Warner) features an auto road that brings visitors to within half a mile of the summit – but it bears noting that this final half mile is rocky granite that demands sturdy footwear.

A moderate trail experience in the Dartmouth Lake Sunapee Region is the in-town Goodwin Park Exercise Trail in Lebanon. Starting at the Storrs Hill Ski Area, this 3-mile path includes exercise stations (optional!).

White Mountains: Mount Washington, Black Cap and Kearsarge North

Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern US and hiking goal for many.  It is not to be undertaken lightly or casually; the climate and terrain of Mount Washington are exponentially more challenging than anything else you will find in the Northeast. If you are out for a fun hike, consider trails that give you a great view of Mt Washington!

Crawford Notch and the AMC Highland Center offer a network of trails that are easy to access from both the Mt. Washington Valley as well as the Western White Mountain towns of Lincoln, North Woodstock and Littleton.  A popular hike is Mt. Avalon but it is just one of many that start and finish at the height of land in Crawford Notch.

Black Cap & Kearsarge North are two popular hiking destinations for campers in the Mt. Washington Valley.  Trailheads for both are on Hurricane Mountain Road. Kearsarge North is a challenging 6+ mile round trip hike; the Black Cap trail starts at the peak of Hurricane Mountain Road (closed in winter) with a total distance of just under 2.5 miles.

Great North Woods:

Table Rock is the signature climb in Dixville Notch State Park.  A quick ascent brings the hiker to a small (elevator-sized) rock pinnacle more with a 700-foot drop on three sides.  A short, steep route is accessed from a trailhead at on the Colebrook side of Dixville Notch (approx. 10 miles from Colebrook); a more gradual, slightly longer route starts closer to the (currently closed) Balsams Wilderness Ski Area.

Campfire Foil Packets

Campfire Foil Packets

Campfire Vegetables

Aluminum foil helps keep food moist, ensures it cooks evenly, keeps leftovers fresh, and makes clean-up easy.

Prep 30 minutes | Cook 40 minutes


  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cubed
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 (8 ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 small potatoes, cubed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large bowl, or a large zip-top bag, combine the chicken, onion, mushrooms, yellow pepper, red pepper, garlic, and potatoes. Pour in the olive oil and lemon juice, then mix well.
  2. Evenly divide the mixture between 4 large sheets of aluminum foil. Top each with another sheet of foil, and roll up the edges tightly. Wrap each packet again, securely in another sheet of foil to double wrap.
  3. Cook in the hot coals of a campfire until the chicken is opaque and the potatoes are tender, around 40 minutes.

Recipe from Natural Chef Michelle |





Tips for Camping with Pets

Tips for Camping with Pets

NH-Camping-Tips-PetsWho better to bring on a camping trip than a friend who already possesses a water-resistant, self-cleaning coat, a perpetually upbeat attitude, and will willingly sleep on the ground. Pets, in particular dogs, are popular camping companions.

First, make sure your camping destination is pet-friendly.  Pet policies are listed clearly on campground “rules & regulations” pages. Campground managers are just as eager as you to make sure that all campers are aware of if, when, and where pets are welcome.

Next make sure your dog is welcome at the various other components of your trip. Check in advance to see if any restaurants, gardens, swimming beaches, and museums/indoor attractions that you plan to visit will allow pets. That said, many a camping trip includes absolutely none of these venues, and you can easily plan a Fido-friendly camping trip.

Pack your dog’s favorite fuel for the trail.  While you have been planning burgers and s’mores on the campfire for yourself, don’t forget your pet’s tried and true kibble. Also be sure to pack the supplies you need to pick up after your pet at the campground and on your various adventures.

Bring an extra sturdy leash or harness and even a crate (particularly a collapsible crate).  There might be a need to provide extra secure protection for your pet, in case of emergency such as a thunderstorm, traffic jam, or other aggressive animals.  What if you had to shut off your car’s air conditioning for an extended period of time, or walk your dog on a highway?

Do your part to make sure that pets continue to enjoy increased access to recreational facilities.  Respect other campers’ personal space; it’s up to you to make sure your dog (or cat, parrot, etc.) does not touch or encroach on another person (or animal) without invitation.  AND particularly, prevent your pet from disturbing wildlife. Wild animals live, for the most part, on the jagged edge of survival. When they have to divert energy and attention from finding food and tending their young it threatens their survival. The opportunity to live closer to nature with your pet is a great reason to be a steward of the environment and the outdoor community.