Tent Camping Basics

Tent camping is a great way to spend time outside with friends and family. New Hampshire’s State Parks have a lot of awesome campgrounds, so camping is really one of the best ways to explore the parks as well. Tent camping is a lot of fun, but it’s important to be prepared, and it’s more fun when you know what you’re doing. Here’s how I like to camp.

How to Pack

First, I like to make a packing list so I can be absolutely sure I’ve got everything. Forgetting something can be a real bummer when you’re camping, especially if it’s your sleeping bag, so it’s good to double check. Here’s what I always bring:

What food you bring is up to you, but if you’re car camping, keep it in a cooler, and always put it away when you don’t need it out to avoid attracting animals. Non-perishables are good choices. It’s good to have lots of snack food for camping, if you’re out exploring you’re going to get hungry. Cheese and crackers and granola bars are always on my list. A campstove will make cooking while camping a lot easier.

Bring extra clothes! I always bring extra socks and an extra pair of shoes for around camp if I have room. Make sure you have enough warm clothes even in the summer – it can get chilly outside at night – and don’t forget a raincoat.

Light sources
It gets dark outside! Bring a couple flashlights, but also think about a light source for sitting around camp at night. Fires are great, but they can actually be hard to read by. Lanterns are good.

Don’t forget your tent! Make sure to bring a rainfly or a tarp to stay dry. I also like to have a big tarp to set up in camp to guarantee a dry spot to sit outside – being stuck in the tent when it’s raining is boring.

No firewood
Campfires are really great and an important part of tent camping, but don’t transport firewood! Firewood from one place can have bugs in it or plant life on it that isn’t good for another place, and it’s almost always easier to just buy some cheap firewood where you’re camping. Do bring sticks from home if you want to roast marshmallows or hotdogs over the fire – don’t cut the branches off trees in the campground for that.

How to Set Up a Tent

Every tent is different, so I can’t really tell you exactly how to set yours up, but a few things do apply to every tent. Try setting it up at home once in good weather so you’re sure you know how to put it up when you get to the campsite. When you do set the tent up, get help if you can – while it is possible to set up most tents by yourself, it’ll be a lot easier with friends. Make sure to put all the bags the tent parts pack into somewhere you can find them when you take the tent down so you don’t lose anything. Do put the rainfly up, because you never know what the weather might do. For the same reason, do stake down the tent. While it’s pretty unlikely that your tent’s going to blow away, tent stakes also help pull out the sides of the tent and the rainfly to better repel the weather. Even if it’s not raining, you can get condensation on the rainfly and if it’s not staked out, that might get into the tent.

How to Make S’mores

Cooking over the campfire can be really fun! S’mores are actually super easy to make, and take the tradition of roasting marshmallows one step further – but they can seem tricky if you don’t know how to do it. There are a couple tricks that I think make s’mores more easy and fun. The first thing is to get everything prepared ahead of time – get some graham crackers broken into squares and laid out in sets of two cracker squares for one chocolate piece before you even start roasting the marshmallows or anything. It’s a lot easier to do that first than do it while holding a stick with a marshmallow on it. My second bit of advice is to not worry about burning the marshmallows – for s’mores I find that burned ones work if anything better, because you want the marshmallow to be really gooey. The third trick is to grab the marshmallow with the graham cracker squares and chocolate on the top and bottom like a sandwich and pull it off the stick that way, instead of trying to get the marshmallow off the stick with your hands. If you want to get creative, try replacing the chocolate with strawberry slices!


Tom Howe

Tom Howe is a third year Div II at Hampshire College concentrating in graphic design. he lives in Goshen, NH and grew up in Anchorage, AK. He likes hiking, biking and cross country skiing, and just generally being outside.

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